Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Other Advice

How do I adjust the routines to help my 8mth son adapt to his new nursery?

My son is due to start nursery in 2 weeks time and I would appreciate your advice on how I adapt his routine to fit in with the 3 days he will go to nursery.

I am going to get him used to nursery over a 6 week period before I go back to work by leaving him gradually more and more. My concerns however are around how he will eat and sleep there. He has been an amazing ‘contented baby’ and fitted in with the routines from 5 weeks old and at 4 months when I pushed back the routine by 30 mins. At Nursery however, lunch is at 11.45am (usually 12.15pm for my baby) and tea at 3.45pm (usually 5.30pm). Can you please suggest how I can make sure he stays in his current pattern for the 4 days he is not at nursery? He currently has his afternoon milk at about 3pm so I am sure he will not be hungry for his tea at nursery. I had thought I would give him a snack at 5.30pm to keep him going?

Regarding sleep, he only really sleeps in his cot in a dark room, very rarely in a pushchair or in the car. At nursery, they have a separate cot area for sleeping but it will be noisier and light. There are only 6 babies in the room he will be in but I am sure he will not sleep how he sleeps at home. Can you please suggest how I change his routine to ensure he keeps going to a 7.30pm bedtime? I will be able to pick him up at 5ish initially so he will be able to have a short nap in the car. At home he has no comforter and does not suck his thumb – he usually cries for a few minutes and then settles. I have started to give him a muslin to sleep with so he has something at nursery – is this a good idea? I don’t want to disturb his sleep at home!

Any ideas or tips you can give me will be appreciated. I have real confidence in the nursery but know that it will change his routine despite their efforts to stick to it.

At present my son takes 4ozs formula, weetabix or ready brek with fruit and mixed with 3ozs formula for his breakfast. He has a small snack at 10.15am with water if he hasn’t eaten well at breakfast. Lunch at 12.15pm is approximately 8tbsps of savoury followed by fruit or yoghurt. 3pm 4ozs formula, 5.30pm approximately 8tbsp of savoury with water to drink and 7pm 6-7ozs formula.

My son naps at 9.45-10.15am and 1-2.30pm. He sleeps from 7.45pm to 7.15am.

It will take your son a time to adjust to nursery, so it is sensible to introduce him slowly. Most mothers are initially concerned about how their baby will cope with eating and sleeping along with others when they have been used to the quiet of home. Most adapt amazingly well. Initially, you may find he does not sleep at nursery quite as long at lunchtime as he does at home, but this may lengthen once he grows used to the different noises and sights of nursery. In the first few weeks however well he sleeps at nursery, he may well be tired when he returns. The adjustments he needs to make, the new surroundings and people are a lot for him to take in. Although you are eager for him to remain with his 7.30pm bed time, in the first weeks after starting nursery you may need to make this earlier until he is more settled. As he will not be at nursery every day you can make adjustments to the time of bedtime depending on what has happened earlier in the day. On the days he is at home remain on your present routine if it suits you. Once he has got used to being at nursery he will probably be able to have a 7.30pm bedtime every night.

The milk he has at 3pm could become part of his nursery tea at the slightly later time of 3.45pm. Once home, offer him a healthy snack. How much of this he will eat is an unknown. It is something you will only be able to gauge as you get into the nursery routines. Offer him easy things such as mini sandwiches, cheese sticks, goujons of fish or chicken. If you have introduced egg yolks or eggs to him then make a simple frittata or omelet. He may be tired, not wanting to eat much, but something nutritious and filling such as these should be easy for him to eat. Try not to push him too hard even if you feel he has not eaten well at nursery. Providing he still sleeps well at night his appetite will pick up once he feels more settled in his surroundings. He is more likely to pick up on your tension and begin to play on it if you keep trying to tempt him to eat once home. Offer him his snack when he comes home and if he seems to have lost interest after about 20 minutes finish the meal. As he is still having a good bedtime feed then he will probably adjust to this new way of eating in a few days.

On your days at home you may decide to keep in his 3pm bottle until he begins to lose interest in it, possibly in the next month or so.

Giving your son a muslin as a comforter is a good idea. If you give it to him at his daytime naps now, before he starts at nursery, he will also begin to associate it with sleep whilst he is at the nursery and be more settled there.

Separation can begin to be an issue around this age. It is a perfectly normal stage of a baby’s development and, providing you handle the issue with understanding and sympathy, your son will soon become used to his new carers. Many nurseries have a policy of key workers, so one or two will be assigned your son into their care. This makes it easier for him as he can begin to relate to the familiar face he sees each day. If you always use the same words when leaving him he will come to know the routine and realize that you will reappear again. In the beginning he may be a little tearful at being left each time. If you can build a friendly rapport with the staff, especially those directly involved with him, then he will learn to trust them as he sees you smiling and talking with them. Your body language and facial expressions will help him feel at ease. However you are feeling inside at the prospect of leaving him, by remaining cheerful, positive and smiling you will really help him get used to his new experience.