Ever since Miles started going to daycare (over a year ago – insert mind blown emoji) I get a lot of questions from new and expecting moms about daycare. I’ve been meaning to sit down and write one BIG post about the topic, so today I’m doing just that.
In this post I’ll be covering:
- Why we chose daycare
- How we picked our daycare facility
- Our experience going to daycare
- Tips for first sending your new baby to daycare
- My favorite daycare products
- Answering your daycare FAQs
Why We Picked Daycare
Let me start right out and say it – daycare wasn’t our first choice.
We were planning to have a nanny right up until I was about 20 weeks pregnant. As we started looking into a nanny, we ran into a few issues. Firstly, it is a far more expensive choice. Secondly, where we were living wasn’t exactly a city. The town we lived in didn’t have a bank or grocery store. I’m not even sure we had a stoplight. This naturally meant that there were fewer options for good care in our general vicinity. Thirdly, we only needed care 2x a week, which further limited our choices for a provider.
However, the fourth and final reason ended up being the reason we finally opted out of a nanny and that was space. Our home at the time was under 1,100 sq/ft (and our current home isn’t much bigger). Michael works from home full-time and I knew I would be working from home full-time in the near future. We didn’t know where the heck we’d fit all of us. Michael has a dedicated office, but a lot of my work (especially for YouTube) encompassed the whole house. We weren’t really sure where in our small space we’d fit two full-time working adults plus a nanny with Miles.
I had worked in childcare in the past. I spent 3 years teaching at a preschool and a few other years doing after school programs on and off. So, I certainly didn’t have anything against daycare. I knew, with the right Director and good staff, daycare can be an extremely loving, nurturing environment where kids thrive. And so we decided we’d start looking.
How we Picked Our Daycare
We made appointments to view three local daycare. I definitely suggest visiting a few so you can compare and contrast.
We started with three and purposely focused on ones that appeared different. One was a family-run daycare. The next one was a daycare with multiple locations but had been in the community for quite a while. The third was also a chain daycare, but brand new.
We looked at three main things:
- The number one thing I looked at when on our tours was the staff. From working in a daycare myself, I knew the staff was everything. It could be the nicest, cleanest, most organized daycare ever, but if the staff were mediocre then I knew the entire place was mediocre. I watched the staff to see how involved they were with the kids. Were they engaging with them or just watching them? Where they just talking amongst themselves or where they down at the children’s level interacting with them?
I also looked at the staff’s ages, personally like a range of ages in staff. The older staff have experience and more structure while the younger staff bring energy and new teaching pedagogy.
- Of course, I looked around at the facility to see if it appeared generally safe (baby proofing, etc)? In this day and age, most daycares have strict guidelines they have to meet to be in practice and they pretty much all have to adhere to a lot of the same safety guidelines (such as a child to teacher ratio, having emergency plans in place, etc.) but you want to look around to see if it seems that they are taking these things seriously and if they are doing anything extra or in addition.
I also looked at the place from a child’s point of view. The third location we visited was pristine. It was a brand new facility, all new everything. From a parent’s point of view, it looked great. But as I looked around thinking about it from a child’s point of view, it was sterile. There wasn’t art on the walls or colorful books on the shelves or engaging pictures at eye level.
To give you an example of comparison, the second place we viewed (and ultimately chose) had mobiles hanging from the ceiling in the infant room. It had floor-level mirrors for when they started tummy time and crawling. They had pictures of other students laminated at eye-level for the kids to see. You want to think about a room that’s built for your kid, not for an adult.
- Did their general childcare philosophy mesh with what you were looking for? For us, I wanted something that was very child-focused where they believed in learning through play and exploration. Also, what’s their policy on visitors? Can mom and dad come and go as they please? I liked the transparency of a daycare with an open door policy.
Questions to ask when visiting
I also highly suggest when you go into view your daycare you have some questions ready. Some of mine were:
- How long have your staff been with you?
- What type of yearly training or accreditation/degrees does your staff have?
- What accreditations does your center have?
- What are your emergency procedures?
- What do you look for when hiring your staff?
- What’s your general childcare philosophy?
- What are the visitation rules for parents (can they visit whenever they want? Swing by to breastfeed?)
- (For young babies) What’s the feeding schedule? Can you follow my baby’s feeding cues or feed on my desired schedule?
Final thoughts on this topic… Pick a daycare that YOU feel comfortable with. Don’t pick somewhere based on outside opinions or what you think others would approve of.
