Your anxiety starts building up towards the end of your maternity leave. The thought of leaving your little one behind and heading off to work is like a nightmare. Most of the times, grandparents lovingly agree to look after your little one. However, if you are not fortunate enough to have this support system then ‘a day care centre’ is your only hope.
Right age to start daycare
Relax! Don’t feel guilty about your decision. You have to get back to work someday and balance your motherhood and your career. So remember, that the best age to start day care will be different for every child and every family.
Searching for the right daycare
Whatever be your child’s age, when you send her to day care, it is important that you should feel confident that their staff is caring, qualified and knowledgeable; and that your child enjoys being there. You need to do your own research, visit certain day care centres, interact with their staff, and let them know your expectations. Once you are satisfied with one particular day care, try taking your little one there for a visit to see how she feels about the place. If she is around a year old, you can explain to her in simple words about how the day care system would work for her. Reading picture books about day care may help.
Understanding your child’s emotional needs
It is important for her to understand that, ‘Mummy leaves me here and I am safe here, but she does come back later to take me home.’
Older children, like a two year old, may find the transition to a structured environment of day care more difficult than the younger babies, like a seven or eight month old. Sometimes your child may find a large group of kids stressful and may need more one-to-one attention. Try to understand his requirement and choose a day care accordingly, so that he can easily adapt to the centre. At times you may need to change a couple of day care centres before you finally settle for one that suits you and your child.
Your little one may take time to adjust
If you have a clingy toddler, she may need some more time practicing being away from you, before she joins the day care. Leave her in the care of some relative or nanny at home for a few days, so that she gets adjusted to this separation before you send her to the day care. Let her carry a toy or a blanket or a book or any other object to cling on to, in case she misses you. Going ahead, you can build her confidence and wean her off that object. If after a few weeks she is still having difficulty separating from you or is having increased tantrums or generally seems unhappy, then please have an open discussion with the day care staff, so that you can build up strategies to make her comfortable.
No one can argue with the fact that a child feels most secure with her parents and in her own house. However, there is enough research to also prove that learning to adjust to a new environment, like that of a day care, enhances your child’s emotional development. So evaluate your circumstances, look into your options, and take the final call trusting your parental instincts.
Dr. Preeti Gangan
MBBS, DCH, IBCLC Paediatrician and Lactation Consultant