Mommy Monday: Daycare Transition

Since arriving in Mystery City, Minnow has been in a daycare room with 7 other infants. As each child has past their first birthday, they have been "transitioned" into a toddler room. Now, Minnow at 11.5 months, is approaching her own transition point, scheduled for early February. Minnow's mommy is feeling a bit of trepidation about the upcoming move.

There are a lot of things that will be great for Minnow once she moves into the "big kid" room. She needs some older children to play with, and she'll get a lot more outdoor time. She'll get to do more art projects, and eventually she'll work on toilet training.

But it seems like a sharp transition for Minnow in a number of areas. For one thing, Minnow's long nap (at home) is in the morning and she'll often go until 5 pm without another nap. But in the toddler room, all of the kids lie down on cots from 12 - 2:30. I'm sure that she'll adjust eventually, but I expect to have a very cranky, sleep-deprived Minnow on my hands for a few weeks.

In the toddler room, they don't give bottles. Minnow is still getting expressed breastmilk in a bottle twice during the day. She can use a sippy cup just fine, but we've never tried giving her milk in it. That'll have to be a project for us before the transition. Hopefully, she'll take to the milk sippy cup right away. Most (all?) of the kids in the toddler room are drinking cow's milk, and so far we've had no communication from the director as to whether or how we'll be able to bring in breastmilk. I expect that eventually (shortly?), Minnow will be drinking cow's milk too, but I don't expect her to go cold turkey on breastmilk during daycare hours.

Minnow is still tiny for her age (she hasn't yet made it to 17 pounds), and at daycare she likes to eat something every 2 hours or so. (At home she still nurses with that frequency.) Consequently, she often doesn't eat very much in any one meal. In the toddler room, they *only* do breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack. Until Minnow learns to pig out during the limited mealtimes, she's going to be awfully hungry. And I hope that she figures out the eating thing in a hurry, because when your kid is already in the 5th percentile, you don't want her growth slowing down even more.

Minnow and I haven't been eating any dairy, soy, or corn products for the past six months, because they were giving her digestive issues. These are normally troubles that babies grow out of, so eventually she should be able to eat all of those foods without problem. The problem is that in the meantime there are very few commercial foods available without those three ingredients. We've learned to make do at home and we currently bring most of her food to daycare. But in the toddler room they discourage parents from bringing food from home, instead wanting to feed all the kids the same center-prepared foods. I understand that having the same menu makes things much easier for the teachers, but there are some days when Minnow can't eat anything on the menu. Again, I'm sure she'll grow out of it (in fact, we are trialing yogurt right now with cautious optism) but it won't be immediately. I've met with the infant room teacher and the former center director several times to discuss the menu, but so far I've made very little headway. Now I'll have to start over with the toddler teacher and a new center director. (Ours quit on Friday.)

Finally, last week I got a chance to meet Minnow's toddler teacher. She seems like a neat person, full of lots of ideas, energy, and warmth. But she reeks to high heaven of cigarette smoke - and that was at a distance of several feet. I can't imagine what she smells like if she's hugging you close to comfort you (as she would a crying Minnow). I'm very sensitive to cigarette fumes, and if I am around smokers I end up having to wash everything and shower as soon as possible afterwards. Now I am faced with Minnow coming home from daycare smelling like cigarette smoke everyday. Sure, we do baths most nights, but not before we have a bunch of cuddle time. Am I going to have to bundle her off to a bath immediately upon arriving home? I asked the old center director whether we could move to a different toddler room, but didn't make any headway. I'll try again with the new director, I guess.

In short, there's a sharp transition ahead of us, and I'm starting to think that we might as well use the next few weeks to look at other daycare centers again. We've loved our infant room and teachers and we picked this center with an eye to Minnow staying there until kindergarten. But it's awfully expensive and if it's not going to be responsive to Minnow's needs and my requests, then we don't need to have any loyalty towards it. Just one more thing to add to my to-do list: Investigate other child-care options so that Minnow comes home well-rested, well-fed, and smoke-free.

