Putting your baby or toddler in daycare for the first time can be one of the most challenging stages of parenthood. You’re likely feeling a mix of emotions as you prepare to drop your baby off with complete strangers for a full day. Rest assured, the daycare process will start to feel easier over time. As you prepare for your baby’s first day of daycare, here are a few tips to help make the transition a bit smoother.
Find the best daycare facility
One of the most important first steps you can take as you prepare to put your baby in daycare is to do some research and find the best daycare facility in your area. You can research daycare facilities and look at online reviews from other parents. It is helpful to ask within your community and get recommendations from other parents in your area. Social media is another useful resource for finding a great daycare facility. Post to your social media accounts asking other parents for recommendations. Also, you can seek out parent groups on Facebook or other social media sites and post to these groups to get more information.
There is a good chance that your local daycare facilities will require you to put your child on a wait list. So, it is important to plan far ahead to ensure that your baby is able to start daycare when you need them to. Some parents even put their child on a waitlist for daycare before they’re even born. This all depends on how early on you plan to return to work. Think about your specific situation and call around to different facilities to figure out the best timeline for your family.
Get to know your baby’s napping and feeding schedule
It will be helpful for your baby’s caregivers to have an idea of when they typically nap and drink their milk. As the daycare start date draws near, start paying close attention to your baby’s schedule. There is a good chance that younger babies really won’t have much of a schedule yet, but try your best to pinpoint an estimated routine. Wear a watch or have a clock nearby and try to take note of when your baby feeds and falls asleep for their naps. It can also be helpful to have a written log of your baby’s schedule to help you remember.
Start with part-time daycare if possible
Not every parent will have this option, but if your job is flexible, it would be great to start your baby in a part-time daycare to ease everyone into it. Dropping your baby off at daycare for the first time can be nerve wracking. So, only having to a few days a week can help create a slow and smooth transition. This can also give you time to get to know your baby’s caretakers as well.
Pack the night before
Your baby will need plenty of items to go with them to daycare. While some facilities provide diapers and wipes, not all of them do. Plus, it won't hurt to be over prepared. You’ll want to pack up your baby’s items the night before so that you aren’t scrambling at the last minute in the morning to get everything ready. Here are a few common daycare items that most babies need:
- Crib sheets, swaddles, or a blanket
- Comfort items such as a stuffed animal or pacifier
- Milk bottles and thawed breastmilk for breastfed babies
- Milk bottles with measured out formula for formula fed babies
- Changes of clothes
- Diapers and wipes if not provided by the daycare facility
It's important to note that your daycare facility will also require you to put your baby’s name on everything that you drop them off with. Take some time to write your baby’s first and last name on all bottles, tags of clothing, and other items. It’s helpful to designate a bag or cubby bin to pack all of your baby’s items in and put their name on that as well.
Prepare for tears
As much as we want things to be easy, we all know that very few aspects of raising a child actually are. The first experience with daycare is no exception. You will likely cry the first day you drop your baby off and possibly for a few times after that. Depending on your baby’s age, they will likely get upset too. Rest assured that this is totally normal and over time it will get easier. As hard as it is to leave your baby, lingering will only make things harder. It’s important to hand your baby over and leave swiftly to avoid getting upset.
Additional daycare tips
- Try to stop in for a visit throughout the day if you work nearby and have time during your lunch break. This is a great way to get an idea of how your baby’s days are spent at daycare and to see their caretakers in action.
- Most daycare facilities offer an app through which they message parents and send photos throughout the day. Ask your baby’s caretakers if they offer this before they start. This gives you the chance to track your baby’s day including how frequently they’re eating and having diaper changes. Plus, you can message the caretakers for updates on your child’s day.
- If you can, try to stop by the daycare facility a few times before your child’s first day. This can help get you and your baby used to the environment before they start.
- If you're transitioning from being a full time stay at home parent to utilizing daycare, it’s a good idea to introduce short stretches of away time to your child before they start. This will help get them used to the feeling of being away from you.
- Have patience with this process because it can feel really challenging. There will be days when your child is happy to go to daycare and there will be days where they don’t want to let go of you. It’s not easy, and just remember they will calm down after you leave.
- There is a good change that your child will get tiny colds more frequently after starting daycare. This is due to thee exposure of so many new germs. Don't fret, it is totally normal and actually a great way to help your child build natural immunity.
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