Transitioning to Daycare

Are you wondering about how to transition your little one to daycare? PSP parents share what they did to transition their baby to daycare.

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One PSP parent writes:

"My son starts daycare at 3 mos on 4/3 while I start back to work full-time.
Do any of you have advice on how to help him transition?
The daycare offers some hours the week before to transition.
In addition to the emotional difficulty, I'm wondering about eating and sleeping changes.
Thanks for your thoughts!"




Babies are resilient and adjust quickly
For most parents, a transition was simply easing them in a few hours for a few days ahead of time.
Routine gets easier and there will be trial and error - so be gentle on yourself.




Transition the week before you go to work, gently increasing the hours. Leave a personal items of yours with him (like a T-shirt):

"I'm sure it's a hard time for you right now, with lots of questions! I started work full time 3 weeks ago and the week(s) leading up were definitely emotional.  All that said, I can tell you once you are back in the swing of things and on a routine it does get easier, probably mostly because you are just so busy now that emotions are the last thing on your mind. I'm no expert on this matter, but here is my experience so far....
Our daycare did a transition period the week before I went back to work.  The first day was one hour and I stayed w/ him and got to know the caretakers, meet the other babies, and ask questions.  Day two was 2 hours and I left him there, Day 3 4 hours, and by the end of the week a full day.  I think the week transition period is a really important time for mom and baby - so if you can do this w/ your daycare you should.  Of course it wasn't how I wanted to spend my last week of maternity leave, with him in daycare, b/c I wanted every moment w/ him, made the first day back at work a lot easier knowing he and I were both comfortable with his care and I didn't have to worry.
I also wasn't sure about feedings, naps etc.  It took some trial and error, so during that transition week I was able to adjust accordingly.  Because I was solely breastfeeding, I wasn't sure about the quantity of milk needed in a bottle, so I started w/ 3 4oz bottles and gave them an extra bottle and container of formula in case he needed it as a back up. In the end I'm sending 4 4-5oz bottles a day which he is drinking.  As for naps, we weren't on a schedule to begin with, and our daycare will either work on a schedule or let him sleep as he needs, it's really what I prefer.  My main concern is he's eating enough during the day so they will wake him to feed if necessary.  They take note of all is activities, feeds, naps, changes, etc.,  and I can see what he did at the end of the day.
I also left a t-shirt of mine w/ him the first week which they put in his crib...not sure if he cared or not, but made me feel better something from me was with him.  We love our daycare and the women are so nice and he's happy and smiles going and leaving, so it makes me happy at the end of the day.
Enjoy your last few weeks with your babe! And just know it's probably harder for you then him."


Transition with a few hours at first, and also bring something you sleep with:

"I have the same start date for daycare for my daughter, who will be exactly 5 months that day.  The day care also suggested coming for a few hours, two days at the end of March.  I asked them about what I could do to help smooth the transition, and they assured me that most babies adjust within days, which I thought seemed optimistic (I figured a few weeks?).  They did mention something about sending something that I slept with or in, such as a tee shirt, I guess to put in the crib for naps..  but after I left, I was thinking that doesn't sound too safe.  The advice I've been given by other November moms is to put in writing any special requests, as well as baby's likes/dislikes, what helps to soothe, etc.  I've also heard not to linger to much at drop off, and to project a really a positive attitude about the daycare.  Not sure it matters at such a young age, but people swear the baby can sense it if you are nervous about it and will feed off your energy, so we've already been talking to her about all the " new friends" she will meet at "school" :-)


Sometimes you don't need a transition:

"We started daycare for full time when my son was 3 months, and no transition period was necessary for us. He was too young to recognize what's going on, and was happy wherever he was. I'd advice to practice bottle feeding beforehand (which was our only concern). I personally think mothers (and maybe fathers) are the ones who needs more mental preparation :)"


And according to one daycare, babies are too young to have separation anxiety:

