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Starting Daycare: Easing the Transition

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Childcare > Starting Daycare: Easing the Transition


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Easing 4-month-old into daycare

Nov 2012

My 4-month-old son is starting full-time daycare soon, and I will be with him during his first week (4 days) to ease him into the process adjusting to his new environment and schedule. I would like advice, both general and specific, on how other parents have managed to spend their time both with and away from their children in this particular setting.

Any general advice on how I can allocate my time during his first week to best transition him into his new environment so that it's not a complete shock to him and he feels somewhat comfortable taken care of by someone other than his mommy? The daycare center is extremely flexible and helpful in terms of my physical presence there, so it's really up to me to figure out how to gradually (yet effectively) remove myself from him in his new environment.

My specific concern is regarding feeding. My son is exclusively on breast milk and is not keen on taking a bottle. I am afraid that, when he becomes hungry and sees me at daycare, I will have no choice but to offer him my breast, so as to not upset him. This, however, seems to undermine the efforts to ''best transition'' him because I would not want him to expect to find mommy's boobies when he is at daycare. Any advice on this conundrum? Thank you. anon


I would stick around no more than one day...and maybe just a half-hour on the subsequent days. If you are comfortable with your care provider and the nurturing they provide, then it's less confusing for baby if you just leave. He'll have to learn how to take a bottle, and he will pretty quickly (crossing fingers, of course!) if you're not there to nurse him when he's hungry. And once he's established with bottle feeding, maybe then you can stop by once a day (provided you work nearby) for nursing. Good luck!
Reconsider spending 4 whole days in daycare with your 4-month-old. It might help you to feel comfortable with the daycare, but doesn't do that much to transition your child -- If you're right there with him, from his point of view it's not much different than anyplace else that you go with him. Instead, leave him for a couple of hours the first day or two while you run errands or clean your house. Spend 30-60 minutes at drop-off time (and breastfeed before you depart), and stay as long as you want when you pick him up so you can spend time observing. Then starting the 2nd or 3rd day, increase to half-day without you. This gives the daycare provider some time to offer a bottle when you are not there with milk on tap, and if he does go on strike, he won't stay hungry for long. I remember that starting my baby in daycare was emotionally difficult for me, but my child (at age 5 months) was totally fine, especially since he was young enough not to have separation anxiety yet. Having a trusted, warm, attentive childcare provider with a ton of experience introduce the bottle while you are not there is a great way to go. This will probably not be their first time introducing a bottle. If you are present, your baby may have a greater resistance to the bottle, and it will be more wrenching for you.
Do you have any reason to believe that your son will need you to nearby for the whole week? Has he had a tough time with other people caring for him? My daughter was watched by a sitter when she was the same age as your son and then transitioned to daycare a little later. She adapted very easily to both the sitter and the daycare. My daughter is completely fine with other people taking care of her as long as I am not available. If I am available she only wants me to feed her, change her, hold her, etc. She cried when dropped off at daycare at the beginning but always stopped within 5 minutes of us leaving. Staying with her only prolonged her separation anxiety. And you are right about the nursing/bottle feeding. He most likely won't want a bottle if you are there. It might take him a little while to accept bottles but he won't starve himself. He will eat when he gets hungry enough. Hope that didn't come off the wrong way. I was very worried about my daughter taking bottles. She would not take them when I was home with her or near her. But when I finally went back to work she adjusted. She got hungry enough and decided that a bottle was suddenly not the worst thing in the world. Hope everything goes smoothly for you. anonymous

Concerned about the change in 5-month-old's routine

Nov 2011

I'll be working part-time starting in January, so my then 5- month old will be in family day care for two days (Mondays and Wednesdays). I'm concerned about the change in her daily routine. Any advice on making this a smooth transition for her (and me)? Thanks! Cindy


