Family

Parenting advice – babies at daycare

Dear Diane, When we had our first baby in March, the plan was always that I would go back to work by the end of the year. I work in retail and that's their busy time so it seemed sensible for everyone.

Dear Diane,

When we had our first baby in March, the plan was always that I would go back to work by the end of the year. I work in retail and that’s their busy time so it seemed sensible for everyone. The trouble is, I just don’t want to go back now.

I have loved being at home with my son and watching him blossom. At nearly six months, he is just such a cutie. In fact, I really can’t wait to have another baby. Anyway, the problem is that we can’t afford for me to stay at home. My husband is still studying part time and until he graduates his earning power isn’t great.

We have a large mortgage and are paying off a big credit card debt – plus the remains of my own student loan.

Every time I think about my baby being left with strangers at daycare I get emotional, and when I looked online to find out whether children at daycare are disadvantaged compared to those whose mums stay home, it brought up so many conflicting views I just don’t know what to think. I guess there are two issues – the fact I want to stay home and can’t, and my worry about whether daycare could harm him. Please help!

*Hugo’s mum, Auckland

*

Dear Hugo’s mum,

What a terrible dilemma for you.

To want to stay home with your baby is the most natural response in the world, so the very first priority is to ask if there is any way you and your husband can rearrange things. on the other hand, if you must return to work, here are some things to consider.

Babies thrive where they have a lot of one-on-one attention from a single home-based caregiver. Is there any chance you could arrange to have your baby cared for at home? Another option is to have your baby cared for in someone else’s home, where there is one caregiver looking after two or three preschoolers and your baby.

If daycare is your only option, you should look for a continuity of care, a low baby-to-carer ratio, caregivers that adore babies and a willingness for lots of carrying and cuddling.

In terms of timing, the best is to have your baby in care before seven months or leave it till after 12 months. In the time in between, your baby really notices when you are not there and may feel like you have disappeared forever.

Being a mother seems a pathway of maximum guilt. Make the best arrangement you can manage and then focus on thoroughly enjoying the time you do spend with your baby.

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