The return to work is an emotional time for most. Some moms look forward to interacting with their coworkers or clients again, while also feeling torn at being away from their baby. Some moms dread the idea of returning to work, but their financial situation doesn’t allow them to stay home. The child? Well, it’s likely safe to say that no child will be excited about their mother returning to work. Children are biologically hardwired to want to be near their attachment figures and to resist separation. That being said, with a little planning ahead, there are ways to make the separation easier on both mama and baby.
I am someone who absorbs others’ emotions quite significantly, and this applies to my son. So when I studied to become a certified Baby-Led Sleep and Well Being Consultant with Isla-Grace Sleep, I learned a lot about managing emotions and it’s helped me a ton. Many of the ideas shared here are courtesy of Isla-Grace’s teachings and materials.
Here are several tips to consider for making the transition to childcare easier on you child (and you):
- Embrace and prepare for emotions. This includes both your own emotions and your child’s. It’s important that you you feel confident with your choice for your baby’s new caregiver. If you have anxiety about the change, your baby will sense it and feel anxious, too. Even so, understand that in the initial weeks of the transition, baby will have a lot of emotions about the change, and it’s important to support them through those emotions as well. Remember, your child has spent a significant portion of their life with you in proximity up until this point. The separation is something they may not want, but has to happen, and they should be allowed to express their emotions about it. Being responsive and supportive to them during this transition is extremely important and beneficial.
- If a nanny or babysitter will be coming to your home to watch your baby, have them start coming to your home for brief visits at least a month or more before regular care begins, if possible. Interact with the person in front of your baby often, allowing your baby to see you engaging and smiling with them, before the person does anything with the baby. It’s more important that they become a familiar face in your household than actually interacting or playing with baby. Have them there so they can start to learn baby’s personality and routines. This makes it more likely that your child will become used to their presence leading up to the new routine.
- If baby will go to a daycare, see if the daycare will allow you to play with baby at the center in the weeks leading up to the new routine. Similar to above, interact with the caregivers while your baby is watching before the caregivers attempt to play with or hold baby. It’s not ideal to have the first time your child meets their new caregivers be your first day back to work.
- If you’re breastfeeding, have a plan for how you will pump and send breastmilk with baby, and that the care center (or nanny) knows how to properly store it. They should also know how to properly bottle-feed a breastfed baby (upright position – you can search online for a demonstration).
- Create an association with a comfort item. You could use one of those little cloth loveys or something else your child likes to play with. Hold it or wear it around to get your scent so that you child can associate it with you while you’re away. If the daycare allows you to send along crib sheets or any other items associated with nap routines, do so.
- Bridge separation. When it’s time for you to leave, tell your baby goodbye and shift the dialogue to the next time you’ll be together. You can tell them how excited you are to play with them after dinner or to go for a walk together, etc. This places the focus on your reunion, rather than your separation. It doesn’t matter whether your child is an infant or a toddler, it’s still beneficial to do this. Keep your goodbye quick and confident, remembering to show your interest and trust in their temporary caregiver.
- Prepare for more night wakings. With any new transition comes increased night wakings. Understand that this is a big change for your baby. Prepare your household and enlist help wherever possible to allow you to support more night wakings during this transition. Many children use the time in the evenings or during the night to seek connection with their parent that they missed out on during the day. Expecting that our children will be okay with separation all day and again all night, is simply not realistic.
- Reduce night and weekend commitments and increase distraction-free quality time. Your baby will seek more connection with you after being separated all day. Put down the phone, let go of the need to spend an hour making dinner and instead, offer more snuggle time and child-led play time. Staying distraction-free during this time will pay off in the long run. Forego the social outings or dinner parties in the early weeks while your child is getting used to the new routine. It can be easy to miss your “me time” once you return to work. If you can devote time to being there for your child in the initial weeks, you should be able to schedule some time for yourself on the weekends once the new schedule becomes normal. Just remember that it’s normal for your child to want to be with you after being separated for a period of time.
If you’d like more help with getting your baby or toddler to sleep without sleep training, or managing your child’s emotions, check out the amazing Isla-Grace self-study courses here: https://linktr.ee/glamamas.