Adjusting to Daycare: Dealing With Acclimatization Problems

Are you having a tough time with your little one starting daycare? From new routines to new people, it can be tough! One mom asks her baby group about dealing with these adjustment issues.


"So - in the continuing saga of [my daughter]'s care - after the abrupt realization that her nanny was not capable of continuing to care for her - which was both shocking and is still very sad for all of us, we ended up placing Mads [in daycare].

This has been a big shock to [my daughters]'s little system as she had to give up two of her naps a day, no longer had someone to heat or give her bottles, is eating lunch out of containers while sitting at a table instead of on a plate at a high chair, all of her meals are at new times etc etc...  

Lots of changes and none of the comforts of home or individual care, though there are plus sides too, of course!  She plays games with the older kids and picks up new words every day, for example.

After the first few days, we were told that she wasn't acclimating fast enough and may have to leave the program.  They gave her a fourth day and felt that she significantly improved and now feel like she's fine.  For a week or so, she'd become hysterical if we even went to the park or I walked out of a room as if she was going to be abandoned, but happily, things are back to normal on that front, and she now heads to the park and plays and is smiley and seemingly back to herself.

Why I'm writing though - is that I'm not sure what "fine" is supposed to look like when it comes to daycare.  Half of the time, [my daughter] begins to become clingy and upset when we start with getting on her socks and the sock/shoe scenario can be an upsetting experience for all involved.  At the minimum, she begins to cry when we pull up to the door to the school and cries and clings to me, though they tell me she stops within a few minutes of my leaving and that they see this is good progress.

We almost never had this with our nanny.  [My daugher] would once and awhile become clingy, but could be distracted in a minute and I can only think of a couple of occasions in about a year where we ever had tears when I left for the day.  Most of the time, she was playing or waving at me down the stairs and blowing kisses.

What have you guys been experiencing?  I know all kids are different, but for those of you who have had kids in daycare for awhile, does this improve? Do some kids always cry and it's just how things are at this age?  [My daughter] has always been just the happiest and smiliest goofball baby around and even though I can see that this is all within what would be normal, there's still something pulling at me when I see her being anxious.  

Anyways - here's sharing too much, but reaching out to get some perspective."




Older babies can be trickier:

"[My daughter] started daycare 2 weeks ago. She screams like crazy when we drop her off, but she is fine the rest of the day. And I know this because we have popped in early a few times and she is always having a ball. This morning she reached for one of the caretakers as we walked in the door. She cried a few moments later, but I felt it was a great step in the right direction. I definitely agree that older babies have a harder time adjusting. When the babes are wee little things, they don't really know what's happening and are happy to just be loved on. They're more aware now and are able to put the pieces together. Hang in there. I think it's been a big adjustment for everyone but you will all be better for it in the end."


"I agree! The older they are, the longer it takes to adjust. In fact, near our day care is this pre-school and I saw a 3 year old bawling out front this morning, clinging to her dad's leg for dear life.

For the older babies I've seen at our day care, it can take as long as 3-4 weeks for the crying at drop off (and sometimes beyond) to stop. And so you know, generally crying at pick up is not abnormal - those kiddos are exhausted from a busy day, especially those who are mobile. Think about the stroller chill time that they don't get at day care - they are on the move!

So glad she is happier now than when she began!"


It takes time and adjusting to new routines and people is hard:

While I don't have experience with this specific situation ([my daughter] has been at daycare now for almost a year - what?!) there is a new little girl who has started this past month after staying home.  
I've watched her adjust and think it definitely takes more than one week!  The first few times I picked up [my daughter] before her mom came it was she would cry for her mommy but someone would always pick her up and cuddle/try to distract her.  Fast forward about a month and she is happy, silly and getting a kick out of hearing me say hi to her when I get [my daughter].  In fact,  [my daughter] kissed her on the head yesterday while saying good bye and the both broke into giggles I almost cried it was so sweet.

So, in my infinite wisdom, adjusting is hard! Especially if you are also introducing a routine (transportation in the morning and evening for her), a whole heck of a lot of new people and new routine for eating and sleeping!  It will take time - I only concern from your story was that they expected her to adjust so fast as 14/15 month old!    Your goofball is still there she's just figuring how to be that way in a new situation."


Original poster's summary:


"Thanks for everyone's stories and commiserations on this.  On one hand, I suppose it's helpful to hear how this is "normal" to some degree, even if it feels terrible.  We were away for the Jewish holiday last week and are going through another round of re-reacclimation this week, so it's been rough.  Today though, finally, I have a little light at the end of the tunnel.  [My daughter] seems partial to one of her teachers and actually reached for her (granted, while crying) when I dropped her off this morning.  She barely reaches for her dad, if I'm holding her, when he reaches out to her, so this is HUGE!!

I think some of it is maybe specifically that the school we chose has a very hands-off approach to parent involvement and keeps its updates to a minimum.  Even if I'm told the baby cried all day, I still get the "happy" mood circled on her daily report.  They're very nice there and [my daughter]  seems to have some favorites among the staff, but that loss of the daily download form her nanny has been a hard adjustment for me.  Whether or not she's pooping regularly.  What's affecting her eating..  I see she didn't eat, but WHY didn't she eat.  Have the 4 new teeth that are coming in at once been bothering her?  And then not being able to have them do the things her nanny or I would do at home to make her feel a little bit better (tea-soaked frozen wash cloth or frozen bananas in her mesh thing etc...).

She is slowly adjusting.  She sometimes doesn't eat lunch because she's falling asleep - still wanting her morning nap, but she naps will in the afternoon there very well and sits at the table with the big kids to eat and do "crafts."  She is no longer showing signs of upset about not getting her bottles during the day, and they're finally applying aquaphor when they change her so she isn't coming home red.  

Thanks for the emails - this has been the weirdest/hardest month, but I'm feeling like things are starting to get into a little bit of a groove.  Next up will be asking for new recipes for toddlers with very few teeth and how in the hell people deal with having to get up an extra hour early in the morning to dice fruit and veg etc and pack baby lunches."