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Milestones: When it’s time for child care

If you’re heading back to work or school or you simply need personal time, you’ll probably find that enrolling your son or daughter in some type of child care—either in your own home, a caregiver’s home or at a child care center—affords you the hours you need. It can be difficult to leave your child with a caregiver, but rest assured that as long as you find a safe, positive environment, your child will likely do just fine, even thrive. Expect an adjustment period during which you and your child get used to the new routine.

Fortunately, young babies up to 7 months usually adapt quickly. Older children may experience separation anxiety and may need more time to feel comfortable with a caregiver. To help your child adjust to care, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you:

  • Talk to your child about child care and the caregiver. Explaining why child care is important and showing your child that you trust the caregiver can smooth the transition. Reassure your child by giving him or her a pickup time, such as after midday nap.
  • Let your child bring a favorite item. Good reminders of home include a stuffed animal, favorite storybook, family photo or small toy.
  • Read stories about child care together. The local library or bookstore has many options for morning or afternoon storytime.
  • Communicate any potential schedule changes. Because your child can be sensitive to changes, talk with caregivers and your child about any alterations in routine.