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Day Care Dilemma: Advice from Moms
Preg.: From Concerned Mom in Whittier
Hello moms out there, I need your help. I recently put my 14-month-old son in day care. He had been with a babysitter since he was 3 months, and now I put him in a new daycare and he is having withdrawals. He is sad, he likes going there but as soon as I leave, he starts to cry and his teacher said he won't eat, doesn't really play. So I was thinking of sending him back to his former babysitter. Any suggestions?
Resp.:
Lisa in Dalton
If your son was happy with his babysitter, maybe that would be a better idea. At 14 months, he's probably not really into socializing with a large group of other children. It may be too overwhelming for him. Good luck!

Tanya in Cotter
Try taking one of your shirts that you have worn all day, and leaving it with the daycare. Your scent is on the shirt and may make him feel more comfortable. Then when you think he is comfortable enough, just stop bringing it.

Carrie in Denver
Why don't you try a partial daycare solution instead of "cold turkey"? Keep him with the caregiver he's had basically his whole life for 2-3 days a week and in daycare the other days. You can gradually increase the daycare situation if that's where you ultimately want him to be. It's a better process for him than changing his whole routine at once. Good luck!

Angelica in Clinton, MO
My daugther is at that age too, and I tended to get frustrated and upset until my friend told me to try just sitting down and putting up my feet, and letting her come to me! She even runs to me now when I walk in the door! Good luck and God bless!

Alexandra in Celebration
Ask if you can stay with him, if your job allows. Don't participate in the activities, just stand in a corner and watch. This way he will be able to feel secure whether he plays with the other children or not. If he won't leave your side, say something like, "why don't you go play with those blocks over there ?" Do this for one week; if it works, go back to work. If it doesn't work or if he is upset the first day you are gone, go back to the babysitter.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez, M.D., M.P.H.
Changing child care can be difficult at any age. At 14 months, it can be particularly hard because toddlers can experience intense separation anxiety. And it can be even harder if your son has a sensitive or fearful temperament.

On the positive side, though, your son's attachment to his babysitter for the past year is a very good sign that he's able to form strong relationships with other caregivers. He probably feels sad, confused and angry to lose the babysitter that he knew and trusted. But the fact that he has a good attachment to you and his babysitter means it's most likely he'll be able to form a positive bond with his new caregiver too. It just might take a few weeks.

Here are some tips for making the child care transition a little easier:

1. Make sure you are comfortable with the new child care teacher. Talk with her about your son's routines for feeding and sleeping, and ask her to try to do it similarly. Ask her how she's handled similar situations in the past. Observe whether she gives your son individual attention, how nurturing and responsive she is to him, and whether the other children seem happy. Also talk with the other parents about how the transition was for their children.

2. Try to reduce stress in the morning before child care. Get up a little earlier so you're not in a rush. Take the time for a good feeding, extra cuddling, and a relaxed and cheerful trip to child care.

3. Take a special stuffed animal or blanket to childcare. This will help comfort your son and remind him he can feel at home in childcare. Some moms even send their babies to childcare with a scarf or tee shirt they've worn, so their scent can comfort the baby.

4. Have a regular routine for drop-off at childcare. This helps your son prepare for your leaving him. Don't just sneak away. Stay a while holding your baby while you talk with the caregiver so he sees that you trust her and he can trust her. When he seems comfortable, start your routine for leaving, e.g., take off his jacket, give him a hug, explain that Mrs. Jones will take care of him, hand him to the caregiver, give him his stuffed animal, say goodbye, blow him a kiss, and leave. Try to be calm, confident and cheerful. For most babies, the separation is the hardest part and they may cry when you leave, but they usually stop crying soon.

5. Talk with the teacher every day at drop-off and pick-up. Let her know anything important, and ask her about how your son's day went. If you're concerned, check in by phone during the day.

Within a few weeks, you'll probably see your son becoming more comfortable with his new caregiver. If it's really not any better within a couple months, maybe the fit just isn't right between your son and this childcare. Some children thrive in-group childcare, and others aren't ready for a larger group. But try to be patient and give your baby a chance to adapt to the new setting.

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education