The term “infant” is often used as a general term for the earliest stages of childhood—so what does it actually mean in the context of infant childcare? The distinction is significant because it impacts the rates, regulations and availability of services for your infant.
Age in the Context of Infant Childcare
According to Childcare.gov, an infant is a child under twelve months of age. Children are believed to have exited the “newborn” stage within two to three months after birth. While requirements vary by state, it is generally accepted that there should be no more than four infants to a caregiver and a maximum of eight infants per age-group. This is significant because infant childcare regulations require fewer infants to a caregiver than any of the older age-groups. Mixed-age childcare has different regulations, with smaller numbers per age-group.
Defining Age-Groups in Childcare
According to Childcare.gov, there are five distinct age-groups in childcare. Infants are children under twelve months, young toddlers are children of one to two years, older toddlers are children of two to three years, preschoolers are children of three to five years, and schoolchildren are children of five years or older.
Importance of Age Distinctions in Infant Childcare
A University of Michigan study cites the importance of “[s]mall group sizes, low adult-child ratios” in infant daycare. These factors have a direct impact on child attachment and development, resulting in significant positive impacts, later in life.
 United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development: Phase I, 1991-1994 [United States]. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2018-06-25. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR21940.v6