The time has come, your maternity leave is over and you are going back to work. Here in Canada the typical mat leave is 1 year or 18 months, although depending on your situation it may be shorter.
Leading up to sending your baby to daycare, you likely have a lot of questions about how their routine will change, especially around feeding and sleep. Here are some things you need to consider when your baby goes to daycare.
Why You Need To Plan For This Transition
Your baby is transitioning from being with you most of the time to being away from you most of the day. To make it easier, you should consider how many other things can stay the same.
Separating from you more often is already a big transition, but there's two other transitions that are going on at the same time and they’re related to breastfeeding and sleep..
Parents who are breastfeeding or chest feeding think that they have to wean when going back to work. Because how could they possibly go from nursing their baby five or six times a day to not at all or much much less?!
Luckily, I’m here to tell you that you can still continue to breastfeed. Not only can you do it, but it's recommended and it's welcomed! However, please know that if you are ready to wean Baby from the breast and you're ready to move on, that is absolutely your decision and you’re fully supported here!
For those that would like to continue to breastfeed - which still has so many amazing benefits - your body and your baby will adjust. It's pretty remarkable, actually! When you are home, when they wake up in the morning, when you get home at the end of the day, before they go to sleep, you can still feed on demand in those instances or feed on cue or have that time to bond
The other transition that's going on or that could be going on is around sleep. If your baby is going to daycare around one year of age, their naps may shorten, they might be skipped. They might transition out of a nap in that process. I've heard it all. I've seen it all.
When your baby goes to daycare, everything is new and exciting, they are stimulated and expending a lot of energy. It may be hard for them to sleep in a new environment, they might skip their morning or afternoon nap, or their naps may be shorter. They will likely be tired when you pick them up at the end of the day.
You're probably going to want to aim for an earlier bedtime and don't be shy to go as early as 6:00 or 6:30, if you can. If you’re working late, I know how tough it can be to get home, get dinner and try to spend time together before bed... I know those earlier bedtimes can be really tough sometimes but it’s definitely necessary to help with that adjustment.
To make it easier for them to sleep at their daycare/in the new space, send some comfort items with them. Do they have a soother or do they sleep with a lovey or a blanket or something that they can cozy up with? Their sleep sack? Whatever those “sames” are will be fantastic.
When you and baby are home I would still allow for the two naps for a little while. So any time that they're at home or it’s more within your control, continue to offer the two naps and that can help them through the adjustment.
We only have so much control over what happens when baby is at daycare. Be sure to talk with the daycare staff and ask them how sleep and feeding are going. They can help reassure you that everything’s going well, or you can at least problem-solve together.
You got this mama!
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Ashley Cooley is a birth, baby and sleep specialist living in Dartmouth, NS with her husband and their three girls.