Leaving Your Baby At Daycare For The First Time is Challenging, but there are ways to make it easier.
Leaving your baby at daycare has to be one of the most terrible motherhood milestones. If it can even bear the title of a ‘milestone.’
My eldest went to daycare when she fifteen months old (now thinking back it seems so little although some babies go earlier).
With all the illnesses and all the guilt, we made it through.
For a brief period, my daughter was sad when I would leave her at daycare. I felt as if I was damaging her ability to create meaningful connections for the rest of her life! I experienced a new level of guilt.
Placing your child in daycare is a family decision.
Do what is right for your family and do not let anyone ever make you feel less than for this decision. There is enough mom guilt around.
Here are 12 Tips to make it easier when you are leaving your baby at daycare.
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Leaving Your Baby At Daycare For The First Time: 12 Tips for Mom and Baby
For The Parent
1. Research daycare centers and make a decision
You need to be comfortable with your choice of daycare. Do your research.
You will never have the perfect amount of information. But, make decisions you must.
Make decisions based on the information you have available.
What do you deem necessary when choosing a daycare?
- Low caregiver-child ratio
- Opening and closing times
- Location: Close to home or close to work
- Are meals included or not
- Go through your priorities and decide.
I did online research and visited the daycare centers. I also chatted with the teachers.
2. Be optimistic at the drop off
Your child will very quickly pick up on your mood. If you are sulky and depressed when you are leaving your baby at daycare, it may rub off on your baby.
Projecting optimism will do wonders for your temperament as well your child. Notably, for that first day drop off blues.
3. Don’t hang around
When you drop your child, be present, affectionate and calm.
However, when you are leaving your baby at daycare, do not hang around too long. The more you drag it out, the more difficult it may be for yourself and your child.
When I dropped off my one-year-old, I made sure she was settled but left promptly. The more I stayed, the more difficult it was to go.
4. Connect your child with a caregiver
Here is what I mean.
Ensure your child greets and connects with her caregiver before you depart. If your baby is young, ensure that you place your baby in the arms of your caregiver. In this way, your child will feel that she is being ‘handed over’ with love and care and not ‘dumped.’
5. Do not sneak away, be transparent about leaving
Never sneak away from your kids. It breeds distrust. Tell them when you are leaving. Even if they cry, it is okay. They will learn that sometimes you need to go, but that you will return.
Don’t sneak away from creche. Ever. Say goodbye, firmly and with love. Then get your behind out of there.
6. Build a relationship with your baby’s caregiver
Connect with your baby’s caregivers and make sure that you know how to contact the school.
Establish a warm and friendly relationship that extends beyond a meet and greet.
Chat with the caregivers regularly during pick ups and drop offs.
You will be surprised at how much additional feedback you can gain on your child. You can also use the opportunity to provide extra feedback back to the caregivers.
7. Make the pick up exciting (for you and baby)
When collecting your child, make a huge deal about it. Give a big smile and a warm hug. You might be surprised to find a happy child waiting for you at daycare.
8. Leave your phone behind or in your bag when you pick up or drop off your child at daycare
Be present and engaged during this moment. It will be hurtful to your child if you are picking them up, or dropping them off but you are on your phone. Especially after a day away from you.
This is basic. Do not chat on your phone when doing a pickup or a drop-off. It is just not on.
Tips for your baby
1. Have a unique toy or blankie as a transitional object
My daughter slept with a muslin square. Lovingly referred to as the ‘sleepy blankie.’ We had a few ‘sleepy blankies,’ and we sent one of them to school. Also, we also sent her blanket for sleep time.
Therefore, she had something familiar to draw comfort from. Her naps went utterly haywire during this time.
However, she had her ‘sleepy blankie’ to comfort her.
2. Talk to your baby and explain what is happening
Even if your child is little, speak to her about the new daycare. Tell her stories about the kind aunties she will meet. And the little friends she will play with.
Your calm and confident demeanour can have a positive impact on your child.
3. Get your baby to bed early
Attending daycare makes a little on extra tired. And presumably, you are also getting them up a little earlier.
Make a concerted effort to encourage an early bedtime. An appropriate bedtime for children under 5 years old is 18h30 – 19h30.
An overtired child being dropped off at daycare will make it worse for you and baby (and caregivers).
4. Start with baby steps – introduce daycare gradually
Many parents take their child to daycare for a short period in the morning, and then slowly work their way up.
I recommend this approach if it is feasible for your family. Slowly introducing a new experience allows your child time to acclimatize. It may also reduce resistance.
In Conclusion: They may be more adaptable than we think
To be honest, although there was some sadness, my toddler got over it very quickly.
I, on the other hand, remained torn about my decision to put her in daycare for months.
I have learned to accept that as long as she was loved, fed and safe at daycare, she will be okay.