The end of maternity leave means the start of childcare. I’ve gone back to work 4 days per week, and we are very lucky to have 2 days of childcare provided by grandparents. For the other 2 days, Jacob will be at nursery.
As we were moving house the weekend before I was due back at work, I managed to extend my maternity leave by 2 weeks by using annual leave to give me more time to get sorted. But I’d already signed up for nursery starting from my original return to work date. Instead of negotiating a later nursery start date, I decided to enrol Jacob to give us 2 weeks to get into the nursery routine (and give me time to unpack without him toddling around me!). It was an expensive way of doing things but it was so helpful!
So, what have I learnt in my first few weeks as a nursery mum?
Settling in sessions are essential
Our nursery provided free settling in sessions the week before Jacob was due to start. It’s definitely worth checking how your nursery goes about these. It did take Jacob a few sessions to be comfortable, and I would have hated to just leave him there all day without having done them. For the first session I stayed in the room, and Jacob roamed around exploring after a shy 15 minutes at the start where he clung to me. So far, so good.
The next day I was meant to leave him from 10am-1pm. He cried when I handed him over and I left feeling a bit bad. Two hours later I got a call asking me to pick him up because he wasn’t settling at all. He hadn’t eaten or drank because he was too upset. The mum guilt started to kick in and I started to panic. What if he never settled?!
The next day we did 1-4pm. Jacob started crying as soon as we walked in the room. I expected another call, and despite anxiously staring at my phone all afternoon, none came. I picked him up and he was outside in the garden trying to climb the slide! It looked like he was having a great time.
I thought we’d turned a corner then, but two days later when I dropped him off for his 10am-4pm session, he howled as soon as we got there and had to be peeled off me by his key worker. I spent the entire day worrying, but when I picked him up it turned out he’d had his best time yet.
Since then…. I suspect the crying at drop off will continue for a while, but I’m now reassured that he cheers up and has a great time.
The settling in sessions were really useful for me (and I’m sure for Jacob too). It meant I could get used to the idea of leaving him crying, without then going straight to work and worrying all day when I needed to concentrate.
Following on from the point above, expect some tears. From you and baby. It is bound to be a bit of a shock to them when they are left with strangers for potentially the first time. But just because there are tears at drop off doesn’t mean they are upset all day. Jacob still tends to cry at drop off, but I’m assured that he cheers up quickly and he always seems to have a great day.
You need some kind of bag
At our nursery, the only thing we have to bring is a change of clothes, which is great. No nappies, nothing. I started just chucking a change of clothes in a carrier bag. I figured that would be fine. Nope. I got told off. Nicely. But still told off. Plastic bags are a suffocation risk. Which obviously I knew, but I just didn’t really think. Don’t be like me, bring some kind of proper backpack or bag. We bought this one, which doubles up as reins. I love it.
You’ll get ill
I don’t just mean the baby. I mean all of you. Everyone in your household and probably some other close contacts too. All those new germs. Great for the immune system in the long-term, not so great for dealing with going back to work. “Hello colleagues, I’m back!” *sniff* *cough* *splutter*. I’ve had two colds and a stomach bug.
Nursery will exhaust your baby
All those brilliant activities they do all day will really wear them out. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jacob so tired as he was after his first full day. It’s double edged—sometimes it means you’ll get nice cuddly tired baby, but other times you’ll get angry tired baby. Be prepared for both.
Don’t panic if you receive a phone call
On Jacob’s first full day at nursery, I received a phone call. There’s nothing like seeing nursery’s phone number flashing up on your phone to fill you with terror. Then the words “He’s had a little accident”. He’d just bumped his face on a table. Which happens a lot. He was absolutely fine, but it is their policy to call the parents for any accident that affects the head or face. In all honesty, I’d rather not know until pick up if it’s a minor thing, but I understand they have to cover themselves. They took it really seriously and I had to sign an accident form when I picked him up.
So yes, don’t immediately panic if nursery call you during the day. It’s probably fine.
It’s been much easier than I expected
Despite the illness and the tears, settling into the nursery routine has been much easier than I expected. Although the drop offs are hard, I feel happy that Jacob actually enjoys it while he’s there. We get a little report card each day showing what he’s eaten, telling us the contents of his nappies (!), how much he’s slept and what he’s played with. I love it when I arrive to collect him and he doesn’t see me straight away. It means I get to spy on him and he always looks like he’s having an amazing time.
How did your baby settle into nursery?