How to Survive Leaving Your Baby at Daycare for the First Time

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Are you sending your child to daycare for the first time?

Then this post is for you.

We’re going to talk about ways to survive this emotional event.

When it comes to fatherhood, motherhood and while we’re on it parenthood I think dropping your baby off at daycare for the first time is one of the hardest milestones in a family.

When we went to drop our son off, I had a lot of emotions and thoughts.

Some were reasonable and rational thoughts and feelings, but many were just irrational.

As a parent, you too are going to approach the thought of leaving your baby at daycare for the first time with a lot of mixed emotions.

  • Sadness?
  • Guilt?

If nobody else has told, you let us be the first to tell you it’s ok to feel excited about getting some relief from your child.

Even with the relief, there’s probably a lot of anxiety circulating within you.

  • “Did I pick the right daycare?”
  • “Did I make a mistake?”
  • “Is my child going to be ok?”

To get through this difficult time we’ve prepared some helpful tips.

1. Own Your Decision

There’s going to be a lot of people that are going to try to make you feel guilty about your decision.

You would be surprised at the people who are going to try to give you advice.

Friends, family members, in-laws, good parents, bad parents, really bad parents.

All of those “well-meaning people are then going to give you advice that’s going to vary from ok to really dumb.

Even the ones that are giving sensible advice might not be good advice for your family or your circumstance.

Ultimately, you’ve made your decision as a family and what’s best for your family moving forward is daycare. Tell all the naysayers to shut it…

Maybe not like that, but seriously, you need to be comfortable in the decision your family is making.

2. Give Yourself Permission to Cry

This is going to be an emotional time, and there’s nothing wrong with shedding a few tears…or a lot of tears.

While we were dropping off our kid, I caught a glimpse of a mother balling her eyes out.

I saw a dad trying to act all stern while I caught a couple of tears trickling down his face.

Whether it’s before, during, or after you drop your baby off at daycare just let it all out.

3. Don’t Go to Work on Your Baby’s First Day of Daycare

If possible, start your child in daycare the day you don’t have to go to work. This is important for a couple of reasons:

  1. You could be an emotional mess. Remember when I said it’s ok to cry. It’s ok to cry it out and be an emotional mess. It might not be received as well at work when they’re expecting you to be productive.
  2. A day to yourself. If you’ve spent the past several weeks or months with your baby not leaving your side, it might be good to have a day to yourself. Catch up on a couple of tv shows or movies you’ve been wanting to see.
  3. Daycare test run. It gives you an opportunity to have a test run and see what it’ll be like taking him or her to daycare.

Having a day or two your not working to figure out a rhythm for how the drop-offs and pickups are going to be is helpful.

It could help make things easier for when you actually start working.

A Daycare test run also allows you to see how well your child is going to handle being in daycare and how well he or she is being treated.

Not working will let you make frequent drop-ins during the day if you want to.

4. When Preparing Baby for Daycare Pack the Day Before

Pick the baby’s outfit, prep the food and make sure the bag you’re going to drop off at the daycare is packed with extra outfits and everything else the night before.

If you try to do it all the day off you’re bound to forget something and be in a rush.

It’s a big day for the family you don’t want any more pressure on you that morning.

5. Call a Friend Before the Big Day

Do you know another mom or dad who has gone through the same thing? Why not try talking to them?

Talking to other parents who are supportive (the keyword is supportive) can go a long way to reassuring you that everything is going to be alright.

6. Make Sure Your Child Sees You Leave

You might think if I drop him/her off while they’re asleep it’ll make things easier. Or trying to sneak away while they’re distracted.

This practice might come back to bite you because it could cause your child to think you’ll leave them at any time.

You want to avoid this but at the same time…

7….Don’t Delay the Goodbyes

There’s a good chance your child will start crying as you try to leave. Just keep walking.

I know it sounds harsh but delaying the inevitable will only cause more problems.

8. Establish a Relationship with Your Baby’s Care Provider

Connecting with the people charged with taking care of your precious child is important.

For starters, it could mean better care for your child as he or she could fill you in on information going on with your kid.

On the flip side, you could provide them with relevant information they might need to provide better care.

What I mentioned above are all important reasons for having a good relationship with your infant’s daycare provider.

But I’m not really sure those are the most important when it comes to creating a relationship with your childcare provider.

There are two others I believe even more important:

  • The first is it’ll give you more of a peace of mind if you get to know your child’s caregiver.
  • The second is you should have a good relationship with the daycare workers watching over your child.

9. Be Engaged During Drop-off and Picking Up Your Child

When you’re picking up your child make sure you’re not on your phone but are attentive to what’s going on.

You don’t want to miss anything important your child’s caregiver might have to tell you.

