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Essential Lists & Tips

Leaving Your Baby: How to Prepare the Little One (and Yourself) for Childcare

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Childcare

Getting childcare organised for your little one can be a daunting task. Sharon Chai shares her experience and tips for selecting a great childcare provider and settling bub into their new environment.

How do I go about choosing a suitable childcare provider?

Look into a few options, but trust your gut feel. I visited five childcare centres to get a sense of each, and within 30 seconds of walking into a couple of them I just didn’t feel quite right, whereas with others, I felt comfortable straightaway. By visiting different centres, I also learnt to quickly identify what I should be looking out for.

Start early. Reputable centres normally have a long waitlist, so don’t wait til a month before you have to go back to work. I actually visited these centres when I was 9 months pregnant, and I didn’t have to enrol Arianna until she turned one!

Take the time to meet your child’s potential carers. The place I chose had a great mix of younger and older ladies with varying nationalities – which I felt was really important to expose my daughter to – and all of them seemed to genuinely enjoy being there. Also, get to know the centre manager. I felt at ease with mine instantly, and trusted that she knew how to manage her staff and facility with the highest standards.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, regardless of how silly you feel they may be. These people will be responsible for the welfare and development of your child, and you need to feel confident in their abilities.

What should I be looking out for?

Hygiene is a massive factor. The facility doesn’t need to be brand spanking new with shiny furniture, but it does have to be clean. Try and visit during feeding times and watch other bubs get changed. The way the carers approach these tasks (i.e. using gloves to serve food, washing their hands thoroughly after a nappy change) is normally a great indication of how clean the centre is.

If your child requires special attention, for example if they have a food allergy, get a solid understanding of how the centre manages these issues. Again, don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to so that you can feel truly confident in entrusting your child into their care. 

Look into the education program. Even if your child is less than a year old, having additional activities like weekly music/dance sessions are a great source of mental stimulation. Arianna ADORES her weekly “Jump for Joy” music class and has actually been spotted muscling her way to the front of the group multiple times!

How can I help my child adjust?

Get your child used to their future surroundings, especially if they’re past the 6-month mark and more attached to you. Before my daughter’s official start date, I took her into the centre twice and we just spent an hour together playing in the nursery so it wouldn’t be a shock when I left her there for the first time.

Ease them in. Do a couple of half days at the start, so they have time to get used to being away from you, but also not so long that they get overly anxious.

Most importantly, manage your expectations. Anyone who is thrust into a new environment will take some time to settle in, so don’t get disheartened if this doesn’t happen immediately. For me, it took two weeks of crying and guilt-laden drop-offs, but one morning Arianna just went straight into the carer’s arms without any fuss and that was that!

What else should I be aware of?

Your child (and you!) will get sick multiple times to start off with. It’s only natural with so many new humans and germs around them! Just ride it out while their bodies adjust and their immune systems develop. But always see your doctor to make sure they get the appropriate treatment if it’s more than a common cold. 

Have a “childcare wardrobe”. Even if a centre scores top marks when it comes to hygiene, babies are quite simply, messy beings! I’ve once gone to pick Arianna up, only to find her happily smearing a butter and jam sandwich over the top of her head. So don’t bother dressing up in fabulous designer duds, just get some great basics to tide them over.

Finally, you’re the best judge of your baby’s feelings. If they’re coming home from childcare anxious, withdrawn or upset after the initial adjustment period, take the time to find out what the cause of this might be. If they’re full of beans and happy after a day at childcare, you know they’re in the right hands.

Sharon Chai left the world of high heels, lipstick and fancy pants this year to fumble through life as a new mum to Arianna. Between diaper changing and off-key singing for her daughter’s entertainment, she writes about her Thermomix kitchen escapades on Thermomixin.com.

Image Credit: www.philips.com.hk.

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