My #1 tip is to take one or two days before the actual first day to travel to the daycare with the baby. See if the daycare center will offer a few complimentary days to assist you and the baby with this brand new (and quite nerve racking) adjustment. I usually recommend 1-2 hours for the first “trial run” and an additional hour or two (or half day) for the second “trial run.”
Try to make the trial run during the same time that you would normally plan to bring the baby. This will help you make tweaks to how you will get ready that morning and/or what you can do the night before to help reduce the prep time. Make sure to allow for the time it takes to nurse/feed the baby before you leave otherwise, you may have one cranky baby and stressful car ride to daycare!
Practicing in the morning also helps to adjust to the traffic patterns during that time of day with respect to your destination.
My second tip is to write down what your baby’s typical day is like as if we were someone coming to your home to babysit. We want your baby to feel as comfortable as possible and the more we know, the less anxious energy there will be as we interact with him or her. “She falls asleep after her bottle.” “We rock him then lay him in the crib.” “He never sleeps longer than 30 minutes at a time.” “We feed her, then she has to sit upward for at least 20 minutes due to acid reflux.” “He gets pretty gassy so you may have to take a break before he finishes the last two ounces.” These are all helpful tips for the caregivers.
At The Vine Preschool, we post the schedule and really make an effort to follow it as closely as possible in an effort to allow for a smooth transition from daycare back to home. It helps to know how your baby’s day goes at home because security is the goal and in order for your baby to feel safe and secure at daycare, we need to be confident and comfortable in the care we provide at your child’s home away from home.
Step Three: Short and sweet. Leaving your baby for the first time is never easy and it will only get better as the days progress but it starts with developing that comfort in those first two trial runs. If you remember, I said that it serves both the parents and the child. Our anxiety is at its highest when it comes to the unknown.
But once we know what to expect, our anxiety lessens. So those trial runs are there for the parent also. That’s when you stick around a little longer, ask the pressing questions and even get stuck right outside the door because letting go can be tough. But once the trial days are over, the trust and the reason why you chose that daycare has to kick in. If your baby senses your anxiety, you can possibly transfer that anxious and unsettled energy to the baby and that can make the adjustment a little harder for you and the baby.
That’s where short and sweet comes in: when you are ready to hand your baby over to the caregiver, try your very best not to reach back for the baby again because I believe that it sends a message of uncertainty to your baby. Do you just abruptly leave? No. Do you walk out without saying, “Goodbye?” No. You feel free to reach in to kiss your precious bundle of joy, talk to your little one, and give him/her your peaceful and reassuring goodbye letting your little one know that you’ll be back.
That’s where Step Four comes in. Reassurance lets the baby know that you trust that caregiver enough to leave them in the safety of the caregiver’s loving arms. Will they know everything that you are saying? No, but your demeanor and your reassurance will send a calm message of safety and security to your baby and maybe even be therapeutic for you as the parent(s) as well.
Step Five: Checking-in. Last but not least, call to check in as much as you want and ask as many questions as you want that will get you to a place of peace while you are away from your baby. If the daycare staff can send you photos or video, that’s a plus.
I believe that if you follow these 5 steps, you will be on your way to a smooth and successful drop off for baby and you!