If you’re a new or expecting parent, you may have already begun researching a daycare for your child. But what is the best age to leave your baby in daycare? And how young is too young for daycare? Some daycares take children of certain ages, other daycares are in charge of many kids in one group, and others might have age requirements.
Babies are most ready for daycare sooner than you think
If you need to find a daycare for your young infant (as many parents do), one great option that not many parents know about is in-home daycare. Home-based daycares operate out of the caregiver’s home and typically have a small number of babies per caregiver. These daycares give you the best of both worlds. You get the small, intimate care of a nanny but the security of sending your child to a licensed, equipped facility with vetted caregivers. Along with building up their language and socialization skills, daycare can give your child’s immune system a boost, help you meet other parents, and prepare your child for the structure of early education later on.
Many daycares offer infant care for younger babies but will not take babies younger than about 6 weeks of age. The minimum age requirement varies by daycare.
Consider your child’s needs, but realize they will adapt
In addition to age, there are other factors to consider when thinking about whether your baby is ready for daycare. If your baby has complex medical needs, it’s important to make sure the daycare can properly care for them. For example, if your baby has severe reflux and can only sleep while being held a certain way, most daycares will not have the capacity to do that.
However outside of medical issues, daycares are well equipped to handle other concerns. Does your baby refuse to take a bottle and only drinks from the breast? You might be surprised how quickly they learn to take a bottle at daycare. Babies and toddlers are very flexible and can adapt to new situations faster than adults.
Set your child up for success
Once you’ve chosen your daycare and program, a few simple tips will help make your child care experience successful for your family.
- Plan ahead. Give everyone in your family plenty of time to get ready, eat breakfast and arrive at daycare. Hurrying will only add stress to an already stressful day, for everyone. I’ve always found that packing the night before makes my mornings 100% less stressful.
- Be positive. If you’re feeling anxious about leaving your child at daycare, he or she will pick up on it. Remain calm and positive, especially when interacting with caregivers or teachers. Your toddler will see you acting friendly and excited with them and take that as a cue for how to act themselves.
- Establish a goodbye routine. Children thrive on routine so establishing a way you say goodbye can help your child with the transition every day. It can be as simple as a hug and a kiss.
A final note on the right age for daycare
Don’t forget that there is no universal age to begin daycare for your child and determining how young is too young for daycare for your child. Choose a loving daycare with high-quality caregivers and the rest of the pieces will fall into place.
Find out what other parents think of the daycare you picked (and use Winnie to read parent reviews). The most important thing is to choose a daycare you are comfortable with and you know will take good care of your child.