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Tips for starting nursery with very clingy baby(22 Posts)
DS is 10 months old. I am due back at work in February. We have a space at a Bright Horizons nursery and plan to start settling sessions in the next couple of weeks. He will go to nursery at least one day/2 sessions a week, some weeks will be 3 days (DH works shifts.)
I’m feeling quite concerned about this because DS is exceptionally clingy and anxious, compared to other babies his age. He cries if I leave the room, won’t sit with anyone else (even Grandparents who we see weekly) and has only ever been away from me and DH once. This was for 3 hours, with grandparents at 5 months old and he screamed the entire time. Not surprisingly we haven’t tried again... All of these behaviours have been going on since around 5 months and we actually wonder if that one time triggered it (can’t remember if he was like it before!!) He has been marginally more sociable in the last couple of weeks (will smile, wave, accept high fives/kisses etc) but still cries 9 times out of 10 if passed to anyone else and stops as soon as he comes back..
I will of course talk to the nursery about how best to manage it, and they’ve said we can have as many settling in sessions as we need but I was just wondering if anyone has been here before and has any tips/reassurance. Or any nursery workers with ideas on how to manage it.
Leave plenty of time for settling in sessions. My daughter was older but needed 20ish settling sessions.
Trust the nursery mine was clingy and they worked wonders but often peeled him off me each morning (for 4 years 🤣) and I can count the times he went in without crying but once I was gone he was ok
Thank you both. I know he will likely be upset when I leave, but I can’t bear the thought of him miserable all day!
Hand him over quickly with a cheery goodbye and trust the nursery to let you know if he's upset. He will pick up on you being positive and brisk about the handover, rather than dithering which will unsettle him.
Maybe leave him with something of yours? A muslin with your scent on it or one you have slept with, so it smells of you.
It will be ok. My DD was the same - screamed hysterically if we handed her to anyone, exceptionally clingy. We went via the Childminder route rather than nursery but we had the same initial issue with her screaming when I handed her over. She was fine once I left the house (I didn’t believe it but my CM asked me to close the front door and hide behind it one morning - the crying stopped within minutes) The nursery staff will have seen it all before and they are masters of distraction. Try lots of settling in sessions and maybe build up the time you leave him.
HSM I’ve considered a comforter that I sleep with for a bit so I will definitely do that if the nursery say it’s okay for him to have it.
Eastie Did your DD eventually go happily? I imagine that it’s quite difficult if they are upset at every drop off!
I’ve got his start date earlier than I actually go back so he can start with shorter sessions and I’ll be able to just pick him up if it goes horribly wrong... I’m really not hopeful but I guess I need to think positive!
The more days you can put him in to start with, the better, so he starts to see it as normal. A week is a lifetime to a baby.
I work in a nursery.
My advice would echo HSMM. Hand over DS over quickly and cheerfully. Ask the nursery to ring you if they need to or ring yourself. We are always happy to speak to parents to ring the room to ask how their DC are. Do lots of settling in sessions, starting with shorter times and building up when the staff advise. Ask them when their quieter sessions are try and book him in for a settling in session then. Try and avoid meal times or nap times at first, just let him get used to the room/staff. I believe it is worse if you draw out the 'goodbye', but appreciate how upsetting it is seeing them sad. Be friendly to staff too, as your DS will pick up how you interact with them.
If he has comforters, please bring them! I once looked after a baby who took weeks to settle and basically just cried the whole time, regardless of anything we tried. However her parents said they didn't want her to have her comforter when she was upset! This was a 9/10 month old baby, bless her! Btw, she did eventually settle .
MrsAlbie Thank you - really reassuring. Will definitely try a comforter and take his dummy then (usually only has it for sleep but TBH I’m up for nursery staff using anything to keep him happy!) Good tip about choosing quieter times for settling, I will ask them.
In your experience, are parents ever allowed to stay for 10/15 minutes at the start of a first settling session? (I realise there may be issues with DBS checks etc)
Just I’ve noticed that at baby groups etc if I get him playing then I can move away without him being upset. If I just put him down or hand him to someone then he panics... and from experience doesn’t calm down until I’m back.
Great about the comforters!
We let parents stay for settling in if they ask to. DBS check not an issue as there are always staff in the room and there is higher ratio of staff to children for this age! Babies are so inquisitive many love a new face (your DS may not like other children coming up to you though!)
In my experience, it can sometimes work if a parent stays to play for a few mins, encourages their child to sit with a staff member and the staff distract them as you leave. However, from what you've said about your DS, it sounds like he may not be happy to sit with a carer if you're there! Worth a try if you think you can leave him playing on his own though and slip out . If that doesn't work though I'd give something else a go.
It's a tough one but remember any good nursery will work with you to help settle him. Ask their advice. I really hope they are helpful and open.
Loads of good advice.
One day at nursery per week to start with and increasing it is the wrong way round. Children settle in better with more sessions to start with, then you can reduce it. I have never known a child in my 25 years of nursery work to not settle in APART from children who only did one day per week. Many nurseries now refuse to take a child only one day.
Generally, children like continuity. Keep the drop offs the same. A child might not want to go to nursery, but at least they have the security of knowing what is going on. I'd avoid sneaking off too. Good for that day, but bad for the long run. They'll think that whenever they leave you to play you might leg it, and never leave your side.
The first session often involve you staying a while to go through routines and likes and dislikes etc, so you'll get a good view of how the staff look after children. He will cry when you leave him. And probably for the first few session. They may even ring you to cut the session short if he's very bad, but he will get used to it.
After a while you'll be dropping him off and he'll run away to play with his friends and you'll be thinking "At least be a bit upset!"
I agree MrsAlbie, but I know that if I just hand him over then he will cry immediately and I think they’ll have a hard time getting him to stop. I think he’ll be happier sitting on the floor next to a key worker and if I can get him playing then it might work.
I agree with Goldenbug that I don’t want to sneak away though - that’s what we did the one time we left him (thinking it was best) and I’m worried that’s what caused the problem in the first place!! So I think, for the first settling session I’ll ask to sit down with him and key worker, get him playing, then say goodbye and leave quickly
trying not to cry myself!
Goldenbug The number of sessions each week will depend on my DH’s shifts. Luckily, it’s fallen that for the first two weeks he will do three full days and then three mornings. He will always be in for 2 sessions a week, so it will never be a full week between when he is there. Thanks for the reassurance. If he needs more sessions each week to settle, then we will consider it.
OP - yes, after perhaps 2 weeks she stopped crying. There was then a period of a couple of weeks where she seemed resigned to it all and didn’t seem to react much - no tears but no smiles either! I found it a bit unnerving and posted on here about that at the time. Eventually after about a month she laughed, giggled and ran to her CM at drop off and we had virtually no upset at all after that. She continued to remain anxious around strangers for some time (aIthough now aged 4 she talks non stop to anyone!) Settling in may take longer or shorter with your DS but it will be fine.
I know how worrying it is and I genuinely thought I would never, ever be able to leave my DD as her separation anxiety seemed so extreme. I had never seen anything like it with any other child before or since having her. Incidentally her 2 year old brother is the complete opposite. He toddled off happily with his childminder without a backwards glance and didn’t seem to miss me at all. I was a bit miffed to be honest
OP my first daughter was like this. Both for her initial nanny and then for nursery she had to have an extra long settling in time of four weeks. I would recommend you book the start date for as long as possible before you go back to work, this takes the pressure off you and will help it to all go calmly. Also your DS will probably get ill ten days after starting (which further delays settling-in) and then frequently throughout the first year at nursery. Be prepared for this, have grandparents standing by as backup and so on. He’ll be much less ill after that and it will all get easier.
Other than that I would follow the recommendations of the staff and say a quick and cheerful goodbye when they tell you to. I’ve always been firmly told on no account sneak out - your child needs to learn that at nursery, you leave, and then you come back, and he has to be able to trust you on this.
Do not worry too much about leaving him crying, it is hard for you but what is important is not so much if he cries when you leave, but if he lets himself be comforted by the staff once you are gone. You can ring 15 minutes later to ask.
If it doesn’t go well (tell yourself it will though, they pick up on how you’re feeling about it), it can be very helpful to have the father take over the settling in.
If it’s any comfort DD1 is now 7 and marches off everywhere without a backward glance!
Thanks @Prezel1979. I think that him allowing himself to be comforted may well be a problem!
We had a first session and I did stay and play for a bit. Said goodbye and left. He got upset as expected but they called me back after 20 minutes. I felt awful.
Next settling session is later this week. I’m dreading it (but I’ll make sure I’m cheerful on the day.) I’m not really happy with the nursery’s approach (basically just leave him straight away and see how it goes) so I’m going to suggest
strongly that we take it more slowly. We have a few weeks before I go back so plenty of time to ease him in I think.
My 16 month old has been in Nursery (Bright Horizons too - they are fab!) since he was about 9 months. He had never managed to stay at the church crèche without me and we don’t have family nearby to leave him with so I was dreading it. Settling sessions were variable although we only had a few then the first week was awful, lots of tears, I had to go and give him lunch the first day as he wouldn’t eat but within the week they were e-mailing me photos of him laughing and playing within an hour of drop off. DH usually does the drop off, says a swift goodbye and all is well, I tend to take too long over it and he can still get upset sometimes but I’ve waited just outside the door and it’s literally until I’m out of sight! When we walk towards the Nursery door he points and claps and the last two pick ups he hasn’t wanted to leave!
The staff are really good at comforting them and they’ll let you know if there are any issues. I remember collecting early one day and one of the newer babies was asleep in his keyworkers arms because he’d always napped on Mum so they were carrying that on! They never leave them to cry if you ask them not to.
Hi Naschkatze, yeah I live in Germany and here a standard settling-in is at least two weeks, you would start leaving them (depending on child) on towards the end of the first week and then for ten minutes, half an hour, an hour and so on. But there are some children who are fine after one day and then others like DD1 take five weeks...
There comes a point where there is no point staying because the child loves being at nursery with all the toys etc so long as you are there. At that point he has to learn that nursery is there while you are not. But that doesn’t have to be day one I agree.
A propos teaching him what nursery is for, when you pick him up, many professionals here recommend you leave nursery with him right away, don‘t hang about playing and chatting.
They did call you back quickly which is a good sign. 20 minutes is enough for a first separation even if it goes fine. Try to stay positive, it is really tough for you (worse than for him) but you’d be amazed how differently children behave at nursery and he probably will let himself be comforted by his keyworker much faster than you’d imagine.
Thanks DrWhy. I really hope he’ll settle like your DS.
Prezel That sounds like a really good approach. I agree that he has to learn that I leave him at nursery (and come back!) but I think I should have made sure he was a bit more at ease in the room before I left at the first session. My fault - I was anxious to just get it over with and felt that staff wanted me to go.
Interesting about leaving quickly at pick-up, I can see the reasoning behind it.
I knew I’d find it hard but it’s so much tougher than I expected.
It is really draining Nasch, I feel for you. Don’t forget the option of DH doing the settling in sessions. This is NOT an admission of failure on your part. It is a pragmatic possibility that can make everything much easier on all of you. The child is almost always less bothered to be left by the dad, and it can really help. If this is a possibility for you, I’d consider setting that up sooner rather than later - not as a last resort, always less effective then.
We’ve discussed it DH taking over, but he’s not able to do all the settling sessions due to work and I will be doing the majority of drop offs when DS actually starts so we felt it was better to be consistent. I also feel like this is something I need to conquer and feel happy about before I actually start back at work. So it’s a bit of a selfish decision too
We’ll see how today goes!
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