Daycare hacks

We just got the notice yesterday. In one month, our baby girl will be transitioning into the Toddler Room at daycare. (Insert brief teary eyed realization that my baby is no longer a baby). With this new adventure coming before we know it, I was immediately overwhelmed and stressed about new challenges and changes. And, as a planner extreme, I immediately read through the Toddler Room packet – how do I prepare, what do I need to pack, what are the expectations? And you know what I realized, the Toddler Room requires SO MUCH LESS than the infant room. Cue happy dance music. But, now that we are breathing a little easier on the packing list, I thought I’d share some life hacks that helped us in those Infant Daycare Days.

Bring in Bulk (if allowed)

Abby’s daycare required the following items in the infant room:

  • 1 Crib Blanket (each day in attendance)
  • Bibs (typically 1 or 2 per day because babies are messy)
  • 1 extra of clothing (from head to toe) each day (meaning, shirt, pants, and socks)
  • 8-10 Diapers per day (and diapering needs – wipes, cream, etc.)
  • Bottles (if formula – prepared in advance for the day ahead)
  • Baby food (if needed)
  • Bowls and Spoons

Needless to say, it was quite a bit of items to bring in. Abby attends daycare full time – that’s five days a week, meaning she needed a total of 5 crib sheets, 5 sets of clothes and about 50 diapers each week! The best solution we discovered – the ability to bring everything in bulk as needed. The Friday before she started, we brought in a full month worth of items (including an economy size box of diapers) – it looked like we were moving in! And the teachers had plenty of room to store it – as long as it fit in her assigned areas. AMAZING solution. If you can bring everything in bulk – do it! Saves you headache and time on those mornings your are trying to rush out the door. The last thing you want to stress about is not having any diapers available.

Invest in Labels

Daycare requires labeling – constant labeling. Everything must have your child’s name on it – from sheets, to bottles, to diapers. If it’s not labeled, it will probably get lost. Sheets and (almost all) clothing was relatively easy to label – permanent marker on the tag, done! Except baby socks – I just gave up with those. I think they are made without the ability to label because babies hate them so much. It took 10 minutes to get socks on her, and about 0.10 seconds for her to pull them off and start chewing on them. Towards the end (prior to actual shoes), I literally would just show up holding socks, ensuring the teacher knew I tried my best to dress her from head to toe. But I digress. Labeling any food source item – bottles, bowls, cups – was an annoying battle. Most people suggested painters tape and a marker – easy and cheap solution (usually my favorite kind). However, Abby pulled that tape off with little effort AND when she would miss one, I still found myself having to constantly relabel because the tape would be worn from the dishwasher. So, I invested in bottle labels, and they really were the best decision. I know, I know – but they cost almost $10. Yes, I normally would find the cheapest option – however, these amazing little things, they withstand a toddler’s efforts to remove AND the dishwasher. Speaking of labels – for some reason, Abby had a ton of baby clothes that were tag-free, making it basically impossible to label. With the help of friends who have kids in camp, I discovered they make clothing labels too (iron free and sew free ones!) Side tip: Abby also owned a few baby items that were dry-clean only. Please don’t do that to a parent of a baby because babies are gross and usually all of their clothes end up with food or poop all over. 

Prep as much as possible the night before

This is one that we still haven’t mastered, but on those days when we do, the mornings are much more pleasant. Normal (non-prepped) mornings involved us rescuing a hungry Abby from her crib, preparing a bottle for her and coffee for us, running around looking for clean clothes, sheets and bibs, while simultaneously prepping all bottles for the day.  We had to prepare four 8 ounce bottles with formula every morning, yes FOUR bottles. And not those two part bottles – no, we had to prepare the “Dr. Brown – I have 8,000 parts to make feeding ever so much easier, kidding – bottles.” Don’t get me wrong, I loved these bottles, but cleaning them by hand and preparing took FOREVER. I was so happy when we were officially done with bottles. I found out recently they have a new kind without the blue insert – oh well. To save time, on Sunday nights, we would pack everything she would need for the week – 5 sheets, 5 sets of clothing, and bibs (and check the Daycare list to see if she was running low on diapers, wipes, or cream). Digging through a basket of clean laundry on Monday morning looking for five sheets with a screaming baby is no easy task – do it the night before, when she is sleeping. Every night before daycare, I’d also prep the four bottles for the next day with water – just water because daycare had specific rules about how long they would keep formula (tip: ALWAYS check the rules for formula and breastmilk storage in advance!). The following morning, I’d do the final steps of adding the formula powder to the bottles, and adding in the extra label (this one was painters tape), with the day and time (another rule of daycare).

BONUS: Money Saving Tips

Daycare needs multiple sheets and sets of clothing. And, if you are anything like me, you do not want to be forced to do laundry multiple times a week to keep up with the daycare demands. I learned early on that Abby does not need to be dressed in her best when she’s at daycare – yes, she needs to wear clothes, but she doesn’t need to wear the super cute adorable dinosaur shirt with denim skirt that I love seeing her in. She also does not need the crib sheets that match her bedroom color scheme at daycare. My biggest tip for this – shop around and buy second-hand. Almost all of Abby’s extra set of clothes at daycare, are those I bought second hand, were once new but now have a marinara stain on them (hey, it’s still a shirt and it’s clean!), or I bought on a crazy sale. Yes, she may own 7 blue onsies that all live at daycare, but they cost me a total of $2 and she doesn’t seem to care. In terms of sheets – I have gotten a few questionable stares about purchasing sheets second-hand with the fear of bed bugs and whatnot. I have actually discovered, most second hand stores will ONLY sell crib sheets if they have never been open. Literally, I have purchased multiple sheets from second-hand stores that were factory sealed. It’s pretty amazing! (Side Money Saving Tip: If you formula feed, and your child has no issues – buy the generic/store brand formula. It will save you SO MUCH in the long run! AND, it’s usually the EXACT same. In the US, Baby Formula is so heavily regulated that it all must be safe: According to the FDADo “house brand” or generic infant formulas differ nutritionally from name brand formulas? All infant formulas marketed in the United States must meet the nutrient specifications listed in FDA regulations. Infant formula manufacturers may have their own proprietary formulations but they must contain at least the minimum levels of all nutrients specified in FDA regulations without going over the maximum levels, when maximum levels are specified. Source: FDA/CFSAN Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling and Dietary Supplements July 2002.   Good luck on your next adventures! Let me know what are some of your daycare life-hacks!