More like this

Mum used to say that when I was a toddler, my father wouldn't allow any smokers near me (he doesn't smoke). Could that be why I am so sensitive to cig smoke? I can smell cig smoke from quite a distance!

You said in a new year's post that you weren't sure if you'd continue the Mommy Monday posts because of all the feedback you get about your choices along the way... I just want to say that the one thing that shines through here in particular is how much you love Minnow. It also highlights for me the various priorities that you juggle in an attempt to keep it all going. I hope that the new director is more responsive or that a better child care option falls quickly into your lap.

That seems like some unnecessarily sharp transitions. My daughter is almost exactly a year older than yours. At the 2 year old transition, we were also concerned about naps, but she settled into the new pattern rather quickly. They spend a week or two where she had some time in each room each day so it wasn't a very abrupt change for her.

The lack of willingness on bottles does seem strange. Then again we went to a center were we brought our own lunches and bringing a few bottles didn't alter their system at all.

A center that doesn't care about children with digestive/allergy issues is very weird. In general, any added work required for serving meals from home should easily be balanced out by having the day care providers dealing with fewer adventures in baby digestion for the rest of the day.

The transition at age 2 is also going to be interesting for us. We moved and are in a large center and they can't even tell us which new room she'll be in yet. None of the 2-year old rooms have windows and our daughter loves the outdoors. Greatly day care is hard to find.

Do keep up these posts. I read them almost every week.

They moved Offspring to toddlers at 11 months, and although there were a couple of stressful weeks, overall it was a good decision because the mental stimulation was useful. I hope the new director is easy to work with. I've heard of success in saying "How can you and I work together to make this the best (class/transition, etc) for Minnow?"

I know this is hard, especially with the change in mid semester. Best of luck.

That all sounds like an awful lot of work for you. As soon as I read about the cigarette smoke, my thoughts were that you should find a different place. I hope you can find a good one fast-can you get any recommendations from people you know?

By Writer Chica (not verified) on 14 Jan 2008 #permalink

I always enjoy your blog, as Minnow is about 5 months older than Pea (our son), and I'm in year 4 of a tt appointment in an -ology--so I can relate! If I was in your position, I would probably consider alternate care options, too, especially because of the food and smoke concerns. You've probably thought of this already, but have you tried looking for child development centers or other facilities on the campuses of local colleges/universities? We did some crazy schedule wrangling in the fall to get Pea in the door on my campus (we were only able to get 2 days/week at first, which I know wouldn't work for your situation and barely worked for us), but it's been worth it--Pea not only gets to do lots of development-related activities and loads of play, but he gets tons of attention from his teachers and the student helpers (and student helpers make great candidates for baby-sitters)...I often arrive to nurse him mid-day, or to pick him up at the end of the day, and find a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of teachers to awake infants.

Our daycare center had a big transition to the toddler room, too. It was generally good, but suddenly my son was eating all kinds of foods that we hadn't introduced yet, and there were all kinds of new schedule expectations. We were lucky that he didn't have any food sensitivities, but he has never napped well there.

That's too bad that your center isn't very sensitive about food issues. I guess we're really lucky about that - our director is really into organic food and low-sugar diets, and she's happy to accommodate vegetarians, lactose-intolerant kids, kids with wheat or corn or soy allergies... everything. (The state diet requirements were a lot less flexible, though, when the center tried to meet them. The center ditched them, which was good for the kids with allergies.) And it's also too bad about the smoker.

I hope you find an option that works well! At least in Colorado, the older a kid is, the more options there are. Hopefully you will find that is also true in Mystery City.

My younger daughter is about 1 year older than Minnow (2 in February), but in our center, they transition first from infant non-movers to infant movers when they begin crawling well (this was on the early side for my VERY active baby) and then again at 15 months (or whenever they are walking confidently and have achieved some other milestones) into the toddler room. The non-mover to mover transition is not much of a change - the two rooms are only separated by a walk-through kitchen area, some of the staff is shared and the schedule remains flexible. Nevertheless, we had a dramatic change from cheerful goodbyes to clinging and shrieking with that transition that lasted a few weeks until she settled in. But she did settle in.
The transition to the toddler room was similar to what you describe: no more bottles, scheduled meals and naptimes, and though everyone sends all major meals (snacks and milk are the only thing provided) in the toddler room they no longer will heat up food, and the children must self-feed (though I know the teachers will help the younger ones who are having trouble). So I had to change what and how I packed lunch and just hope some of it got eaten. Lucky for me, my little one is on the larger side, so I can afford to not worry as much about her intake, but there are still some days when the report says she ate NOTHING at lunch. I guess she makes up for it at snack time, because those days do not always produce a ravenous tot at dinner. The nap thing and the bottle thing really just mysteriously worked themselves out. I really believe that children are in a different mode of interaction with caretaker at daycare. My older daughter who wouldn't sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time at home and was a very picky eater with me would happily take a two hour nap with her babysitter and eat whatever was put in front of her. And my toddler who still demands a "paci" with much screaming at home doesn't even ask for one at daycare. I really think her only issue with the transition was the change of caregivers - it took her a while to feel comfortable with the new teachers when she moved into the toddler room. But she did get comfortable and cheerfully skips into the room and waves goodby most mornings.
All that said, however, if you are not getting support in handling Minnow's dietary needs that is unacceptable. It is no more work to dish out food from a lunch box than from any other container. Also, if the cigarette smell bothers you at adult interaction distance, imagine how it will be for Minnow to be cuddled by that person. Gross! I wouldn't like that at all, and I would look for something else. And, I must wonder why the director quit. Staff turnover always bothers me - maybe there are problems behind the scenes.
Whew! This is a long answer, but I really wanted to give you support - transitions are hard. Also, I had to yank my older daughter from a daycare when she was around Minnow's age. It was hard (we had no backup, so we had to work staggered shifts for a couple of weeks) but it was DEFINITELY the right decision. We found a better situation and my only regret is having not done it sooner.

The rigidity of the scheduling was one reason why I looked for alternative childcare. Have you looked for a licensed, in-home care provider? I contacted someone at the state level (I live in Pennsylvania, so I'm not sure it works everywhere) who sent me a list of state-licensed facilities and then I interviewed from that list. She's much more flexible that the day-care facilities, offers lots of enrichment and interaction with multiple aged kids, and is willing to take into consideration anything I'm passionate about. Might be another option for you, especially now that Minnow is a little older.

I really enjoy your blog about the life of a woman-scientist. Although I am not a mother yet, I can relate to the two modes that we tend to operate in - the professional and the personal. If we get too technical or aggressive, we are masculine; too soft and we are incompetent or crybabies. I have started to experience that in my life as a woman and a soon-to-be lawyer. Failure has become particularly hard to take. Take a look at my blog. It's still a baby, but I would appreciate your suggestions on how to develop it.

Although Bean is still a few months off from this transition, it's on my mind too. We'll be facing a lot of the same changes and issues. We're really happy with the quality of care at our school, but the whole "no more bottles, feed yourself, everyone naps at the same time" stuff is really stressing me out.

I hope that Minnow's school is a little more responsive, or that your able to find a better place for her to be. YOU deserve not to stress out while you and Minnow are apart.

As a mother of a toddler and a preschooler, I can say that these transitions (i.e. "no more bottles, feed yourself, everyone naps at the same time") typically go more smoothly than you anticipate. Kids very quickly pick up on the behavior of their peers and are often capable of more than we give them credit for.

I do agree that the smokey teacher and the non-willingness to dialogue about food allergies is troubling.

By Female Enginee… (not verified) on 15 Jan 2008 #permalink

I don't envy you having to deal with this either - I agree with earlier commenters that it sounds like a sharp transition. I hope you find something that works out!