It’s the beginning of the year and so for many of us parents, its back to work. For some moms who have been on maternity leave, this may be the first time you are leaving your baby in the care of another person.
Either way, returning to work does bring some stress and concerns about how your baby will survive without you.
The most important factor in choosing childcare is whether the person who will care for your baby will be a consistent, caring presence for your baby. These are the factors that you should look for:
• Is she well trained to look after this age group?
• Has she had her own children or cared for other kids before?
• Is she emotionally stable and available to love your little one?
• Is she passionate about this age?
In general, babies under 2 years old should be in a small group – one on one or a maximum of one carer to four babies. In this way, you know that your baby’s needs will be heard and recognized.
Over 2 years old, a group of 6 toddlers to one carer is generally fine.
A potentially big adjustment you need to prepare for is your baby’s feeds. If your little one has been exclusively breastfed until now, it’s time to start planning a gentle transition. You cannot leave your baby with a bottle the first day you return to work and expect the transition to be smooth.
From a month before you go back to work, start offering one to two milk feeds a week from a bottle.
Preferably offer expressed breastmilk in the bottle as your baby will then only be dealing with the change of nipple to bottle teat and not a complete change in flavor too.
If your baby resists being bottle fed, keep persisting at this point - she may prefer the breast but try to get her to have 1 feed a day from bottle until she accepts it, if you returning to work so soon. Choose a feed when she is rested and not fractious - e.g. mid-morning feed. Then ask someone else to give it to her, not you. Try a few different teats until you find one she likes.
It is worth expressing enough milk for a 2-3 feeds a day for 3 weeks (15 feeds) ahead of time so that you know you have a buffer of milk for the first few weeks, in case expressing at work is not as easy as you hope for.
Finally, the emotional aspect goes both ways – it can be hard for you and your baby. By choosing the right person, you will certainly have greater peace of mind that she will be well cared for. Babies under 6 months are less likely to notice the separation, while older babies and toddlers can develop separation anxiety with the change. It is still worth playing separation games, such as peek-a-boo and hide and seek with your little one so she gets used to separations and reunions.
Bearing these aspects in mind, you are likely to cope a little better having peace of mind her needs are taken of. Now all that is left is to prepare yourself – going back to work can be tougher on mom than baby!