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Tips for a Smooth Feeding Transition to Daycare

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How to ace the feeding transition to daycare.

Transitioning your baby’s care from your own arms to those of a caregiver can be difficult emotionally for parents. Our tips for a smooth feeding transition to daycare help make sure your little one is eating enough—even when the routine changes.

It’s totally normal to feel anxiety moving into your transition to daycare. For a lot of parents, that anxiety centers around feeding. Questions like “Will my child eat enough?” and “Will he be hungry?” are common.

Feeding is one of the main ways parents care for and bond with their new baby, and as a result feeding can feel very personal and emotional, Mallory Whitmore, Education Lead at Bobbie and Founder of The Formula Mom, said. 

“It can also be a large source of stress for parents if they are concerned that poor feeding may lead to weight loss, slower weight gain, increased night wakings, or increased fussiness in their baby,” Whitmore told Vivvi, noting that parents might feel protective or particular over their baby’s feeding routine for this reason.

One way to set your child up for feeding success at daycare is to introduce a bottle and alternative caregiver to give occasional feedings long before your child’s daycare start date.

“Too often parents wait until the last minute and then freak out when their baby won’t take a bottle, or won’t eat from a stranger, when daycare starts the next day,” Whitman said. “Offering your baby—and you—chances to practice these skills with regularity is the best way to avoid trouble when daycare starts.”

Here are our favorite tips for a smooth feeding transition into daycare.

1. Don’t Stress the Feeding Strike.

The range of how much formula a baby needs per day is wide, 24–32oz., and it’s okay if how much they consume each day is variable with some days less than others. Here’s a guide that shares how much your baby eats during their first year, parents and caregivers can use this as a reference. If your child is refusing to eat, defer to your pediatrician for medical advice.

“As my pediatrician always says, ‘Babies won’t let themselves go hungry for long,’” Whitman said. “While parents might see a decline in feeding volume for a day or two during the transition, the baby is likely to make up this volume over time at home.”

2. Keep up communication between parents and caregiver.

Your child care provider should keep a feeding log and communicate this with parents. Some providers use paper logs and others use an app. Communicate with your provider up front about how this info is shared and let them know if you’re especially concerned.

3. Be mindful of food and formula safety.

Make sure you feel confident your child is getting the right milk/formula, that it’s used within appropriate food safety guidelines (not left at room temp for more than two hours if prepared fresh; tossed within an hour of a feeding starting) and that it’s heated safely (not put in the microwave). Here’s a handy breakdown of how long formula can sit out and other great tips on formula safety.

Check with your caregivers about the ins-and-outs of formula-making safety. Are they washing their hands beforehand? Using a good water source? Are they adding water to the bottle first, then powder, are they scooping correctly (i.e. do they know what a “level unpacked scoop” means)? Are they using the correct ratio of water to powder, etc?

If you want to go the extra mile, you can share an expert guide on how to properly make a bottle and let them know this is the strategy you follow.

4. Consider pre-portioned bottles.

Parents can limit risk and user error by pre-portioning bottles at home. Use a formula mixing pitcher to make a big batch at once, then pour into however many bottles you need to send to school. If your child care provider prefers to mix the formula themselves, you can send in pre-portioned dry formula separate from bottles with water.

5. Prepare for schedule changes.

The daycare may want to feed the baby on a schedule that’s different from yours. At home, you may feed on demand using hunger cues, while at daycare they may have feedings on a more structured schedule. Sometimes an infant may want more feedings because they’re taking in less volume per feeding due to new schedules/surroundings. Parents should send more bottles and formula than they typically expect to use at home in case the schedule is different or the baby needs additional feedings.

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