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Getting Your Infant Ready for Daycare

Heading back to work can be an anxiety-provoking and exciting transition after your little one is born. It is ok to feel however you are feeling about this transition: overwhelmed, anxious, excited, relieved. All of us adjust to parenthood differently, and there is no right way to approach this time. Being prepared for this transition can be helpful, no matter how you are feeling, and can make you feel more in control at a time when things can feel like they are swirling around you. Kids are, in general, very resilient and can adapt well to most changes pretty quickly. As with most things in parenthood, setting expectations, and preparing your child for a change into daycare/nanny/babysitter will help them tremendously.

Here are some things to think about prior to your first day back to work to help you ease this change.

1. Introduce the bottle early!

This can be an extremely anxiety provoking worry for parents of breast fed babies. What if my baby will not eat when I am not there?! It is possible, and it does happen. Babies will not let themselves starve, but they will feed just enough to get by in protest sometimes, which can make nighttime challenging! A good way to help combat this is to introduce a bottle early between 3 and 6 weeks and keep it a regular part of your baby’s life. Once you introduce the bottle, even if your baby does tremendously well and you have no concerns, keep it in their routine every day to every few days. This will keep them used to it and decrease the risk of them going on a hunger strike when you return to work. It is also a nice way for dad or a non-breast feeding parent to feed the baby and give you a break for a shower or nap on occasion.

2. Get on a schedule- if you need to!

In most child care settings, infant nap times are on demand, but sometimes they will encourage them to transition to more of a nap schedule than infants may be used to at home. If this is the case, trying to start getting your baby on this schedule before they leave home can be very helpful for them and for you. An overtired baby that has refused naps throughout the day will be a large challenge to bring home. Develop a nap time routine that your baby does well with and share this with their new caregivers. We know infants adapt to routine well, and if this is kept consistent, it will likely make their transition much smoother. The routine can be quick, but the consistency of it is the most important thing. Once they are used to the routine, their body will naturally start to relax at the beginning in anticipation of sleep. Keep this schedule consistent at home once they have adopted it to help everyone!

3. Visit the childcare center with your baby prior to their first day

Of course, we as parents will check things out multiple times prior to our child’s first day! We sometimes do not think of the importance of our infant experiencing the environment too. Bringing your baby for a visit to meet their teachers and peers and spend time in their classroom can help their adjustment and alleviate some of your anxiety. If you have spent some time with the teacher as they are holding and interacting with your child, it will likely give you peace of mind as you start this new chapter of parenthood. Your baby will also feel less stress being left in familiar arms with familiar smells, sights, and sounds around them.

4. Stay positive and stay relaxed!

Babies often pick up on our worries and anxieties, which can make them feel the same. This is a big change for both of you, so it is understandable to feel worried but try to stay positive around your baby. Use an upbeat tone of voice and talk about the fun they will have, how much they will learn, the new friends they will make, and what good care their new teachers will give to them. Tell them how excited you will be to pick them up at the end of the day and share with them all the wonderful things you did at work during the day while you were away. Try to keep your body language relaxed as well. You and your baby will likely cry the first day, week, month, you leave them with a new caregiver, but approaching the time with a positive outlook can help you both to adjust more quickly.

5. Be specific about your child’s preferences and schedule when sharing them with new caregivers.

Especially if your child is very specific! If you normally play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” before you read “Goodnight Moon” prior to nap time, do not tell them music and then story! Your child and their teaches will appreciate you being direct to help smooth their transition into childcare.

6. Develop your childcare plan early but do not panic if you don’t!

A lot of childcare facilities have wait lists up to 18 months for accepting infants, which a lot of people do not realize. A bit of advice I was told when getting on a waitlist was tell your husband you are pregnant, then call us to be added to the waitlist. This can be overwhelming, but if you have a childcare facility in mind you would love to send your baby to, reach out early and get an idea of what to expect. If this does not meet your timeline needs keep in mind in home daycare options, nanny or babysitter options, retired teachers, teachers in training, college students home on break, family members that want to help. It truly takes a village to raise a child, so do not forget about all the options that are available to support you.

7. Increased illness is expected!

Once your little on has started and is thriving in their new environment, making friends and putting all the toys into their mouth, anticipate they will be sicker than when they were at home. This is completely normal and expected. So many visits I have had for sick infants start with “they just started daycare 2 weeks ago.” And my response is “good, they will be so healthy when they are older! Perfect attendance in kindergarten!” Try not to get discouraged by illness. Upper respiratory infections are very common in the first years of life as an infant’s body is seeing a lot of these viruses for the first time. Keep plenty of nasal saline spray and wipes on hand to help with nasal congestion. Make sure you have a cool mist humidifier and vaseline ready for the winter time to help with irritated noses and chapped skin. Reach out to your child’s pediatrician if you have concerns, we are always happy to check on babies, even for peace of mind. Hang in there! It will get better!

Good luck as you enter into this phase of working away from home parenthood!

Dr. Meghan Lynch Ljubi, DO, FAAP

Zest Pediatrics of Westlake

P: 440-616-8802