Heading Back to Work? Here’s 5 Ways to Get Your Little One (and YOU!) Ready for Daycare!
When I was a new mom, I had a delicious four months at home with my new baby, but I also had my old job waiting for me, which I attempted to keep humming along during my extra-generous maternity leave. I knew that at some point, I had to return to the office and dedicate myself more fully to my job, which meant that I needed to find the right childcare solution for our family. We found a wonderful daycare center not far from our home with skilled, warm, and loving caregivers that operated in a very professional and well-run environment. For us, it was the perfect solution.
At one point, I had three kids in daycare while I commuted an hour to and from work each day into NYC! So if you are planning on heading back to work this fall, here are 5 tips for you to get your little one and you ready daycare!
#1. One Week Before: Complete All Medical Forms
Get medication forms completed by your pediatrician if you will need your daycare center to dispense medication to your little one. In my experience, forms were required for both prescription as well as non-prescription medications, and they had to be completed using the specific form required by the center (not a standardized note from the doctor).
Along with the forms, be sure to have an extra set of non-prescription medications on hand to leave at the center. I found it helpful to label each bottle with my child's name and the correct dosage (just as a second reference to mirror what was on the paperwork). For prescription medications (such as albuterol treatments, antibiotics, etc.), you'll need to send those treatments back and forth each day with your child.
#2. One Week Before: Write Out Your Child's “Regular” Schedule
It will make your little one's transition to daycare so much smoother and give you so much more peace of mind if you can be sure that you gave the caregiver all of those important details about your baby or toddler's “normal” schedule. If you start working on this the week before daycare begins, you will have time to go back and add some detail to your list if you happen to think of new things that would be helpful to know.
And trust me–you'll want all of this written down so you are not standing there spewing off mountains of information to your child's new caregiver while they are also keeping an eye on the other children in the room!
Important things to include in your written instructions are:
– Timing of normal routine: Feedings, nap schedules, diaper changes (keep in mind that your baby will transition to the regular rhythm of their room at daycare, but it will help the teacher greatly to know that the 10:00 a.m. crankiness is because your wee one is used to a bottle at that time every day!)
– Helpful hints about how your baby likes to be put down for a nap: Rocking in a chair, a bounce-and-walk, a little song sung softly in his ear, or is he the type that just needs to be put in the crib as soon as he's sleepy? All babies have different routines!
– A list of what milestones you've hit: Is your daughter rolling over, working on her crawling skills, starting to toddle around yet? If your new caregiver knows where's she at, she can offer the most developmentally appropriate toys to keep your little one entertained!
– Favorite activities: Does your baby love to play in the exersaucer or are stacking rings her favorite toy ever? Make sure this is all on your written list!
#3. A Few Days Before You Head Back to Work: Go For a Trial Run
If you are able to work it out, it will be much easier for both you and for your little one if you can do a “trial run” for a few hours once or twice before that first day back to work rolls around. For each one of my kids, I was allowed to bring them to the center for a few hours while I hung around–sometimes in the room and sometimes just outside to see how things went, to answer any questions, or, most of all, for my own peace of mind that everything was going to be OK while I was back slaying dragons at the office!
#4. The Night Before: Organize the Daycare Bag
I suggest that your purchase a separate diaper bag dedicated just for daycare supplies–for things that will go back and forth every day, which could include items such as bottles, formula or breast milk, baby food, serving spoons, snacks, etc. Each center will have different rules about how they will accept formula and breast milk. Ours wanted everything measured and prepared in the bottles, which they gently warmed in a counter-top bottle warmer and tested before feeding the babies (but they would not mix formula).
I found it helpful to keep a checklist on my kitchen counter so that each morning I just needed to run through my checklist to make sure that everything was in my daycare diaper bag. It helped me many times before leaving the house so we didn't end up at the drop-off missing something we needed!
In addition, there are some supplies that you'll need to prep for your first day that will stay at the center–things such as extra changes of clothes, sheets for the crib or cot, blankets and loveys, a big bag of diapers, wipes, and cream. Be sure to get a complete list of supplies needed from your daycare center in advance.
#5. Your First Day!
Give yourself extra time to get ready on the first day so you don't feel rushed to get out of the house, and it will leave you some extra time to run through your drop-off routine when you arrive at the center. But at some point, that big moment will come when you will need to turn on your heel, walk out the door, and head to the office. Cut yourself plenty of slack here. You'll likely be emotional, have a million doubts, be worried about what you'll be facing at the office, and perhaps you'll just feel like falling apart. THIS IS NORMAL! Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you'll get through it.
Be sure to check in with your child's caregiver once or twice during the day–it will help you to know that everything there is going well, and it lets them know that you are available to answer questions and that you want to know the details of all that's going on with your little one's day! Once you are settled in, you'll likely scale back to maybe one mid-day phone call just to check in, and then you'll catch up on the rest when you pick up at the end of the day. And of course, if anything changes with your schedule (you hit traffic, you miss your train), be sure to call the daycare office to let them know where you are!
One more tip: Before you leave the house in the morning, have a plan for dinner! You will be exhausted after this first day, and it will be a relief to come home and just pop in a pre-made meal or dig into a rotisserie chicken that you purchased the day before!
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