For most couples, the first year of parenthood is a complicated blend of joy and tension, exhilaration and sleep deprivation. But depending on where you live, it can be a lot easier or harder to care for your newborn. The reason: States are chock-full of laws, mandates, requirements, and standards that affect parenting.
Desperately searching for quality childcare? Some states permit a maximum ratio of three infants per caregiver, others allow twice that. Sick of slipping into a bathroom stall when your baby is hungry in the middle of a shopping trip? Twenty-eight states give you the green light to nurse in public. Trying to pay for mountains of diapers, wipes, and baby food while still saving money for your child's college education? Five states offer partial paid leave and 26 give tax breaks for childcare expenses. Want to make sure your newborn receives all the screening tests recommended by the March of Dimes? Just nine states mandate them. Aside from pro-parenting legislation, some states boast wide selections of children's hospitals, pediatricians, childcare centers, certified poison-control centers, and even car-seat inspection stations, while others offer little variety.
To help you determine where geography is on your side, Child embarked on a four-month investigation of baby-rearing issues in 50 states -- the first report of its kind. Guided by pediatric experts, we sorted through recent data in 20 categories -- many of them mentioned above -- that are crucial for new parents, wanna-be parents, and of course, babies. The result: a state-by-state ranking of the best places to have and raise a newborn.