I have always planned to be a working parent, partially so that we don’t go broke paying back my student loans and partially because I love what I do for a living. But I won’t lie and say that getting Eli adjusted to daycare wasn’t tough, because it was, but we’re a year in now (and 2 transitions down) and I feel like, though I am far from knowing it all, I have a good grasp on how to help ease this otherwise seriously tough transition. Every baby and every daycare situation will be different, but there are a few universal recommendations, (like these ones written by Rebekah last month, on preparing for daycare) that have been handed down to us that may be useful for other families imparting upon the same journey.
Now notably, all these tips are for babies. I still have no idea how to ease the transition for moms. I definitely cried on my way to work for the first few weeks. It does get better, I promise.
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Click through for 9 ways to help make the daycare transition easier on your baby
Go visit in advance 2 of 10
Take the baby to the daycare during what would be a normal work day and just hang out for a little bit. Let the daycare providers hold the baby and show them that everything is fine. It's even better if you can find toys at daycare that you know your baby will like so that when you go to drop them off, you can build up excitement and if needed, you know how to distract them a bit.
Do a short trial run 3 of 10
A week or a few days before the first day, do a trial run. Get everything packed, drop them off and leave them for an hour or so. Don't do it during nap or meal time if avoidable, but during a time when they're well rested and will play happily. It shows them that they can have fun and that you'll return. Linger a bit before you leave too, so that it's not a rescue mission, but a play time.
Bring a transitional (or beloved) object 4 of 10
Not all kids have lovies, but if yours does, definitely send it to daycare. If they haven't attached themselves to anything, try sleeping with a small blanket or stuffed animal for a few days and then give it to them before you go. Your scent can go a long way toward making them feel safe/comfortable and it's always nice to have something to snuggle.
Get into a routine beforehand 5 of 10
This one isn't always possible, but it can definitely make it easier on both of you. If your baby is used to waking up around the same time, naps around the same time (or at the same intervals), allowing them to keep that schedule at home and daycare (you'll have to communicate it with your providers) can help make sure they're well rested and comfortable. It may not always work just right (Eli naps very differently at home and daycare), but it's at least worth trying.
Talk about it beforehand 6 of 10
So, this one is more important for older babies, but I think it's always good to explain things, even if they can't fully grasp the concept. Letting your child know that they will be going to daycare and that mommy and daddy will be back in a few hours is a good way to make sure that nothing comes across as sneaking or trickery and so your child can trust that you'll return and all will be well.
Start slow 7 of 10
If possible, not starting with full time for 5 days straight can be a big help. Letting them gradually get used to daycare, perhaps a half day or two first, then full days, then gradually progressing to full time can help make them feel a little less overwhelmed. This obviously isn't possible for every person or work, but if you can start maybe doing a few errands for a few hours a week before returning to work, which would work the same way.
Send favorite foods 8 of 10
If your baby will be doing meals there, send their favorite foods, utensils and bottles if appropriate. My son gets similar meals at daycare because they're things I KNOW he'll eat. Hot dogs (no preservatives, nitrate free, blah blah blah), macaroni and cheese and fruits and veggies he loves are my main standbys. It's just another level of comfort for him.
Send extra milk/formula 9 of 10
When Eli started daycare he was on a pretty predictable eating schedule, but I was surprised that he always drank more when at daycare than at home. Our provider told us that it's been very common in her experience since babies tend to comfort eat. Even if your child is like clockwork with their milk, send one extra serving (or two!), just to be safe. Having them need that comfort and not having it available is not something you want at the start of a daycare experience.
Take extra together time on the weekend/evenings 10 of 10
One of the best things you can do is soak up the time together after and in between daycare visits. You can't get back the hours at work, but you can make the most out of the time you have and use the time apart to recharge and enjoy each other.
Every baby and every family will be different, but these are the best ways we’ve found to ease our transition and time apart. What worked best for your family and your baby?