Your maternity leave is slowly coming to an end. You’re starting to explore your options and attempting to decide how to best care for your infant without sacrificing your career.
And as much as you’d love to stay home and care for your child, it’s just not practical for your situation. As the old saying goes, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
But when you finally do decide to go back to work, the question quickly becomes, “What is the best age to put your child in daycare?”. Should you use a babysitter instead?
To help you decide the best age to put your child in daycare, we’re going to take a more in-depth look at a few common questions that parents have when making this decision.
What Age Do Daycares Start Accepting Infants?
A majority of daycare centers will accept children from 6 weeks old and on. And while many parents believe that this is too early to send a child to daycare, parents that have a limited maternity leave may not have a choice.
When you begin vetting different daycares in your area, it’s a good idea to ensure that the staff you choose has experience working with kids at the age of your child.
How Do I Decide Which Daycare to Choose?
This is a big question for many parents. And it should be. After all, the people that influence your child now will play a significant role in how they develop.
To help with your decision, let’s take a look at some of the main factors you should consider:
● Safety. Obviously, nothing is more important when handing over your child to a daycare than the confirmation that they will be safe. To best way to confirm a facility is safe is by visiting it and observing. What is the toddler-to-teacher ratio (4-to-1 is optimal)? Are there obvious safety hazards that are quickly noticeable?
● Staff Quality. When you’re choosing a daycare, you’re not looking for a glorified babysitter. You want someone who can engage with and help your toddler grow. To confirm staff quality, you should ask other parents that already have children at the facility.
● Cleanliness. As you well know, a toddler’s immune system is especially vulnerable to viruses. For this reason, it’s a good idea to ask the staff members how they go about ensuring that the facility and the kids remain clean and germ-free.
Are There Risks Associated With Putting Your Child in Daycare Too Early?
Over the years, there has been a lot of debate as to the dangers of putting children into daycare too early. Some researchers claimed that the best age to put your child in daycare was after their 1st birthday. Others claimed six months was optimal.
The fear for many was that, if a toddler were placed into a day-long facility too early, they would develop behaviour problems.
And while research from the 1980s and 1990s backed this claim, it has since been debunked by researchers in Norway. The bottom line is that the only real risk of sending your child to daycare too soon is that they may develop separation anxiety (which is inevitable even if they do not attend daycare).
Will Separation Anxiety Be a Problem?
This varies on a case-by-case basis. While all babies experience separation anxiety to a degree, the level at which they experience the anxiety differs. Here’s a basic timeline of separation anxiety that will give you a better idea of what to expect and when to expect it:
● Babies generally begin to show signs of separation anxiety at 6-7 months
● The anxiety peaks between 10 and 18 months
● At 24 months, the anxiety typically eases up
When your child first gets to daycare, regardless of what age it may be, it will usually take them time to adjust. Just as you would have some anxiety when starting a new job, your infant will likely take anywhere from 4-6 weeks to become fully comfortable with their daycare setting.
The Real Answer: What is the Best Age to Put Your Child in Daycare?
Determining the best age to put your child in daycare is a personal decision. There is no right or wrong answer.
If you have a job and growing career, you may not have a choice but to send your child to daycare as early as they’ll be accepted. And there’s absolutely no reason to feel guilty about this.
As much as the world wants to convince us that there’s a “rulebook” for how to care for our children, there isn’t. Each child and situation is different.
With all of the conflicting results, the only thing that research tells us about the best age to put a child in daycare is that there’s no “best” age.
Your only job when deciding the best put pressure on yourself by attempting to adapt to preconceived notions about when and where your child should go to daycare.
It’s your decision. And one that you and your partner should discuss and decide solely amongst yourselves. Good luck!
Also read: 10 Steps To Planning Your Maternity Leave