au pair vs nanny

You’re at the doorstep of parenthood or contemplating a change in your family’s childcare dynamics. It’s a pivotal moment, and the big question looms: au pair vs nanny vs daycare – which is the right fit for your family? We’re here to guide you through this essential comparison.

Let’s Compare: Au Pair vs. Nanny vs. Daycare


Au Pair: Au pairs can often provide more flexibility in their weekly schedules, making adapting to a host family’s changing needs easier.

Nanny: Nannies, too, may offer flexibility and may be able to adjust their hours per week as needed, accommodating variations in your schedule.

Daycare: Daycares typically have fixed operating hours per day and may charge additional fees for late pick-ups. If your job requires you to work odd hours or long shifts, daycare may not be the most suitable option.


Au Pair:  Au pairs can often provide more flexibility in their weekly schedules, making adapting to a host family’s changing needs easier. However, families should factor in the costs of using an agency to match them with an au pair. These agency fees can include application, placement, and ongoing program fees. Agencies cap the number of hours an au pair can work per week.

Nanny: Nannies are usually more expensive than daycare. However, hiring a live-in or live-out nanny could prove more cost-effective per child if you have multiple children or require part-time care. Families may need to pay agency fees for background checks, interviews, and matching with suitable candidates. Nanny sharing is another way to split costs with another family.

Daycare: Daycare fees can vary widely, with many being less expensive than hiring a full-time nanny. Still, some daycare rates can be high, especially if you must pay for a full day regardless of the hours used, live in an expensive area, or if you have multiple children attending.

Social Interaction

Au Pair: Your child’s social interaction level with an au pair can vary depending on the caregiver’s activities. Parents can enhance social opportunities by signing up for playgroups and group activities.

Nanny: Similarly, your child’s social interaction level with a nanny depends on the caregiver’s actions. Parents can foster social development through organized activities and outings.

Daycare: Daycare offers substantial social interaction opportunities for children. Daily peer interactions can help prepare young children for a school environment and promote social development.

Personalized Attention

Au Pair: An au pair can offer your child personalized one-on-one attention, fostering a strong daily bond. The care can be tailored to your child’s needs, from feeding schedules to nap times.

Nanny: Much like au pairs, nannies provide your child with individualized care. They can focus solely on your child’s well-being, adjusting routines and schedules as needed. They may also take on household tasks, depending on the arrangements made.

Daycare: In a daycare setting, one caregiver is often responsible for several children, adhering to legal ratios. While caregivers do their best to meet each child’s requirements, their attention is necessarily divided, and they adhere to a structured schedule for the group’s benefit.

Physical Health

Au Pair: The au pair will be in your home, and your child may be exposed to fewer germs. Some host parents prefer controlled exposure to germs to help build their child’s immunity. 

Nanny: As with au pairs, a nanny (especially a live-in nanny) can provide a cleaner home environment, potentially reducing germ exposure.

Daycare: Daycare facilities must adhere to strict cleanliness standards, but the risk of illness still exists. The presence of a sick child in a daycare setting can lead to the spread of germs to other children in the class.

Educational Benefit

Au Pair: While au pairs offer one-on-one care for host families, they may not always possess formal training in early childhood development or previous childcare experience. However, you can seek au pairs with the relevant qualifications if early education is your priority.

Nanny: Just like au pairs, nannies may or may not have formal education in early childhood development, making it essential to find one whose qualifications align with your preferences.

Daycare: Daycare centers often employ caregivers who have received training in early childhood education. This means your school-age kids can benefit from structured learning, which includes activities that promote motor skills, reading, and more.

Cultural Exposure

Au Pair: As a cultural exchange program, inviting a foreign student to live with your family is a beautiful way to introduce your children to the au pair’s native languages, customs, and traditions.

Nanny: A nanny may or may not bring cultural diversity, depending on their background and experiences. However, you can still introduce cultural elements into your child’s life.

Daycare: Daycare, especially in a diverse facility, can offer some exposure to various cultures. Group settings often encourage children to appreciate differences and similarities.

Pros and Cons


Au Pair



Personalized Care

✓ Tailored to your child

✓ Tailored to your child

Limited personalization


Limited social interaction

Limited social interaction

✓ Opportunities to socialize

Flexible Hours

✓ Flexible schedule

✓ Flexible schedule

Limited flexibility


Limited childcare experience

✓ Extensive childcare experience

✓ Extensive childcare experience


✓ Cost-effective

Higher cost

Moderate cost

Long-Term Commitment


Long-term commitment

Limited flexibility


Visa regulations

Employer responsibilities

Strict safety regulations

Individual Attention

Individual attention

Individual attention

Limited individual attention

Exposure to Illnesses

Limited potential for illness exposure

Limited potential for illness exposure

Greater potential for illness exposure

Cultural Exposure

✓ Learn about different cultures and languages

Limited cultural exposure

Limited cultural exposure

Au Pair vs. Nanny vs. Daycare – Your Choice

When it comes to the au pair vs nanny vs daycare debate, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The best choice for your family depends on your unique circumstances, priorities, and budget. 

If you go with an au pair program, you can connect with them through au pair agencies by the U.S. Department of State. If daycare is the better fit, ask your family and friends for recommendations and visit centers to see if they have what you need. If a nanny suits your family, get suggestions from people you know, look at job boards, or use online services like UrbanSitter to find local nannies who match your needs. Ultimately, the choice is up to you.

Looking for a part-time or full-time nanny? Join UrbanSitter to browse profiles and meet candidates.