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Preparing Your Baby for Childcare

October 10, 2012 1:49 pm
Written by: Nicole Harris
Every day, an anxious parent takes her baby to childcare for the first time. She signs him in, kisses him softly, whispers "I love you", and drives to work wiping tears from her face. Maternity leave is over and now she needs to get back to work. She likes her job, but she's in love with her baby and feels like it was just yesterday that she gave birth.
All over the Triangle, there are wonderful childcare programs that nurture and educate young children.  My first child's provider had one of those programs.  At just 7 weeks old, I had to put her in childcare because I started a new job during pregnancy and didn't have alot of PTO. And although I cried all the way to work that day, I still felt really good about the provider I chose because she was experienced and seemed to be very nurturing. Like a lot of new parents, I chose a Family Childcare Home because of the intimate setting and small number of children.  When my daughter was 17 months old, I decided to leave my job as a Childcare Referral Consultant and come home to raise her.  I'd always worked in child development, so I decided to start a home daycare business.  I had some close friends that were looking for childcare for their toddlers, so it was the perfect setup.

In the second year of my business, I was making arrangements for a new baby to start and one of the first things the mom said was, "Let me warn you—he is spoiled!"  I remember thinking that the baby is only 3 months old, and you can't spoil a baby that young.  OK, the first month of his care, I spent helping him feel secure and safe without me holding him ALL day.  The second month was about how long it took me to convince his parents the importance of allowing him to explore his world and abilities outside of their loving arms, and the benefits of sleep learning.  And finally, the third month I spent coaching his parents once they realized that I really knew what I was talking about in the second month.  Once mom and dad got on board with me totally, they were less frustrated, everybody was getting more sleep at night, and I could answer the phone without the caller thinking that the screaming baby in the background was being abused.

Although that experience was definitely an eye opener, I still believe that you can't spoil a baby that's less than 4 months old.  However, over the years as a childcare provider, I've observed that there are some challenging dependencies and behaviors that developed if a baby wasn't given the opportunity to sense feelings of security and safety even if he's not being held.  I'm not referring to that phase during 6 to 9 months of age when a baby becomes acutely aware of who his caregiver is and stranger anxiety occurs, but in everyday life.

If you are a new parent returning to work and will be relying on a childcare program, it's SO important that you understand that an infant goes through a major transition from leaving home and parents to a childcare setting with sometimes multiple adults and children.  There will be an adjustment phase that is expected, but that phase could be even harder for the baby and you if he isn't ready for it.

So what can you do to prepare your baby for the transition to childcare?  There are many things you can do at home towards the end of your maternity leave, and what works best depends on your baby's temperament.  Here are a few suggestions that I practiced with my own children:

-Find out what soothes your baby. For my kids, it was the sound of household appliances like the dishwasher. Whenever one was running, I'd put them in the bouncer and let them listen to it for a while.
-If you are nursing and will have to pump at work, let dad do some bottle feedings throughout the day.
-Invite a few friends with children to come over and socialize, have a "circle time."
-Have trusted family members or friends babysit. (make sure they have infant CPR and first aid training)
-After you've chosen a childcare program, set up introductory sessions with the provider for a few hours twice a week.

As a mom, I've been there, needing to work outside the home, trying to balance feelings of guilt, nervousness and uncertainty.  But once I found a provider I felt truly cared for my baby, I wanted to do everything I could to keep her job from being any harder than it already was. I also wanted to feel some peace in knowing that my baby could cope with being away from me. And after that initial adjustment phase, she was happy and excited to see me when I picked her up after work, not tired and cranky from crying for me all day. The process of finding and choosing quality childcare can be a tough time for new parents.  But with all the interviews, tours, and paperwork they'll do to get ready for that big day, one person needs to be prepared the most– their baby.

Nicole is a mother of three children, ages 6, 3, and 1, and founder of Tender Transitions Parent Services.  You can contact her at tendertransitions@ymail.com for more information on how to prepare children for the shift to child care.

