Saturday, August 31, 2013

How to Prepare Your Baby for Daycare - A Mother's Perspective

It's been several years since I've experienced what it's like to be a working (out of the home) mom. I know that many of you are working mothers (whether by choice or necessity) and that it can be really hard to balance the demands of both.  One of the most stressful parts about working is entrusting your child to someone else all day while you're away.

Recently, my dear friend Sarah shared some of her experiences with me from her return to teaching after the birth of her second daughter.  She has such a great perspective that I asked her to share some of her advice about getting your baby ready for daycare.  I'm so excited to have her sharing with us on the blog today!
My maternity leave is almost over and we have begun the transition program into the infant room at our Montessori school.  The first day I left her was for 3 hours and I didn’t cry.  With baby #1 I cried for two weeks before we dropped her off and for at least three weeks after.  This time I knew that baby #2 would be ok.  I knew that she would probably cry and they might not be able to respond to her right away but I was ok with that because I feel a lot better about what I’ve done to prepare her (and myself) for the transition. 
(Baby #1 started with a babysitter at 5 months old and was the only child she watched.  Baby #2 will be almost 4 months old and will be in a room with two adults and five other babies – two her age and three that are between 9-14 months.)
Let your baby nap in their crib.  I held both of my girls for the first nine weeks pretty much all the time.  To be honest, baby #1 was probably held until she started with the sitter!  I knew with baby #2 that I had to let her sleep on her own for naps so that she’d be ready for daycare.  This also works for those who have their baby co-sleeping or in rocking type bassinet that keeps them up at an angle.  Sleeping flat on their back in a crib is a different feeling.  At least for naps, get them used to the crib if that’s what your care giver will be using.  Baby #1 went to her crib after one month so that my husband could sleep.  Baby #2 didn’t go until almost 3 months.  She spit up one night all over her bassinet rocking thing and we didn’t have a choice but to put her in the crib.

Naptime should not be a silent time.  You want your baby to be able to fall asleep and stay asleep in a room where other babies may be crying, eating, or playing.  This might mean turning the tv on or inviting someone else’s kids over to play.  It also helps if you live in the path of an airport.  Baby #2 doesn’t get startled by much except my husband sneezing.

Breastfeeding?  Give your baby a bottle.  Don’t make the care giver try to figure it out.  It took us three weeks to get baby #2 to take a bottle.  We tried two different types of bottles and she would just chew them.  I finally just gave her the milk in the bottle I was pumping into and she took it with only a two minute chew session.  You want to know that your baby will eat while you are away!  One less stressor for you.

Pumping at work?  Try it out for a few days at home.  If you know when you will be pumping at work, try a couple of days at home pumping and giving your baby bottles.  You will get a feel for the amount of time it takes to set-up, pump, and clean-up.  You will be able to see how much your baby is drinking and know how much to pour into the bottles so less is wasted.  According to our school, once they heat up a bottle it has to be thrown out in 30 minutes if the baby doesn’t finish it.  It doesn’t matter if it’s formula or breast milk.  So, check with your care giver about their guidelines! 

Help baby learn patience.  I don’t mean let them scream and cry until you are done eating dinner when they are two or three months old.  If they are slightly fussy and you are in the middle of unloading the dishwasher, talk to them calmly about what they need and what you are doing.  A care giver may be in the middle of a diaper change for another baby and won’t be able to respond right away.  You will feel better knowing your baby can sometimes wait and your care giver will thank you that your baby doesn’t escalate into a screaming fit every time she wants attention.  I’m hoping this will translate into a more patient 4 year old!

Write things down for your care giver.  Remember being in school – you didn’t remember everything your teacher told you.  You had to take notes.  Do the same for your care giver.  Try to have them ready a week before starting so that your care giver has time to read them and ask any questions.  Know that shorter is better.  (As a caregiver I would also note that daily correspondence is key!  I have a notebook that travels back and forth for the infant I have now.  We all track her bottles, diapers, and naps so everyone knows what to expect.)

What works for you may not work for the care giver.  Let the care giver know what you do but realize that they may need to do it a different way.  Everyone has to learn how to interact with your baby.  What you and your husband do to calm the baby down are probably different as well.  And I’m sure he changes the diaper a different way than you do.

Let your baby play in their crib when they wake up.  This goes back to learning patience.  When baby #2 wakes up, she usually looks around her room and coos to herself.  I sometimes watch from the doorway.  It’s fun to watch her explore her room this way.  And again, the care giver may not be able to get to your baby right away.

Watch for you baby’s cues for when they are sleepy and hungry.  With baby #1, I just nursed her if she was fussy and had a dry diaper.  This is probably why she ate every 1.5 hours for the first six months of her life.  I allowed baby #2 to help me learn what she wanted.  She sucks her fist when she is hungry and rubs her eyes when she is tired.  She’s been doing this since she was two months old.  And the care givers said she did both of these while with them for the transition.  Of course, some babies may never give visual clues, only auditory ones in their different cries.  

Provide extra outfits that are cheap.  I hate leaving three or four outfits at school for my older daughter because they will more than likely never be worn.  So, I find a consignment sale or shop and buy items on clearance that I can leave at school.  I was able to find some onesies for baby #2 for 88 cents each.  I don’t worry if she never wears them (highly unlikely since she spits up a lot) or if they get stained since they were so cheap.

Don’t use all of your sick leave on maternity leave.  I could take more time off but I’m sure I will need sick leave this time around.  Baby #1 was rarely sick but she was one baby mouthing her toys.  Baby #2 has five other babies with varied germs to contend with.  We are going to be spending some quality snuggle time together at many points this year I’m sure!

Your baby may be fussy or clingy in the evenings.  Baby #1 wouldn’t leave my arms for the first two weeks after being with her sitter.  At first I thought she was being treated poorly or didn’t like the sitter.  I finally realized that she was used to being with me for 10-13 hours awake and was now only getting 4 hours with me awake.  As I write this, baby #2 has woken up two times to nurse in the past two hours.  She usually goes down at 8:30 and doesn’t wake up until 6 or 7 the following morning.  (Baby #1 didn’t sleep through the night until after she was a year old for those that are mad at me for having a baby who sleeps.) 

Sleep with the sleep sack or blanket that your baby will use at naptime.  I did this with baby #1 and it did help her to nap more soundly at the sitter.  Baby #2 doesn’t nap for long periods at this point, usually only 20-45 minutes, so we aren’t sure if this will help but I’m still doing it.  Plus, if the baby is fussy, the care giver can grab the item and wrap it around the baby so they smell you and hopefully calm down quicker.  It’s funny how smells stick with you.  To this day, when I smell my dad’s soap it calms me down.

No matter what you do to prepare, the first two weeks will be rough on you and baby.  Stay calm and keep the lines of communication open with your care giver so that they are able to better care for your baby and eventually you will all be in a happy routine together. At least until a growth spurt or a tooth comes in. 
And don’t forget that dad will be feeling the pain as well.  He will see you hurting and that will upset him.  Include him in the evening snuggle time with baby so that you can all reconnect.
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