I Survived the First Week of Daycare

My Mouse began attending daycare  this week.  I was able to stay home with her for several weeks, and once I went back to work, her father took time off to be with her.  We both would have liked to have spent more time with her but financially it just wasn’t possible.

Early on in my pregnancy, we found a daycare provider for Mouse.  We researched homes, interviewed caretakers and completed background checks.  We settled on a daycare close to my workplace–one that had received glowing reviews from a coworker and friend who had been using the daycare for about five years.  I felt confident about our choice.

And I still do.  Miss C. has been wonderful.  The first day she called me throughout the day to give me updates.  She has since sent me photos and text messages on a regular basis, reassuring me that Mouse is doing well.  She once was in my shoes and knows how difficult it can be for a mother entering back into the work force, leaving her baby for the first time.

That first day I cried.  Heck, I cried the entire weekend before (off and on).  I saved my crying for private, weeping in the car after I left her after lunch.  My husband drops her off in the mornings, saving me that agony.  But in the afternoons, when I go to nurse her, saying goodbye is so hard.  I cried again the second day.  The third day I cried a little less.  And the fourth day when I began to cry, I bought myself a Dairy Queen Blizzard.  I probably should have just bought a book.

I don’t have family nearby who can care for her, and, honestly, I like the idea of her having other children to interact with, something she wouldn’t get if Grandma was watching her.  Her daycare provider is big on play and development so I know Mouse is being stimulated.  She actually is doing quite well.  She has a fairly good temperament and seems to be adjusting without any difficulty.  It’s only mommy and daddy who are having a hard time of it.

The first time I saw Mouse smile and squeal for Miss C. I felt jealous.  That smile and squeal are meant only for me!  I reminded myself I should be glad Mouse is bonding with her daycare provider.  This is the woman who is helping me raise my child.  I want Mouse to feel safe and secure with her.  As this first week comes to a close I feel even more confident in my husband’s and my choice.

I know there will be other moments when I feel those pangs of jealousy–it’s inevitable–but as long as my little girl is happy and getting the care she needs, I can get past it.  After all, she has only one mommy–and that’s me.

Be sure and read about Caspette & her son’s first day experience at daycare here.

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Starting Daycare

Returning to work and abandoning my baby at day care was not something that I was looking forward to, and in fact delayed by a month.  I have now been back at work for 2 weeks, our daughter has been at day care for 3 weeks and luckily it has been a relatively smooth transition.  Here are some observations, pointers and thoughts on the experience so far.

Preparation

  • Familiarisation and orientation sessions – This is a really important one.  We were lucky enough to start off with about four 1-3 hour familiarisation sessions with me in the room, and with me outside the room.  This helped both baby and mother feel more comfortable about the change in routine and the idea of being separated.  Then there were a couple of full days before I went back to work, just like a dress rehearsal.  This way you can make sure or at least trial your little one is able to eat and sleep at day care.
  • Ask questions – If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask.  The staff are used to it, it will give you better peace of mind, and you will be ore prepared.
  • Feeding/Bottles – Have a plan for what you plan to do for milk feeds and preferably put it into action at least a few weeks beforehand.  Will you express or use formula, and will your child take it from a bottle?  How will your milk supply handle the change?  I keen to not have to express at work, so after much persistence we managed to get our bubby drinking formula from a bottle.  On the three days I work, I feed her first thing in the morning and at bedtime, and she gets two bottles at day care.  There is some engorgement, but mostly not the the point of being painful.  The other days of the week I breast feed all feeds and hope this is enough to keep my supply going.
  • Clothing – We went out and splurged on a set of clothes from Target, Big W and K-mart.  Kids get messy at day care (I saw one child literally covered from head to toe in food at lunchtime), so we wanted a set of robust clothes that could be messed up with food, dirt, paint, etc.
  • Labels – Label all clothing, bottles and anything else you pack for day care.  We were given a day care set of labels from Bright Star Kids and purchased an extra set of clothing labels.

At Day Care

  • Sickness – It is a pretty well known fact that your kids will pick up all sorts of germs from day care and will get sick.  After the orientation, our daughter came down with a cold, which then developed into an ear infection.  As a result mum and dad got colds too.  In the short time we have been going, there have also been notices of chicken pox, lice and conjunctivitis going around the centre.
  • Sleeping – I have been told it can take a month or so for our babies to get used to sleeping at day care.  It is a new environment, there is so much going on and other crying babies to contend with.  I figure, if she is really tired she will sleep, and if she doesn’t sleep so well at day care, it means she will sleep really well at night.
  • Learning – Your baby will get exposure to new toys, new people, other babies and activities that you don’t get a chance to do at home.  Surely this is a good thing.  The other day she was found in the sand pit at the end of the day.  I am sure some sand must have been ingested.  She has also just begun crawling.  Perhaps it is co-incidence, or maybe seeing other children do it gave her some encouragement.
  • Food – They get fed very well at day care!  Breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon snack and optional dinner.  I think our daughter also eats better at day care because she sees the other children eating which encourages her to do the same.  She also gets to try some new foods which we haven’t given her at home and possibly also helps with the development of her eating by getting new textures.

