Putting bub into day care for the first time can be a daunting time for new parents, as Cara Russ understands. She is mum to 2 year old Theo and well remembers the anxiety and sense of guilt that accompanied the first few weeks – not to mention the road bumps along the way as they both adapted to their new routine. She shares her story and advice for other mums on the cusp of day care preparation (we promise it does get easier!)
Making the decision to go back to work was equally exciting (time to myself yay!) and scary. Having to put my baby into day care with people that I didn’t know, after 10 months of just the two of us seemed so daunting.
I wanted to find somewhere that would understand and be gentle with transitioning him (and me) into this new part of life. My son is a sensitive soul so I knew this was going to be hard on him.
CHOOSING A DAY CARE
When choosing a day care I looked for recommendations from other parents and then organised tours for the ones closest or recommended most.
I wasn’t aware at the time but a lot of places have significant wait lists so definitely think ahead if you have one you have your mind set on and put your name down asap. I know some mums who had their babies down almost a year before their planned start date, just to secure a spot. (Don’t let that worry you though, there are always options and a few months should be enough)
I got a pretty good idea from touring centres and speaking with the staff on which one aligned with my beliefs and felt the most comfortable with. It’s important that you feel confident with the people who will be looking after your little one. Day care is an extension of the care, learning and stimulation that you provide at home, so understanding their ethos and foundations will help you select the best fit for your baby or toddler to create cohesion in their routines.
PREPARATION FOR DAYCARE
Next was getting my son (and honestly mostly myself) ready for this big change. Luckily I had planned his start date at day care a few months before I went back to work so we could slowly introduce him to the dayc are. I started with a few stay and plays where I stayed with him for an hour while he played. Then it was leaving him for a few hours and slowly increasing this as he adjusted. Most day cares will encourage you to lead into the change this way, so the environment is familiar to your little one.
On his first day of day care we had brought him a new backpack and drink bottle and of course got the obligatory first day of day care photo (oh my heart!)
We also packed him a bunny toy and a blanket he loved, as a comfort for him to have there (this was the best thing we did!) A year on and he is still very attached to these two things and it has helped his transition into many new places.
At the time our son was intolerant to dairy so this was definitely an added stress but the day care were fantastic on making sure his intolerance was listed clearly everywhere so no mistakes were made. Conversations and effective communication around allergies and nutrition are essential and it was a big part of our planning in the initial stages.
MUMS AFTER DAY CARE DROP OFF
The first time I left him (and many more after that) I bawled my eyes out. I felt guilty but I also knew this was this best thing for our family and ultimately for Theo as well (especially as he was born during Covid, he hadn't has as many play dates as I'd have hoped, so I knew that day care would build his confidence and social skills).
I think the first day I left him after crying lots I had to take myself off shopping and aimlessly wandering around the shops as I couldn’t be at home without thinking of him and worrying.
I’d planned his first few days when I was still off work, so that I could be on hand to pick up and start with shorter days as well. Doing something for myself was definitely a good thing to take my mind off it and before I knew it I was going to pick him up again.
My advice to mums is to book yourself a pedicure, enjoy a long lunch to yourself or do a Pilates class – anything that feels indulgent and helps you keep your mind and body busy.
A year on and we still have some days he doesn’t want me to leave and I still feel guilty and miss him but it has also been so amazing for him, to see his confidence grow and how much he has learnt is so beautiful and makes us proud.
Sending lots of love to all those out there starting on this new journey of parenthood. You will get through it. I promise.
DAY CARE PREPARATION CHECKLIST
Book tours ahead of time in case there is a wait list
Plan your return to work to consider the first few days being shorter introductions, rather than jumping straight into full days
Needs for day care: backpack, drink bottle, hat, change of clothes, blanket/sleeping bag and a comfort toy (I still pack these daily for Theo, wherever we are going)
Allergy and dietary requirement lists and stickers where applicable
Stock up on first aid supplies such as saline nasal spray, eucalyptus chest rub, a vaporiser and any pain relief you use including ice and heat packs. Unfortunately day care comes with extra sickness.
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