10. Be Engaged with Your Child Immediately After Pickup

Your child’s been away from you for an extended period. When you pick them up show them some attention. A big hug can start reinforcing to your child:

“My mommy and daddy are going to come back for me, and I get a big hug.”

11. Does Your Baby Have a Special Toy

Some children are comforted by a special toy or even a special blanket.

If that’s your child, make sure they have it with them (assuming the daycare allows it).

12. Check Your Baby Before You Hand Them Off

If your child has any weird bruises, birthmarks or anything out of the ordinary you want to know that before you hand them off.

Many daycares are required to report any signs of abuse or neglect.

So, if there’s anything that could be mistakenly taken as abuse or neglect you want to make sure to explain it to the daycare workers beforehand.

13. Check Your Baby After You Pick Them Off

This isn’t to say that anything will happen.

But some daycares have gotten in trouble in the past for neglect or abuse.

The likelihood of it happening to your kid if you’ve done your due diligence is probably relatively small, but you should probably still look them over.

At least until you get comfortable with the caregivers looking after them.

14. Phone a Friend After Dropping Your Baby at the Daycare

I mentioned earlier talking to other parents beforehand can be beneficial.

Talking to them afterward can be just as helpful. If they’ve been through it, they may be able to reassure you everything is going to be ok.

(Once again make sure it’s parents who are SUPPORTIVE)


Hang in there mom and dad your baby’s going to daycare.

Take Deep Breaths and be reassured that many parents have been through this milestone before you (and have done just fine) and many will come after you.

Grab some coffee and tissue paper when you hit the road.

Are there any other tips parents should know about leaving their child in daycare for the first time?

Don’t forget to share the article so we can help more parents.

P.S. If you’re looking for more daycare articles checkout

    • The first couple weeks you send your kiddo to daycare for the first time is the hardest. It gets easier over time.

  • The first few days of daycare can be rough, but it’s for the best, your child is getting a chance to interact and play with kids his/her age. Our son went running in and didn’t look back.

    • That’s awesome your kid transitioned to daycare well. Many kids do start daycare and fit right in without a problem.

    • I’m so glad I’m not alone in feeling emotional. It was my 1 1/2 y/o son’s first day of daycare today and even though I stayed the first hour and left him for only 2 hours before picking him up, it was really tough. I had anxiety and a headache and couldn’t breathe properly. When he saw me he cried and started saying “Momma” and I hugged him and I started to cry too. Ughhh.

  • Well, I can admit that the first time I took my son to daycare, it was me who cried. He had so much fun, and there was actually nothing for me to worry about!
    I do think parents have a right though, to be concerned when they are dropping off their little treasures for someone else to take care of.
    Thanks for the well-written piece and the amazing infographic too.

    • Hey Joleisa,

      I’m glad everything went well the first time your son went to daycare. I’m glad you found the article helpful.

  • I sooo needed to read this, I’ve always been iffy about daycares even after I do my research so instead I just rough it out at home. Maybe i’ll finally have the courage to push through with it

    • We’re glad you found it helpful. It’s kinda scary but so far we’re having a positive experience from the daycare we’re using.

  • Thanks for mentioning that your child should see you leave on their first day of daycare. My daughter will be going to daycare soon. I’ll be sure to keep this tip in mind when it is time for her to go.

  • I like what you said about being engaged with your child after picking them up. I will have to start taking my youngest to daycare soon and I’m not sure I’m ready! I’ll have to find the right daycare services so that I feel okay about leaving her.

  • This is some really good information about daycare. It is good to know that you should be engaged when picking up your child. That seems like it would make the experience better for your child.

  • Thank you for your tip to be engaged with your child immediately after picking them up with actions such as giving a big hug. I have been thinking about sending my child to daycare so I can go back to work but I am really nervous about it. I will make sure to keep this tip in mind for the day I have to leave my baby behind.

  • Thank you for the tip about showing your kid some much-needed attention after them being at daycare. I am starting a new job soon, which means that I will need to find a place to put my kids until they start school. I am sure this article will be able to help not only with tat but also with when they go to school too.

  • I am nervous about leaving my child at daycare. I like how you mention preparing everything the night before your child goes to daycare so you’re not in a rush. Thank you for the advice. I’ll make sure to follow your tip on our child’s first day of daycare.

  • My sister will need to find a daycare for my nephew this spring. Thanks for explaining that it would be smart for her to have a good relationship with her son’s daycare employees. That way, he knows that he can trust his caregivers.

  • My daughter turns 3 tomorrow and we are starting to look for daycare since I start my full-time job next week. We love how you talked about owning your decision and making sure you know that you stay strong with what you do and don’t let yourself change your mind. We will keep these tips in mind as we search for a professional to help take care of my daughter.

