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Daycare to develop social skills?
Q: Will staying home with my baby instead of sending him or her to daycare make my child more unsociable?
A: Babies, like older children, pass through different stages of development. These stages are predictable and occur in a specific sequence. The first stage for babies is from birth up to four months. During this stage, babies generally behave like they did when they were inside their mothers. We also know that babies do not see themselves as individuals separate from their mothers during this stage, and are totally enmeshed with their moms. And to the best of our knowledge, very young babies do not have an inner sense of “I am a person.” This is why parenting experts believe there is no better person for a baby to be with during the first four months than mom.

The essential emotional task for babies during their first year is to slowly awaken to the reality that they are in a new world, and are separate from mom, and that this world can be trusted. It is crucial for babies to develop a sense of basic trust. If all this goes well, then your baby is on his or her way to having the foundation needed to enjoy close and meaningful relationships with others. So now is not the time to worry about your baby being with others at day care. If you can possibly stay home with your baby for the first four months, you will be doing your child and yourself a favor. Longer, in my opinion, is better, but many mothers cannot take 12 months off from their work.

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