Every day, an anxious parent takes her baby to childcare for the first time. She signs him in, kisses him softly, whispers "I love you", and drives to work wiping tears from her face. Maternity leave is over and now she needs to get back to work. She likes her job, but she's in love with her baby and feels like it was just yesterday that she gave birth.
All over the Triangle, there are wonderful childcare programs that nurture and educate young children.  My first child's provider had one of those programs.  At just 7 weeks old, I had to put her in childcare because I started a new job during pregnancy and didn't have alot of PTO. And although I cried all the way to work that day, I still felt really good about the provider I chose because she was experienced and seemed to be very nurturing. Like a lot of new parents, I chose a Family Childcare Home because of the intimate setting and small number of children.  When my daughter was 17 months old, I decided to leave my job as a Childcare Referral Consultant and come home to raise her.  I'd always worked in child development, so I decided to start a home daycare business.  I had some close friends that were looking for childcare for their toddlers, so it was the perfect setup.

In the second year of my business, I was making arrangements for a new baby to start and one of the first things the mom said was, "Let me warn you—he is spoiled!"  I remember thinking that the baby is only 3 months old, and you can't spoil a baby that young.  OK, the first month of his care, I spent helping him feel secure and safe without me holding him ALL day.  The second month was about how long it took me to convince his parents the importance of allowing him to explore his world and abilities outside of their loving arms, and the benefits of sleep learning.  And finally, the third month I spent coaching his parents once they realized that I really knew what I was talking about in the second month.  Once mom and dad got on board with me totally, they were less frustrated, everybody was getting more sleep at night, and I could answer the phone without the caller thinking that the screaming baby in the background was being abused.

Although that experience was definitely an eye opener, I still believe that you can't spoil a baby that's less than 4 months old.  However, over the years as a childcare provider, I've observed that there are some challenging dependencies and behaviors that developed if a baby wasn't given the opportunity to sense feelings of security and safety even if he's not being held.  I'm not referring to that phase during 6 to 9 months of age when a baby becomes acutely aware of who his caregiver is and stranger anxiety occurs, but in everyday life.

If you are a new parent returning to work and will be relying on a childcare program, it's SO important that you understand that an infant goes through a major transition from leaving home and parents to a childcare setting with sometimes multiple adults and children.  There will be an adjustment phase that is expected, but that phase could be even harder for the baby and you if he isn't ready for it.

So what can you do to prepare your baby for the transition to childcare?  There are many things you can do at home towards the end of your maternity leave, and what works best depends on your baby's temperament.  Here are a few suggestions that I practiced with my own children:

-Find out what soothes your baby. For my kids, it was the sound of household appliances like the dishwasher. Whenever one was running, I'd put them in the bouncer and let them listen to it for a while.
-If you are nursing and will have to pump at work, let dad do some bottle feedings throughout the day.
-Invite a few friends with children to come over and socialize, have a "circle time."
-Have trusted family members or friends babysit. (make sure they have infant CPR and first aid training)
-After you've chosen a childcare program, set up introductory sessions with the provider for a few hours twice a week.

As a mom, I've been there, needing to work outside the home, trying to balance feelings of guilt, nervousness and uncertainty.  But once I found a provider I felt truly cared for my baby, I wanted to do everything I could to keep her job from being any harder than it already was. I also wanted to feel some peace in knowing that my baby could cope with being away from me. And after that initial adjustment phase, she was happy and excited to see me when I picked her up after work, not tired and cranky from crying for me all day. The process of finding and choosing quality childcare can be a tough time for new parents.  But with all the interviews, tours, and paperwork they'll do to get ready for that big day, one person needs to be prepared the most– their baby.

Nicole is a mother of three children, ages 6, 3, and 1, and founder of Tender Transitions Parent Services.  You can contact her at tendertransitions@ymail.com for more information on how to prepare children for the shift to child care.
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