Monday, December 30, 2013

Preparing Baby for Daycare

One week from now, I’ll be dropping my baby off at her dayhome for the first time and heading off to work. Obviously, I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I think it’ll be nice to get out of the house (by myself) two days a week, be around adults all day, and get back to using my skills and training. As much as I love being at home full time with my daughter, I think having a bit of a break from her (and her from me) might not be all bad. At the same time, I love being a stay at home mom and will be sad to leave my daughter with someone else and miss out on all the little moments I’ve been so blessed to have with her this past year.

In my ideal world, I wouldn’t have to think about these things, because I’d be staying home full time and not going back to work at all. However, the reality is that I need to work. Not only for the financial reasons, but simply because I have to work to maintain my standing as a Registered Nurse. Nursing isn’t something that you can take an extended break from and just walk back in 5 or 10 years later and pick up where you left off. You have to keep current and up to date, because things change so quickly and people expect a certain level of skill, ability, and competence from their nurses - and rightly so. My nursing license isn’t something I’m ready to let go of just yet – I’ve worked hard for it and it’s a good career with a lot of options and flexibility – perfect for a young family in many ways. So, for these next several years while we are building our family and raising young children, I’ll most likely just work the minimum number of hours required to maintain my registration and keep up my skills. I’m thankful for the flexibility that my current job offers and that I don’t have to go back to full-time work. I’ll still be able to be at home with Tessa the majority of the time, which is a huge blessing that I do not take for granted.

So that brings me to now, just a week away from returning to work and Tessa starting out in her new dayhome. It’s a pretty big deal (to me, anyway) and while I’m sure it will all work out, I still have my worries and anxieties over the whole thing. Part of the way I deal with that is to do what I can to prepare both Tessa and myself for the transition. Here's what we've been doing to prepare:

1 – Weaning from daytime nursing
This has actually gone much better than I thought it would. Tessa is down to nursing 3 or 4 times a day. She was starting to show very little interest in her late afternoon/post-nap nursing session and usually gets by until supper with a just a small snack after her nap. So we’ve pretty much dropped that one altogether, although I’ll still offer to nurse after her snack if she seems to need it. I’m ok with her still occasionally nursing at this time because I’ll be able to nurse when I get home from work if she needs it.

The bigger challenge was dropping her noon nursing session. We obviously won’t be able to continue that on the days she's at the dayhome, so we decided (for the sake of consistency) to try and get rid of that one altogether. About a month ago, I started trying to give her a bottle of pumped milk at noon, along with her lunch. We hadn’t given her a bottle in months, since we hadn’t really needed to. She initially refused the bottle so, of course, naturally, I panicked! I was so worried that she was going to continue to refuse the bottle and we’d have a huge battle on our hands and she wouldn’t be ready, etc, etc. So we waited until a weekend when my husband would be home during the day, and when he gave her the noon bottle she took it without a problem. Since then she’s taken the bottle from me (and others) without batting an eye. So I think we’ve successfully weaned her from nursing at noon, and she’s now used to getting a bottle instead. Phew!

So for now, we’ll be sending a bottle of pumped milk with her to the dayhome for her to have at noon. The rest of our nursing sessions (morning, late afternoon, and bedtime) can stay as they are for now, since we’ll be able to continue them once I’m back to work.

2 – A more flexible routine
We have a pretty solid routine down in our house. Tessa generally wakes up, eats, plays, naps, and goes to bed at the same times each day. We all like the stability and predictability this gives us. I know that the routine in the dayhome will be fairly similar to what we have going at home, but there may also be times when flexibility will be required. So with that in mind, I’ve tried to be a little more flexible with our routine at home these past few weeks – obviously still sticking to it as closely as possible, but not freaking out if she has a shorter nap (or misses one altogether) or we do something a little earlier or later - in other words, I’m trying to relax a little!

Tessa has shown us over and over that she is adaptable and can usually handle changes to her routine without a huge meltdown, so we have to trust that she will be able to handle this next big change as well.

3 – Playdates at the dayhome
Tessa has already gone for a half day "trial" at the dayhome, and will be going for a full day this week before our actual first day. The half day went very well - Tessa was so busy playing that she hardly noticed when I left, and only had a few tears when I came back to pick her up. We're thankful that we've been able to do these "trial runs" - they've allowed Tessa to get used to the new environment and routine, her caregiver, and the other kids in the dayhome, and have also given me the chance to see how I do handling the separation.

4 – Independent play
This has already been ongoing in our home, but I’m trying to encourage a bit more independent play, since she may have to do more of this at the dayhome. We’re thankful that Tessa will be the only baby in the dayhome (the other kids are age 2 and up), so we know she’ll get a lot of attention and one on one time from the caregiver (she’s assured us of that). But it’s very likely that there will be times when the caregiver is busy with another child and Tessa will need to be able to entertain herself for a bit. She’s already pretty good at this, so I’m not too worried.

On the other hand, it may end up being that she’ll get more actual structured playtime and activities than she is used to at home, so that could be another challenge in itself.

5 – Playpen naps
This is a fairly small thing, but I thought it might help if Tessa takes an occasional nap in her playpen, since she’ll be napping in a playpen at the dayhome. I’ve kept her pre-nap routine the same, but I thought it would help with getting her used to sleeping in different places, and so far it hasn’t been a problem.

6 – Leaving Tessa in the church nursery
We started doing this a few months ago, not necessarily with the intent of preparing her for daycare, but more for a break for us to be able to sit through the service, uninterrupted. I volunteer in the nursery, so of course she does well on the Sundays I’m in there, but we’ve left her there with other workers too and for the most part, she’s handled it well - only a few meltdowns, usually more due to being tired, hungry, or teething than actual separation anxiety. This has also provided an opportunity for her to interact with other babies and toddlers, which she’ll be doing much more of once she goes to the dayhome.

I'm expecting the transition to go fairly well, since we have such an easygoing baby. I'm sure there will be a few bumps in the road and it will take a bit of adjusting for all of us, but hopefully the preparation we've done over the last several weeks will make things go much smoother.

Those who have been through this transition before, what have you done to prepare yourself and your baby? Anything else you would add to this list or any other tips you can offer?


  1. When Clay started I would spend time with him at the daycare whenever I could. Not a lot of time. Maybe just 5-10 minutes of playtime/me chatting with his teacher. I think it made him feel more comfortable. They also had pictures of the families down where the kids could see them and I loved that!

  2. Nancy this is a fabulous list of ways to prepare baby for daycare! I'm so impressed with all of the forethought and preparations you guys have done to make the transition as easy for both of you as possible. Two days a week will be perfect. It sounds like you really trust the people who will be caring for her, and that must make everything feel a bit more comfortable. I agree with you that it's hard to work for a career and not be willing to just give it up, which is part of the reason I went back to guest teaching a few times a month. I hope this new life transition goes well for everyone. I will be thinking about you and can't wait to hear how it goes!

  3. Yes - the first day I stayed with her for about 15 minutes and I think that really helped. Great idea about having pictures of the kids families!

  4. Haha...I probably put a little too much thought (aka worry) into it! :) Hopefully it pays off though.


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