Our Experience Going to Daycare
Just as a reference, Miles goes to daycare 2 days a week. We made the choice that I would stay home with him the other days. Personally, I never wanted to go back to work full-time. It’s different for all moms, some are dying to get back into work, but I really like being at home with him. Two days a week has been the perfect balance for both of us.
OK, so onto our experience.
So, as I mentioned, daycare wasn’t our first choice. But, we felt very good about the facility we chose. But still, when the time came to take Miles for the first day, we both got very anxious about it. The thought of being apart from him was hard and the unknown of how his day would be.
Luckily, our experience has been amazing. Miles is thriving at daycare and has been pretty much since day one. By the second week, his eyes would light up when we walked into daycare in the morning. Whenever I got there to get him he was happy and smiling (except of course for the very few times I walked in right before a feeding – Miles gets hangry just like his mom). I was assured so quickly that it was a good choice for him.
As he got a little bit older, the interactions he was having with the other kids were so great to watch. Obviously, Miles doesn’t have other kids at home to play with and he is super social. It’s been really great for him to get a chance to have social time with “peers.”
The last perk of daycare was also just getting to see some of the activities he was doing. I worked in daycare myself but the youngest I did was 2-1/2 years old, so I had about zero experience with babies. Sometimes it was really helpful to see some of the play or activities they did with Miles during the day because it gave me ideas of things I could be doing with him at home.
Tips for Sending Your New Baby to Daycare
Of all the daycare questions that come into my inbox, hands-down the biggest ones are about dealing with sending your new baby to daycare from moms who don’t feel ready, are nervous, or feeling anxious. Moms have asked me for tips on how to feel comfortable leaving their baby with people who are basically strangers, tips for the first day, how to deal with separation anxiety, and more.
First, let’s remember I’m just another mom. All I can offer is my experience and tips around what worked for us. If this is something that’s causing you extreme anxiety or stress, I suggest you reach out to someone close to you such as your spouse, parent, friend, Pediatrician, OB/GYN, etc.
1. Find a daycare you feel comfortable with. Definitely take some time to do the legwork beforehand to visit a handful so you feel like you’ve made the right choice for you. You need to have a feeling of confidence in the people who will be caring for your baby.
2. Visit beforehand (more than one time.) Most daycares will allow you to come to visit a few times, especially for the little ones. Ours allowed us to visit as much as we wanted. It will just help you feel more comfortable.
3. Consider a half-day first. This is something I didn’t even consider doing and I wish I had. If you have the time to arrange it, I highly suggest you do AT LEAST one half-day visit first. Dropping your baby off at daycare for the first time and then being away from them for 8+ hours is hard when you’ve spent the last few months constantly with them.
4. Stay busy. Honestly, one of the best ways to get through the first few days is just to make sure you’re very busy with your work. There are a lot of emotions and hormones at play. The first few times, I knew if I spent too much time thinking about Miles I’d get emotional. So it was better to stay busy with my work.
5. Know it’s temporary. I still miss Miles every time I’m away from him, but the extreme, emotional, missing him from the first day of drop off is very temporary. It gets easier every time. The second drop off was probably 50% easier. So, just know and be prepared that the first few days are hardest and it gets much easier. Again, this is why I suggest half-days at first!
6. It’s OK to enjoy it. I have friends who said the first time they dropped their baby off at daycare they actually really liked it. Yes, of course, they missed their babies, but they also enjoyed being able to get back into some routine of what felt like a normal life. If you’re feeling excited about getting that time back there is NO MOM GUILT here.
My Favorite Daycare Products
I’ve talked about these booties a lot, but they are perfect for daycare, especially if your little one is still in a “shoe-free” room. Unlike socks, they won’t get kicked right off. And, they are a great price point so you can just keep a pair at daycare if you want.
The Contigo Water Bottle is my favorite travel water bottle for Miles to send water to daycare (or for any day trips we take.) For milk, now that he’s no longer getting bottles, we use the 360 Sippy Cups and get the lids for transporting.
I was planning to buy some name labels for Miles right when Label Land reached out and offered to send me some of theirs. Miles kept getting his shoes and the tops of his sippy cups misplaced at daycare, so I wanted a simple solution. These stickers are genius. They quickly and permanently label ALL of your little one’s things.
And, they aren’t just basic stickers, they are specially designed labels for different items your little one has. There are clothing labels that are designed for clothing tags and are machine washable. There are also dishwasher-safe stickers for water bottles, Tupperware, etc. They even have stickers specifically for shoes.