Thoughts

  • Separation – Surprisingly we haven’t found the experience and separation too traumatic.  We have always encouraged our baby to play independently which may have helped.  And for my own peace of mind I remind myself that the people looking after her have a lot more experience with children than I do, they are professional and know what they are doing.  I like to think that the variety and new experiences she is getting help with her development.
  • The hardest part – I have found the hardest part of the day care experience is that on the days I work I really only get to see her maybe two hours a day.  It does make me sad and there is a bit of guilt that goes with it, but on the other hand it makes me really enjoy and appreciate the days that I do get to spend with my little munchkin.

First Day At Day Care – A Mummy’s Perspective

I was reflecting today on our day care “journey” to date. We have been very lucky that our son took too day care like a duck to water. I know not everyone’s experience first day or not is as easy as ours. No matter what your dropping off experience is like, after when you have the first day to yourself alone with out a baby, I think all parents go through a gamut of emotions about the day. Here is what my first day of my son in day care looked like:

  • Arrive at Day Care all happy and bright. While inside quivering with nerves. I had read the books, spoken to fellow mums, I knew what to expect. I was ready. Going to be strong in the face of my son’s distress. Game face was on!
  • Handed son over to the carer.
  • Watch as my son ignored me as we say goodbye.
  • Hung around awkwardly and watch him “just in case”.
  • Try desperately to not turn into a puddle of sobbing tears in front of the child care centre because he DIDN’T scream and cry, in fact he didn’t seem to care if I were there at all.
  • Take a few moments in the car; feel stupid, and tell myself it’s GOOD your child was fine with you leaving this is what you wanted right?
  • Cry some more because now you’re an awful mother for making your child go to day care and not staying home and be a stay at home mum.
  • Remember that you have to return to work in order to your provide for your child and tell yourself to “toughen up princess”.
  • Drive off and feel strange, both free and awful at the same time.
  • Have a nice lunch in a nice restaurant with hubby baby free!
  • Pretend you are not fretting and worrying that there is no possible way the child care workers can look after your child the way you can, and that you are scarring your child for life by putting him through this trauma.
  • Deep breaths.
  • Give into the guilt and go to the day care.
  • Find child is asleep and has been for a good hour.
  • Hang around awkwardly asking a gazillion questions of the child care worker (because if they are not caring for your child due to him being asleep then they can’t be busy), while half hoping child wakes.
  • Leave again.
  • Actually make it home and wonder briefly “now what?” have a vague sense I should be doing something but at the same time revel in my ME time.
  • Sit on my bum for a good hour….aaaahhhh bliss.
  • Munch on chocolates.
  • Contemplate the apple in the fridge but remember the ice cream in the freezer, eat that instead.
  • Finally give into that guilt gnawing at the back of my mind and go in to collect my son.
  • Find him playing happily on the mat.
  • Talk to the workers and get told what a wonderful little boy he is.
  • Son spots me and laughs happily and reaches for me.
  • My heart melts as I give your him big hugs.
  • The whole day is forgotten about in that moment.

Amber Teething Necklaces

At risk of sounding like a hippie, I am totally in love with my Son’s amber teething necklace!

If you havent heard of them, Amber teething necklaces are made for wearing (not chewing) when a baby is teething. The warmth from the skin releases the active ingredient in the Amber, called succinic acid. Recent research suggests that this can improve immunity, help reduce drooling and soothe red cheeks. Amber’s anti-inflammatory properties are said to help relieve teething pain and calm a baby without the use of drugs

I had friends who have used these teething necklaces on their babies since they were really young, and i was always a little bit sceptical.  I thought they looked really cute on baby girls, but i was not about to whack a necklace on my cloth wearing, co-sleeping, attachment parented baby boy, for fear of really becoming a hippie.

And then we had – what is now referred to in our house as – the week of horror.  We had just successfully completed baby boot camp and got our little man out of our bed and into his cot, where he was sleeping through the night, without kicking Mummy in the face. All was going well, i even felt human!! Then the dreaded teeth started. My son woke every 40 minutes, had neurofen, panadol, and a homoeopathic remedy that smelt and tasted like cola and to this day i have no real belief that it works. We paced and we fed and we bathed him in the middle of the night, i sung twinkle twinkle until my voice was hoarse, and two days later we had a front tooth poke through the gum, we held a breath and went to bed that night hoping we would get at least three hours sleep, and we did! He slept through and so did Mummy and Daddy. We thought we had done it, but the following night it happened all over again. So in desperation i bought an amber teething necklace. By the time it arrived we had a second tooth through the gum and we were back to sleeping through, but i put it on anyway and we ghave all happily co-existed ever since.

