Settling your little one into nursery is rarely easy, but it has been made even more difficult and emotional over the last year with all the changes and stress due to the pandemic.
As I wrote in my previous blog, "lockdown babies" are often far more clingy and have an even more intense attachment to their mum or dad, depending on who has been the primary carer. Many find it far more difficult to be away from their parents, even for short periods of time.
If your baby has only ever met a few people, and never been away from you for more than an hour or so, due to the restrictions of COVID and lockdown, she is likely to struggle when settling into nursery.
Try to think about how big this change is for your baby.
Firstly, biologically, your baby needs to be with you or a close family member for the first few years of her life. She relies on you as her provider of food, safety, nurturing, care etc. Innately she wants to be close to you (because you are the natural provider of food and safety) as much as possible and for as long as possible. Therefor, nursery is a totally unnatural environment for her. It will take time for her to get used to spending time away from you.
(This first point is relevant to any baby starting nursery at any time.)
Secondly, your baby hasn't spent time in a room full of other noisy little people, so that's going to take a bit of getting used to as well. She won't be familiar with the smells, sounds, adults and activities to begin with. It's unlikely that she's been to playgroups or baby classes in the last year, which would have helped to prepare her for the big change of starting nursery.
Thirdly, you're likely to be feeling a bit anxious about putting your baby into this new environment, especially if the settling in process doesn't allow you to enter the building, which some don't.
However, there are plenty of things you can do to make the process a bit easier on both you and your small person.
Start the settling in process as early as possible. The longer you have before you go back to work, the longer you can take over settling your baby in and the less stressed you'll be.
Go as slowly as your baby needs you to - even if your baby is 3 years old. (My babies are 4 and 15 years old. They'll always be my babies!) You may need to start by leaving her for just 15 minutes for the first few sessions, and then increasing it slowly over several weeks if necessary.
Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. If you think your baby needs more time to settle in, TELL the nursery that's what you need. Remember that you are paying them to look after your child, who needs to be happy in their care.
Be prepared for plenty of "sick days". Because your baby has had so little exposure to other people, she will have had very little exposure to germs so she is likely to pick up even more nursery bugs than in a "normal" year. If you can get some of the viruses over before you start back at work, you will need to take less time off, which will make the the returning to work part of the process less stressful for you.
If your baby finds the process difficult, she may not nap as well at nursery as she would at home. Being over-tired makes us more susceptible to infections, so try to make up for lost nap time at home by maintaining a regular bedtime and ensuring she naps well during home days.
Once you get your baby home, make time to reconnect with her. If you're still breastfeeding, that's a great way to reconnect. If not, you can sit a read books, sing songs, play or just cuddle. Make lots of eye-contact, talk to her, ignore the rest of the world, chores and your phone until your baby's in bed.
Her sleep may go a bit downhill for a while (a "sleep regression"). This is totally normal when big things happen. While she gets used to being left in nursery and not spending as much time with you, she will want to make up the lost time whenever she can - during the night! She may also feel insecure about being left alone during the night so some gentle sleep training will help her to feel safe being left in her bed alone.
Of course, not all babies struggle settling into nursery, some are quite happy to be handed over and sail through the settling in process.
If you have any worries about nursery, and would like more advice on settling your baby in, please give me a call and we can make a plan together, and make the process as easy as possible for you.
Call me on 07977 462252 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org