Families in some Perth suburbs are facing an 18-month wait to access child care and about 40 per cent of the city's long daycare centres are booked out.
An investigation by The Weekend West has found that the number of childcare places available according to the Federal Government's online database MyChild is far different from the reality.
Childcare providers have told of increased demand and some are juggling waiting lists of up to 200 families. Others charge a $20 fee for parents to put their child on the waiting list.
According to MyChild, all but seven of the 290 long daycare centres in Perth had availability for 0-24-month-olds last week.
Of the 268 that could be contacted, 109 were booked out and had long waiting lists, while 127 had some availability.
Another 32 had just one or two spots remaining.
The inner city and western suburbs were among the areas experiencing the most demand, with pockets in Canning Vale, Kingsley and Stirling also under pressure.
The data showed that Perth families are now paying an average $95 a day in child care, with prices from $67.50 to $137.50 before rebates are applied.
A shortage of affordable, flexible and accessible child care is the subject of a continuing inquiry by the Productivity Commission, which last week released a draft report pointing to a "recurring theme" of parents struggling to find child care for babies.
It found the existing system was not meeting the needs of all families and recommended that in-home care such as nannies be covered by childcare rebates.
Natasha Jones, manager at Care for Kids School of Early Learning in Kingsley, is often turning parents away.
"They say, 'Where else can I go, everywhere is fully booked'," she said. "I've been in the industry for 16 years and it's getting busier."
Leanne McOmish, director of Moolanda Care and Learning Centre in Kingsley, has 98 babies on her waiting list and said parents faced an 18-month wait.
She is one of dozens of providers contacted by expectant mothers as soon as they become pregnant.
Nicky Pill, director of Little Peoples Place Byford, is licensed for 42 children but said she could "easily fill 100 places".
"We've been 100 per cent full since February," she said. "We get parents ringing daily asking us for places."
Another centre director in Canning Vale said she had 200 babies on her waiting list.
But some centres reported 50 per cent vacancy rates, which Australian Childcare Alliance president Gwynn Bridge said suggested that centres were not opening in areas of need.
"We believe the Federal Government should intervene and ensure they are built where they are required," she said.
Child Care Association of WA executive officer Rachelle Tucker agreed, calling for a national planning model.
"Centres are popping up all over the place but they've got to be in the areas of need," she said.
Mrs Tucker said parents would also be better assisted if the MyChild website was more accurate.
In its draft report, the Productivity Commission suggested waiting lists could be improved if services had "clear and published data" on the number of families on their lists.
It found that many parents were putting their child's name on multiple lists and not telling centres when they no longer needed a place.
An Education Department spokesman said childcare services provided vacancy information for MyChild on a weekly basis.
"The MyChild website informs families that a waiting list may apply when viewing vacancy information of a service and that families should contact the service directly to confirm availability," the spokesman said.
"Waiting lists are determined by individual child care services."
A number of centre managers contacted by The Weekend West said they had not updated their information in weeks.