    • Vivian,
      Absolutely! Glad you found this article helpful. It’s all about owning the decision and knowing you’re making the best decision for you and your family even though it’s going to be hard.

  • That’s a good idea to send your child to daycare with their special toy or blanket to comfort them. Since I am planning to return to work at the beginning of the year, my 18-month-old will need to start going to daycare. She has a teddy bear that she is very attached to, so this will hopefully help to comfort her during her first few weeks.

    • Lyla,

      Glad you found this article helpful. A small comfort toy can make a difference. Make sure the daycare workers know you dropped him or her off with a toy.

  • I like your recommendation to get off the phone and be attentive when you pick your kid up and dropping them off so you can talk to the caregiver about anything they feel is important. When we are ready to bring our daughter to daycare, we may visit a few centers to see what the facilities look like.

  • Our monthly bills had started to increase ever since I gave birth to our third child, so my husband and I had both decided that I should apply for a job too. This means I’d have to leave my baby in a daycare center while I’m away, so I’m really grateful for the tips you have provided. I agree that I should establish a good relationship with my chosen daycare provider since their workers will be the ones watching over my kid. I hope I’d be able to find a good one near me.

  • Thanks for explaining that engaging with our child right after we pick them up will help them view the pick-up as their special time. My husband and I think it would be smart to find a pre-kindergarten program for our daughter because we’re worried she’s not getting enough time around other kids her age. I appreciate you teaching me these tips so we can better navigate the new experience of using a child care center!

  • Thank you for the supportive article and the comments below. Reading while in the car, in full sobs as I listened to my little one cry at daycare wasn’t easy to say the least, but the support here helped me to finally pull away, confident daycare is right for my little guy and that we’ve made the right decision. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • Hey Stefanie, I’m so happy you found this article and the comments below supportive and helpful. It’s hard but I promise it does get easier.

  • This is some really good information about how to pick up your kids from daycare. It is nice to know that is would be smart to consider making sure that you take any toys or special blankets out with you. I know that my nephew hates to be away from his stuffed fox.

    • Hey Emily, I’m glad you found this article helpful. A special toy or blanket can be helpful to some kids to help them make that transition.

  • My friend Amanda just got a new job, and since this will occupy her time, she’s thinking of leaving her son to a child care service. Well, parting ways with her son could be depressing, which is why I agree with you that shedding few tears is alright. I’m glad you shared this by the way; I’ll make sure to inform her that she must have a test run first so she’ll have an idea of how it feels like to drop him to the facility.

  • I just found out yesterday that we finally secured a daycare spot for our 17 month old starting next week. I put her down for a nap shortly after, then full on gasping for breath ugly cried for a good hour. I’m really struggling with the concept of leaving her, I’ve been with her every day for 17 months and it feels like she’s being ripped away from me. Thank you for this article, most others are all about preparing the child. I know she’ll be fine after the first little bit, it’s me I’m worried about!

    • Hey Jill,

      We’re so happy you found this article helpful. For such a big milestone so often we get so focused on the child that we forget that it’s also a big milestone for us parents. Best wishes on you and your child’s new adventure.

    • Yes, thank for sharing Jill. I was in your exact shoe today. My 17-month-old is going to daycare tomorrow and I did absolutely nothing but cry today. I also feel that my separation anxiety is worse than hers. However, as parents, our goal is to make sure they are independent one day. Such a difficult journey and I did not realize that until today. Thanks for the great article and I have followed several pieces of advise from here today and am already feeling better.

  • Glad i found this post helped me a lot, as a father who works 10 hours a day, I still got upset leaving our little man with someone that you hardly know. Childcare is the way as I know he would blossom from all the interaction with children his age.

    • Hey Darren,

      I’m happy you found this article helpful. I know my son has flourished so much since he started going to daycare. He actually looks forward to going to daycare.

  • My brother Ethan would like to leave his son Luke in a daycare center because he would have to work on his writing. Well, I guess you’re right that it’s alright to cry when leaving the child at the center. Anyhow, thank you for suggesting here the daycare test run where he may check on everything.

  • Thank you so much for this…as others stated, most articles are focused on helping the child adjust (which is important, of course), but I really needed something for me as I started my 9 month old in daycare for the first time today. I was glad to read the tip on saying goodbye directly (not sneaking away) and I hop to establish some good routines around that (ie same songs on the car ride over, a kiss and wave goodbye with a “mommy always comes back; see you later!”). Thanks again!

  • I’m leaving my 09 month old in daycare starting in two days and I feel guilty and just the thought of it brings tears to my eyes and my heart aches.