Choosing a nursery or childcare for your baby and preparing for them to get settled in can feel like a daunting task. Often starting nursery or settling in with a childminder is tied in with you returning to work which also has a range of emotions attached to it. Whether you love your job and are itching to get back, or you’re feeling apprehensive for your return to work, it is a big milestone in your parenting journey.
In this blog we’re going to share our thoughts on a few different topics about starting and settling into nursery or childcare:
- Things to consider when choosing a nursery or childcare setting
- Getting settled in
- Adjusting to sleeping at nursery
Things to consider when choosing a nursery or childcare setting.
This is a big decision, so take your time and consider as many options as you have available to you before you make your choice.
There are a number of factors that impact the childcare setting you choose for your little one. Some of them will be based on practicality and logistics, such as opening hours and location, and others will be more emotional factors and whether you feel comfortable with the staff, the setting and their approach.
It can be helpful to have a list of questions ready when speaking with different nurseries or childminders so that you can compare and make a decision.
You will have your own set of criteria for what you are looking for, you may also want to ask some of the following regarding naps and sleeping arrangements.
- Do you have set times for naps or is there flexibility for each child?
- Where do naps take place and how is the sleep environment set up?
- What happens if my baby needs support to fall asleep or isn’t napping well?
They will have vast experience of looking after babies and helping them nap – their approach may be different to yours which can be worrying but we often find that babies and toddlers adapt really well to their new environment. The main thing to focus on is that you are happy and confident in the answers they give you.
Choosing a childcare provider who you like and respects your routine will make life easier. It is important to have some level of flexibility though. Nurseries or childminders will often have set times for meals but be flexible with nap times. Some will also incorporate walks and time outdoors into their days, which can be helpful for babies who nap well on the move.
Ask about their routines and where they offer flexibility. Share your routine with them and what you know works well for you baby and be prepared to see how your little one adapts to their routines too.
Getting settled in.
Most nurseries and childminders will offer settling in sessions for your little one so they can spend short periods of time in their new setting before attending longer sessions.
If you have the option then we’d always recommend using as many of these sessions as you can. It can feel reassuring to know that your baby has spent time at the nursery or with their childminder before you leave them for a longer session for the first time.
If you are able to then try and time settling in sessions to cover different parts of their day, so they have had a chance to play, nap and eat there.
It can take a little while for babies and young children to get used to their new routine and location, but they are also very resilient and will often adapt quickly to a new environment.
Some nurseries and childminders will let you stay with your baby for the first sessions so you can be with them when they first get used to the space and you can meet their key worker too. However you approach these first sessions then try to always say goodbye and be happy and confident as you leave, even if you find it hard at first.
If your child has a comforter then let them take this to nursery/their childminder with them so they have something that feels and smell familiar. It can be a good idea to have a spare or two just in case you leave one behind one day by mistake.
Adjusting to sleeping at nursery/childcare.
One of the main worries we hear from families, when their little one starts to attend nursery or elsewhere during the day, is whether they will nap well outside of their usual routine.
When you have a routine in place that works well for your baby, or you know they only nap in certain situations at home, it can be nerve-wracking to think that their naps will suffer when away from home.
Your chosen nursery or childminder will have lots of experience helping babies and toddlers nap – fill them in on your little ones current routine and what works well for them but be prepared that things will likely be different for them in their new situation.
They may not have a fully blacked out space to sleep at nursery, and it is likely they will be sharing a room with other babies who will be sleeping and waking at different times to them. Little ones are capable of forming new sleep associations in different places, especially with other children sleeping around them. Many parents find that after some time settling in, they nap really well at nursery!
It can take a while to adapt however, so be patient and try not to worry too much about it for their first few visits. If possible, send them with their normal sleeping bag/comforter that smells of you and home to ease the transition.
If you find that your little one is struggling to nap and seems very tired on their return, do consider bringing bedtime forward a little. It’s good not to rush the routine too much though, spend some time one to one to re-connect before bedtime. Don’t be tempted to turn the tv straight on or get on with jobs when you get home – make time for lots of cuddles and parent-baby bonding time. Even 15 minutes together without any other distractions is a great chance to reset and connect.
Little ones may need extra reassurance when going through the settling in process. It will get better, once they realise that you come back, and you can reconnect and settle into your new routine together.
If possible, try to keep weekends free for the first few weeks so that you can spend quality time together.
Remember to take time to look after yourself too – this is a time of adjustment for your baby but also for you. Try to make time for yourself during your week. It can be hard to split your attention between returning to work, seeing friends/family, normal life admin and your little ones but it is important to look after your own needs so as not to burn out. Ask for help whenever you need it.
Want more support with your child’s sleep?
If you are planning on making changes to your little ones sleep before starting childcare then try to do this in advance or once they have settled in as it can be unsettling for lots of change to happen at the same time.
If you would like to learn more about sleep and have guidance on how you can approach achieving a predictable routine and well-rested night’s sleep then check out our online courses.
These are designed to teach you all about how your child sleeps and to provide practical suggestions for settling techniques and routines to work towards.
If you would prefer to speak with one of our consultants for a personalised plan you can find out more about our 1:1 packages here.