I just went back to work part time (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays). I was concerned about how my 5 month old son would handle this change in his routine, but he seems to be taking it in stride. I've been leaving him at a family day care not far from where I work. The first day I left him there, he looked very dubious when I handed him to the day care provider, and even cried a little bit. However, the provider was not at all disturbed by this, and decided he might be cranky because he needed a nap (she was right -- he often takes a short nap at that time of day). At the end of the day, he seemed quite happy to see me but didn't look at all upset. Each day since then, he seems a little less concerned when I leave him in the morning, and he always seems just fine at the end of the day. Based on both my experience and what I've heard from others, I think it's pretty common for babies this age to adapt quite well to day care, since most 5-month olds haven't yet developed significant stranger anxiety or separation anxiety. I think the chances are good that your baby will have a smooth transition without your taking any special steps to make it so. -- Diane
My 5 month old also started daycare 3 days a week, about 3 months ago and it went quite smoothly. A couple weeks before he began in daycare, I started ''disappearing'' in the mornings for an hour or so and having my husband or mother feed my son as my husband was going to do the drop off in the mornings. That way my son was used to me not being his morning person and he got used to drinking milk and eating some cereal. (and my husband got used to doing this too!) I also started back to work half days for a few weeks, and so my son didn't have to stay at daycare for very long at first. In my experience, this was a good time to start daycare because my son didn't have separation anxiety and quickly accepted his new situation. I also have been allowing him to nurse more often at night. When I come home with him I try to spend some good time with him in the evening, and during my days with him. Good luck! I agonized so much over putting my son in daycare and in the end, it was much easier to do it than to think about it. Julie

Planning for New Childcare for 2 year old

I'm going to send my little girl to a family day care next month. My girl (Megan) will be 2 on May 21st. In order to decrease the difficulties for her change, what should I do to help? My friend said that at beginning, her child could not sleep in the day care. Things were extremely difficult for the first month. I guess I didn't pick the right time to send Megan to a day care because I will be super busy too in May. I will try to do my best to help this transfer. Any suggestion is very welcomed. Zhang
Why don't you start bringing her this week? Talk to your child-care provider--if you're staying there with her she shouldn't charge you and it shouldn't matter if she doesn't have a space this week. Then maybe the last couple days before you have to start for real you could bring your daughter and leave her for a few hours. Also, don't assume napping will be a problem--both my kids always napped at child-care, right from the start, even though they were never so cooperative with me!

Even though you'll be busy when you start, try to get there 15 min early and give your daughter the choice of doing ONE activity with you (puzzle, book, etc). Then when you're done, say good-bye (don't sneak out) and LEAVE (don't stay for endless hugs, crying, etc). Likewise, when you pick up, try to allow a few minutes for your daughter to show you what she's been doing or whatever--don't rush out. Deborah


Starting daycare at 3 months

I will be going back to work part time in July, when my daughter is three
months old, and I will need to find at least half day care for her. Has
anybody had some experience with starting day care this early? Mary Carol

I've just started my daughter in day care at St. John's infant Center. Cara is four months old, but St. John's takes babies as young as 3 months. Cara loves it there. She likes watching the "older" babies (e.g. the 6 and 7 month olds who can roll over and crawl) and gets lots of extra hugging from the staff. She usually comes home tired but happy, full of smiles. Her older sister went through the same baby room, onwards to the "big kids" area (for one and two year olds) and now, at almost 3, is about to graduate to preschool. I didn't want the girls in a big preschool with a few babies thrown in, because I was afraid they'd get kind of lost in the shuffle and demands of a herd of excited four-year-olds.

There are not many infant-only programs in CA because it is very expensive. (St. Johns is largely subsidized by the church in which the program is housed, which helps a lot.) The emphasis in CA for the past 20 years or so has been "family-day-care" ... small programs in homes with a mix of ages, including a couple babies. Many babies like that kind of setting too. The quality of family daycare depends a great deal upon the individual running that particular place. But in a good setting, I think babies enjoy being social and being around other children and adults. After all, in many times and cultures, they would have been around mom, grandma, auntie and a herd of siblings and cousins all day long.


Our son, Aaron, who is now almost 2, started at a family daycare at a little less than 3 months. He loves it. Our childcare provider, Robin Fetisoff, seems to generally prefer taking new kids when they are very little. One advantage to starting so young is that it seems that separation anxiety, at least associated with going to childcare, is reduced or absent entirely, as they are so familiar with the provider before those stages hit. Elizabeth I waited until my daughter was able to crawl until I placed her at daycare. I was told by many parents that children just don't get enough attention at daycare and so, I figured that my daughter would at least be able to crawl to the toys and amuse herself without needing constant attention. I also observed some of the younger babies get poked at or stepped on by older babies, and I sighed in relief that Rebecca was old enough to defend herself. (I'm sure that babies get prodded by other children no matter which daycare center they're in). Teachers are not always able to watch everyone closely, specially when there are many children around, someone's bound to get poked. Grace
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this page was last updated: Dec 24, 2012


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