Until this week. My son’s childcare has developed a no jewelry policy and so i took his little necklace off as i dropped him off, and when Daddy picked him up, he called to say that my son had a teething / dribble rash all down his chin. From four hours with out it!! We have cut three teeth in the teething necklace without so much as a grizzle, no panadol, no demeted midnight singing, or twilight bathing. It really is a little miracle!!

Due to the no jewellery policy and my mature outlook on life, i hide it on him on childcare days, i tuck it right into his singlet, and so far no dribble rashes, and Mummy and Daddy and my gorgeous teething toddler, live happily ever after.

Choosing a Daycare

My husband and I knew going into our pregnancy that we would need to find a quality daycare for our child. I was anxious from the start to find just the right care provider. This person would be the one raising my child right alongside my husband and me. It wasn’t a decision I wanted to make lightly or on a whim.

We considered all our options. I priced in-home care, nannies and the like only to discover that they were way out of my budget. If I could afford a service like that, my husband could stay home and care for our daughter–which would have been ideal. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. We next looked at day care facilities run in private homes, which was much more in line with our budget and, at least for us, more preferable to using a facility day care.

There are resources available for soon-to-be parents looking for daycare options. In the United States, the local office of education often has a list of daycare options in the area requested. Community Care Licensing or the licensing agency that licenses daycares also can provide a list, as well as provide background information on providers that can be quite helpful for the discerning parent. Other resources include the internet and phone book.

In our case, I chose to use the best resource I had–word of mouth. Two daycare providers came especially highly recommended, both by people whose judgment I not only trust, but who I knew were tough mothers who are very vocal and involved in their children’s care. A coworker offered to check with her brother who worked for licensing as well. So, I didn’t have to wait long to get the background information I was interested in.

I was not sure when a good time to approach the care providers was. I was anxious to get started as early as possible, but three months in was probably too soon. I didn’t actively begin looking for a day car provider until about four months in. I think the general recommendation is to wait five to six months. Why so early? Waiting lists. The best homes often have waiting lists or at least may need a heads up to ensure an opening is available for your child when the time comes.

My next step was to set up interviews with the care providers. I came armed with a long list of questions. I expected most of my questions to be answered in the course of conversation, which is exactly what happened. But I felt more confident having the list handy. This is my future child we are talking about. I didn’t want to miss something important.

While interviews are an important component, the unannounced visits can offer a lot of insight as well, and I highly recommend doing one or two before making a final decision about whether a daycare is right for you and your child. So much can be gained from seeing the care provider in action, interacting with the children, dealing with your unexpected presence, and just getting an idea of how things are run during the day.

There is a lot to take into consideration when deciding on a day care. It is not an easy decision to make. Do you want a daycare close to your home or your work? I decided to look closest to my work. That way, I could use my lunch breaks to visit my little girl, whether it be to nurse or play. I like the idea of being able to hop right on over whenever I like, having her close to me. Having the daycare closer to home has its own advantages, especially if it is one that you will be able to use into your child’s school years.

My husband and I were quite pleased with the two care providers we checked out, and it was not an easy decision to make between the two. Well, it wouldn’t have been, anyway, expect for the fact that one had more flexible hours that fit with my work schedule while the other one didn’t.

My child is about two months away from entering this world. I hope to keep her home for at least three months once she’s born before she will go into daycare. If I could swing it, we’d wait longer, but I have to be realistic. I feel a sense of relief knowing I have a place already lined up for her to go and confident that I chose a quality daycare where she will receive the best care, outside of my home.

My list of questions for the daycare providers:

Hours/Days of operation? Are you open on any of the holidays?
How many children do you care for? What are their ages and genders?
How much do you charge? Do you charge for vacation/sick/absent days?
Do you charge extra if I’m late?
What is your sick policy?
Medication policy?
How do you handle emergencies, including medical emergencies?
Do you have infant and child CPR training? Do you carry liability insurance?

We’re looking at beginning child care services the end of May beginning of June. Will you have an opening then?
Security/Safety?
Do you allow drop in visits?
Where will my child sleep?
How much time will my child be in a crib or play pen?
Feeding schedules?
Who will be handling my child? Changing diapers? Feeding my child (do you hold the child while feeding)?
Will I be able to nurse? Will you be willing and able to store and feed my child breast milk from a bottle?
What will I be expected to provide?

What activities do you have throughout the day for the children?
Discipline policy?
Toilet Training?
Are children ever transported in a vehicle while in your care? If so, do you have a valid driver’s license and what is your driving record?

How long have you been doing this?
Do you smoke?
Do you have pets?
What would you do if you and I disagreed about something?

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