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I just had my first baby and go back to work full-time next week and she will be going to daycare.
Q: I just had my first baby and she is nine weeks old. I go back to work full-time next week and she will be going to daycare. I am afraid of not forming that special mother bond with her if I'm not with her all day during the week. Will my baby bond more with the lady at daycare then her own mother since she is so young? What can I do to prevent this?
Heather Philadelphia
A: Dear Heather,

I understand and appreciate your fears in returning to work and wondering if your relationship with your baby will change. As a working mother with three children, I have had to confront the same issue several times in my own life.

I must reassure you— your baby will always have a special mother-child bond which cannot be replaced by anyone else. Your bodies are tuned to each other. Your baby recognizes your unique smell, your gentle touch and your soothing voice, in addition to being delighted when she sees you. The quality of the time you spend together is more important than the quantity of time you have during the week. Spend special time each morning together before you go to work, and take time each evening to focus exclusively on your baby. Create special bath-time and bedtime routines. If you have been breast-feeding and need to return to work, by all means continue! You have several options here: you could pump milk for your daughter to use at daycare, or use formula during the day and reduce breast feeding to morning, night, and weekend feedings. As a working mum myself, I always enjoyed maintaining this unique connection with my baby.

Having your baby attach to someone new may feel scary to you, but it is so important for her to have a strong relationship with her daycare provider. Your daughter is learning that the world is a safe, dependable place, and that she can trust and love the people who care for her. As she bonds with her daycare provider, she is developing emotional skills that will help her become a healthy person. She is not limited in her capacity to love; her connection with the daycare provider will not take away from her love for you.

It will be best for your daughter’s development if you support her efforts to trust and connect with her daycare provider. Provide loving, gentle transitions when you bring her to daycare and pick her up. It is natural for her to show some sadness when you leave and excitement when you pick her up – after all, she knows that you are her mother. Show the same kind of respect and kindness to her daycare provider that you would to a family member. You should see that she is happy and relaxed when she is with the daycare provider. If you don’t see the two of them bonding within a few weeks, it may be time to look somewhere else for daycare.
Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist