It is inspiring to see how many women today resume their career soon after giving birth. There is, however, one practical worry that she cannot really escape. With the mother at office, and, most likely, the father too, who would take care of the young child? Families are becoming increasingly nuclear so leaving the infant with grandparents or relatives isn’t always an option.
That’s where the need for daycare comes in. While a lot of young parents have been relying on daycare for their preschoolers, the option is available for infants too. Children as young as a few months old are sent to daycare centres, which then monitor the child’s sleeping and eating requirements and keep them engaged till the parents take them home in the evening.
How early can you send your child to a daycare?
“Children as young as six months old are sent to daycare, as per the revised Maternity Bill (which has increased the duration of paid maternity leave up to 26 weeks). That’s the perfect time for settling down; it is the stage when the child is more or less trained to develop sleeping and eating habits,” said Shivani Sarin, centre incharge, Crystal Children’s Care in Gurgaon, operational for 12 years now.
That said, parents sometimes send in infants as young as two months old, informed Sarin. Managing a child as young as this can be challenging. “The major challenge is separation anxiety among parents, which is higher when the child is this young. Again, there are some parents who send in their child when they are one-and-a-half months old as well,” she explained.
Somaya Nanjapa from Funschool Daycare in Vakola, Mumbai, disagrees. “We never take in a child who is too young. Even six months of age is too early, but parents are forced to send them to the daycare, since they have to go back to work. Having a two or three-month-old child is out of question,” he said.
How can a daycare assist you in your child’s development?
At the daycare, each child is assigned one caretaker, especially if very young, who caters to his or her individual needs. The child is involved in activities like block building or music, as per their age and interest, and fed and put to sleep, as per their nap time. “The food is provided by parents, since paediatricians suggest that infants should be fed from one particular source only in order to develop immunity. We also give suggestions on what a child should be fed as per his or her age. At the age of 15 months, however, we start providing food at the daycare itself. We have a full-fledged house kitchen,” said Sarin.
Children at the daycare are not really forced to follow a schedule. The idea is to keep the day engaging and interactive. “Daycare could be a great place to help your little one interact with a lot of other children. And that’s much more preferable than giving them an electronic gadget like a mobile. Empathy and social development are the key things a child is introduced to in a daycare. It also helps such kids start speaking very early since they are constantly talking to each other,” highlighted Dr Debmita Dutta, parenting consultant and founder of What Parents Ask.
The maximum age up to which most daycare centres take children is six or seven. That’s when the child starts going to primary school and is usually enrolled in other activity classes. Some of them, however, continue to stay beyond that age. “For instance, we have a child, who joined our daycare at the age of one and now, she is almost 10. It’s such a close relationship you form with the child and also with their parents. It’s hard to part with them. They are like family,” Nanjapa expressed.
Is a daycare safe enough?
One of the major concerns for parents when choosing a daycare is safety. After all, the child is left in the care of unfamiliar people, away from the parents, for a long duration. To begin with, when an infant is kept in a closed room along with many other children, he or she is more at the risk of being infected. “So, the design of the daycare is important–it should have a large play area with enough sunlight and fresh air. There are some daycares that follow international specifications and regulations, which ensure the same. That’s something parents must check on,” Dr Dutta pointed out. On the obverse, more exposure to germs would mean your child can develop his or her immunity. Nobody would want their child to fall sick, of course, and so, he or she ideally has to be immunised before being sent to a daycare, added Dr Dutta.
Daycare centres usually also have doctors and hospitals onboard. Sarin, for instance, informed, “We have doctors and hospitals on panel, and those on call facility as well.”
Besides health, children can also be at the risk of abuse and so, parents have to be very careful and choose the right daycare for their child after thorough research. “Most parents come to us through recommendations. Coming to the safety aspect, we haven’t encountered any such incident till date. We’ve been lucky that way. All parents would want to be assured of their child’s safety. We provide parents with daily updates, sometimes even at lunch time, and parents can call and speak to the child whenever they want,” Nanjapa explained.
Are you ready for a daycare?
No matter how perfect a daycare might be, leaving behind an infant in an unknown space is not easy, either for the parents or the child. Parents tend to worry constantly while the child is unaware of why he or she has been separated from the parents. And that’s why parents need to be absolutely prepared mentally to leave behind their child. “A lot of parents find this transition really difficult, for which they should consult experts. Many daycares also have a separation anxiety workshop to understand how to deal with it. The child also has to be dealt with delicately by well-trained staff members at the daycare or it will impact him or her badly,” Dr Dutta concluded.