Is it time to go back to work?

          Your maternity leave is almost over and it’s time to think about how this will affect your baby. If you’re lucky, you have already reserved a spot in group child care. If you’re even luckier, your extended family will be taking care of your little one.

          I would love to offer you some tips that will help your baby adapt to this new environment. The following tips are for parents who will send their little one to a group child care setting (since I am an Early Childhood Educator), however, you can also use these for other cases as well.

          I’m sure that even if you’re hiring a nanny or using group child care, that you did your best to find a best fit for your baby. Each baby is unique, but I can tell you your baby’s development can depend greatly on the type of care they receive. Therefore, finding the best care giver is very important. I’m not implying that you need to have a care giver who has a Ph.D or that you need to find a luxurious child care centre with gourmet meals. Simply, experience and education of care givers can make a difference.

          There are a few steps that need to be considered before this new beginning for your child. The first step is for you as a parent, to get ready. I have seen many parents who are actually more anxious than their babies. Most likely, this anxiety comes from the unknown. To combat this, you can talk to other parents who are already attending the child care centre your baby will attend. This will give you some idea on what you can expect. Also, most child care centres will provide some type of orientation. Before you have this meeting with the early childhood educators, you can make a list of questions you may want to ask. The more you know about you and your baby’s new life, the more you will feel at ease. Moreover, use this orientation session to provide information about your baby to the early childhood educators. The more the educators know about your baby the more they will be able to best accommodate your baby. Remember, communication is the key between you and the early childhood educators. This open conversation should continue even after your baby has started at the centre.

          The next step is to set a schedule for your baby. I know it may seem impossible to have a rigid schedule with your little one. However, at the very least, you can create some patterns. For example, your baby wakes up, you feed him/her followed by play time and a morning nap. Once your baby wakes up, has his lunch, stroller ride, and then his/her afternoon nap. When your baby wakes up, has a snack, play, and afternoon nap. Your little one wakes up, has dinner, bath, and goes to sleep. You can create this while keeping in mind your drop off/pick up time and the child care centre’s sample schedule. The easier your baby gets used to this new schedule, the easier his/her transition will be. 

          If you are a mother who has been breast feeding your baby and wants to keep doing this, it is probably time to introduce the bottle to your baby. This will allow you to still use your breast milk. If you feel that your baby feels calmer and more satisfied after he/she has had your milk, it is good idea to continue sending your milk to the child care centre. Some babies transition to bottles without issue. If there is milk they can drink, they will take it. Others need more practice. When you introduce a bottle, start with the first morning feeding when your baby is most hungry. Your little one will resist the transition the least at that point of the day. Also, when other care givers are around, such as your husband or your mother, they can even try. For your baby, You=breasts. So, he may protest if you are trying to do it. In other words, “Hey, I see your breasts and smell them. Why do I need to take this rubber nipple?” You may also need to try several different types of bottles in order to find one that your baby likes. This can take time, but it is better to find one that your baby likes now instead of sitting at your work desk worrying about whether he is being fed properly.

          The last and most important step before going back to work is to finish sleep training! Most babies don’t like change. Sleep training and starting group child care can be an eye opening experience especially if your baby has never been taken care of by someone other than you. As you probably know, expect a few tears and time to adjust. New experiences are always an adventure that can increase stress levels. To help your baby overcome this difficult time, allow them to experience change gradually, one by one, instead of all together. I advise you to finish sleep training at least 2 to 3 months before child care starts. Keep in mind, a lack of restorative sleep can cause emotional and behavioural problems, which can greatly impact the process of adaptation to a new environment for your little one. Also, it is really hard for early childhood educators to help your baby develop good sleep habits when they can only help with naps at the centre. Good naps are usually followed by a good night sleep and vice versa. Without addressing night time sleep, developing generally good sleep habits take much longer. Moreover, they have other babies to take care of and most likely your baby will sleep in the same room with other babies. Even if your baby is crying a lot, sometimes educators needs to decide whose nap needs to given up on by taking one baby out of the nap room. In other words, your baby vs other babies.

          In closing, good sleep habits will help your baby to enjoy their day at the centre and give them more energy to learn, the reason you are sending them to child care. Remember, starting in a group child care setting can disrupt your baby’s sleep temporarily but if they develop good sleep habits early, it is easy to get back on the right path again once your baby adapts to the new environment.

Please contact us if you decide starting sleep train your baby via