I was using these glass containers for Miles’ food. It started for his purees and then later used it for his solids. A few months back, however, my daycare had to make a “no glass” policy after someone else’s glass storage bin was dropped and shattered. They decided to go glass-free for safety. So, I’m in the process of switching over to plastic, stainless steel, and a Bentgo Box.
Answering Your Daycare FAQs
What food do you send him with? How’s the feeding schedule work?
When Miles first started he was exclusively on breastmilk. I sent him with as many bottles as he needed PLUS one extra. I believe for a while I was packing six bottles of 4oz, and then I think it went down to five of 6-7oz. But, don’t quote me it’s hard to remember. Ask your pediatrician for help deciding what to send at first if you’re unsure.
Once Miles started solids, I started sending him with just purees (even though we did do some BLW at home). I usually just made my own and froze them. But, my daycare accepted anything: it could be homemade, in the jar, whatever, it just had to be labeled and defrosted. If you’re not sure, just ask your daycare providers what they accept.
Now that Miles is older he gets 2 snacks, lunch, and one sippy cup of milk. He’s about to transition to the toddler room where they provide the snacks, but for now, I still pack them. Often his lunch is some type of leftover from a dinner we had. But here are just some of our favorite daycare foods:
- Fruit – blueberries, quartered grapes, raspberries
- Yogurt – his favorite is FAGE plain yogurt with mashed banana in it
- Steamed sweet potato and apple
- Rice and beans, mac and cheese, or pasta and red sauce
- Veggie burgers (Miles doesn’t care for meat, but likes veggie burgers)
- Dry snacks like: yogurt melts, cereal, pouches, fruit bars, etc.
What were daycare naps like?
Daycare naps were never like home naps in the beginning. He napped much shorter at daycare When I did sleep training, my sleep coach told me to just stick with it at home and eventually daycare naps would come. And, she was right. Around 10 months he started napping better and by 11 months he was a champ at daycare naps. He often sleeps well over 2 hours (normal at home is 2-1/2 to 3) and most days they have to wake him up!
So what about the time between when he started daycare and 10 months? Well, naps were not good. Some days he napped 15 minutes all day. I just continued to follow my normal sleep routine at home and on days he was home with me. Babies kind of realize they have two different sleep environments and develop different associations for each. They have their daycare sleep and their home sleep. Bad daycare napping didn’t affect home sleep all that much and didn’t disrupt his sleep training. My only adjustment was if he didn’t nap well at daycare he’d go to bed early (usually 60 to 90 minutes early).
My best tip is just to roll with it. Stay consistent at home with your routines, and eventually daycare sleep will catch-up.
Best age to send your child to daycare?
I honestly can’t answer that. It’s such a personal decision for you and your family. Most people don’t get a choice because it comes down to maternity leave, others get some flexibility. I know people who went back at 8 weeks and others who took 10 months. Neither is right or wrong.
Are there days he doesn’t want you to drop him off? What do you do?
Not at first no. But once he got older and more aware he would occasionally not want me to leave. I have a few things I do when this happens:
- First, I never rush out the door. I have this benefit because I don’t have a job where I need to clock in, so it some days I’m there for 5 minutes and other days 15 minutes. I usually go into the room with him and sit with him for a bit. I think it helps him because he doesn’t associate walking into the room with me immediately running off. He knows we’ll go in together and play for a little bit.
- Secondly, I never sneak out on him. It might seem easier to avoid him seeing me and crying, but I don’t want him to turn around and I’ve disappeared. While I DO NOT draw the goodbye out (keep it short and sweet) or go out of my way to make sure he sees me if he’s playing busily, I always make sure to say “goodbye Miles” and wave as I leave.
- Now if Miles is being super clingy or still not wanting me to leave, (which is rare) I do a few things. One, get the teacher to help: they’ve dealt with little ones not wanting mom to leave 1,000 times. They usually know how to scoop him up and distract him with a toy or something else. The second thing I do is once I do leave, I just go. Even if Miles cries, I know going back is only going to prolong it and make it worse. I worked in a daycare for enough years to have seen many upset kids at dropoff. And what I know from experience is they rarely stay upset for more than 1-2 minutes.
How do you deal with the difference in daycare schedule vs. home schedule?
Just like I said with sleep, my best tip is just to roll with it. Daycare will have different schedules and routines than at home. Your little one will quickly catch on that each place has it’s own “deal.” Stay consistent at home with your routines and it’ll be fine!