"My son started daycare full-time three weeks ago a little shy of being four months.  I had asked my daycare about a transition period and they told me it would not be necessary because he was too young to have separation anxiety.  I'm sure people have lots of different feelings about that but I chose to go with that theory and it actually worked out great.  I wrote up a schedule that I asked the daycare to follow in terms of naps and feedings.  I think it's best to go into this a little open and understanding that the daycare will try to follow your directions but they also have many babies they are caring for and so things will be a little off.  My only complaint is that his last nap ends a bit earlier than I would like so he usually is in bed by 6:30 so I don't get a lot of time with him at the end of the day.  However he fully makes up for this with his 6AM wake up:)  I told my concerns to the daycare and they have been trying really hard to get him to nap later in the afternoon which I appreciate.  I keep telling people that I think the anticipation of going back to work and full-time daycare is much worse than the reality.  I was in tears for days leading up to the first day and there were definitely tears on my end on the first drop off but it becomes routine pretty quickly. Also ask the daycare to send you pictures and updates throughout the day.
Good luck!


Build up to a few days:

We are in the throws of the daycare transition right now - so I'm no expert, but just a few things to share! Definitely use the transition time to build up to a full day - Franny (6 months) is on day 3 of her transition and she has come back home the last two days very tired, as her naps have been shorter at daycare with all the noise.  I think she will adjust, but it's been nice to get her a good solid nap at home after a few hours of stimulation while she gets used to it.


Start the transition earlier than you need:

Franny has been bottle fed exclusively, but even so she is eating a bit less at daycare during the transition than she usually does at home, and has been waking up in the night for bottles when she was sleeping through the night.  I think this will get better over time.
If you can, start transitioning earlier than you may think you need to. We didn't take into account a lot of other factors that have messed up our transition plan.  We didn't know it would take our Dr multiple days to finish her medical form, there was a snow storm., she had her 6 month shots and then a slight fever/cold. Also, she started rolling in the Magic Merlin so we were also transitioning her to a sleep sack, so she's been awake more in the night.  SO many changes at once that we didn't predict!   We started daycare a few days later than we wanted to, and now have had to move work schedules around next week to give her some more time to transition up to a full day.
It has been incredibly emotional for me to have my husband's paternity leave ending - even though I've been back at work for a few months now. It's affected me more than I thought it would to send Franny to daycare. Just know if it's hard you aren't alone! I've been trying to reiterate all the pros of daycare - socialization, learning new situations, independence - and pros of me working, which helps.  Rationally, I know daycare is good for us, so I am just trying to push through these tough first few weeks.
Hope this helps!


Daycares will have their own routine (and germs!)

"My daughter also started daycare at 3 months (she is now 11 months)- we did the transitioning, but honestly I think at that age it's more useful for the parents than the baby. A couple of thoughts.
1. At 3 months they're still too young to really 'enjoy' daycare, it wasn't until N. was about 5 months old that she actually seemed to like being at daycare. Before that she wasn't unhappy, she just seemed indifferent. Now she's clearly excited to be at daycare
2.If possible see if you can shift your day so you can leave a little early to pick your baby up. I now work 8/8:30-5ish. This gives me a bit more time with N. before she goes to bed.
3. Expect lots of colds. N. hasn't actually had a fever yet, but she perpetually has the sniffles. According to our pediatrician it's pretty much the norm and if you don't put them in daycare the same thing happens when they're older and start school.
4. Your child's schedule may be completely different at daycare. N. only takes 1 relatively short nap at daycare, but when she is home with us she takes two longer naps. Apparently daycare is a lot more interesting!
Good luck! It definitely gets better- now when we have to keep N. home she gets bored and grumpy and is so excited to be back at daycare."


Don't overthink it!
And bring extra sleeping items for baby: sleep sack, mobile and pacifiers:

"We did the daycare transition a few weeks ago. A. did two half days and that seemed to work well for her and I.
I am glad we did that cause it made the first full day so much better and easier!
My advice is don't overthink it and try to enjoy the last bit of maternity leave and remember there will be weekends.
Babies at that this age should do just fine. Many have told me the transitions are more for the parents than the babies. Babies will be fine at this age. But it def is good to do something.
Also while your baby is in daycare for the transition do something nice for yourself so you have something positive to look forward to.
We did bring sleep sack, mobile, and pacifiers in addition to the diapers and wipes and diaper cream. Anything your baby normally has when he or she is with you.
You got this!"