Transitioning to Daycare

For the first several weeks of his life, Nathan was cared for almost exclusively by his parents George and Susan. Things changed a bit for Nathan when he turned 11 weeks old and was brought to a daycare center while his parents worked. This ended up being an easier transition for him than for his mom.

Susan enjoyed being home with her son, but was also very comfortable bringing him to daycare. However, Susan began having all the normal feelings of a Mom about to trust the care of her child to non-family members. “I started crying the day before,” remarked Susan, “….it turned into a panic when I realized that I can’t stay home with my baby and play with him and kiss him and make sure he is safe.”

Susan was teary as she got her son ready for his first morning at daycare. She began crying as she took Nathan down the hall to leave him with his teacher. Although she was extremely pleased by the supportive reaction of the daycare staff, she walked out of the building feeling that “I don’t think I can do this again.”

Throughout the day, Susan felt like “there was a gaping hole in my chest….it was just terrible.” As time passed, Nathan continued to do fine and his parents, particularly his mom, made the adjustment. Here are some things that can make such transitions a bit easier.


  • Pick a good daycare center. Visit several centers, talk with the teachers, ask lots of questions, and ask to speak with several of the parents who use the center.
  • Clarify the daycare’s policies. Susan selected a daycare center that was very sensitive to both Nathan and her needs. They allowed her to stay as long as she wanted, and they assigned a particular teacher to Nathan. Susan was reassured that her son’s care was done primarily by one person.
  • Arrange to have others care for your baby for short periods of time. It was a significant change for Susan to go from nearly the exclusive caretaker of Nathan to leaving him with others for eight hours a day. That might have been easier if babysitters had been used for brief periods of time prior to daycare.
  • Consider alternative arrangements. It was hard for Susan to leave her child at daycare, so her husband adjusted his schedule so that he dropped Nathan off and Susan picked him up. This worked great for everyone.
  •  Stay busy. Most parents use daycare so that they can return to work. Keep yourself active at work, particularly those first few days of the transition.
  • Check in during the day. It’s normal to wonder what is going on with your baby, so don’t be reluctant to call and see how your child is doing.
  • Reassure yourself. Kids who are cared for in a quality daycare do absolutely fine. Remind yourself of that when you wonder if you are doing the right thing.


Next week:  What kids should never say to parents!

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