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Day care myths debunked

If you’re planning on returning to work after the birth of your baby, chances are you’re already plagued by feelings of guilt. Not only are you likely to be feeling guilty because you’re leaving your beloved tot in care for the first time, but you may also be wondering if there’s any truth to the rumours that day care causes issues like behavioural problems, obesity and a child who loves you less. When it comes to these common childcare myths, what’s fact as opposed to folklore?

Baby in daycare

A new government report, Parents Working Out Work, revealed half of all mothers are back in the workforce by their child’s first birthday — and for the majority of these women, guilt is their biggest hurdle.

“Parents feel guilty about putting their own professional needs before their family needs and about the standard of care their child is receiving and whether it would be better at home,” explains leading childcare resource CareforKids.com.au.

A lot of this guilt stems from rumours and gossip, often spread among mothers’ groups, that day care can cause everything from social problems to psychological damage — but a lot of these stories are unfounded and worry mothers unnecessarily. Here’s a look at the key offenders.

Myth: My child will be bored at day care

Fact: Day care centres offer plenty of activities that engage your child and stimulate their development, including music, painting, singing, dancing, craft, imaginative play and outdoor play.

“My 2-year-old is always doing activities at day care that I just would never do at home because I’m not particularly creative,” reveals mother Simone Carroll, who returned to part-time work when her daughter was 9 months old. “She loves it there — I think she gets more bored staying at home with me!”

Myth: My child will forget who their mum is

Fact: The bond you form with your baby at birth can’t be replaced with anyone else. You may be concerned that your child will become less attached to you if they are spending a lot of time in childcare, but you will still be showering them with loving care and affection during the evenings and on weekends. Also, take proactive steps to make the most of the precious time you have together.

“Spend a whole day with your child on the weekend doing nothing but fun stuff, ignore the household chores and spend the time doing things you all love,” suggests CareforKids.com.au.

Myth: My child won’t get enough attention at day care

Fact: Australian childcare educators now have fewer children to care for than ever before. Children under 2 years old must have one educator to four children, and children aged 2–3 must have one educator to five children.

Plus, not all stay-at-home mothers are fixated on their children. “Staying at home is no guarantee that you will be focused on your child’s every move,” write Andrea Engber and Leah Klungness, authors of The Complete Single Mother: Reassuring Answers to Your Most Challenging Concerns. “In fact, some studies suggest that stay-at-home mums share less than 30 minutes more one-on-one time each day with their children than working mums do.”

Myth: My child will be overweight if they go to day care

Fact: If you choose a day care facility that focuses on healthy eating and physical activity, it’s highly unlikely that day care will cause your child to gain weight.

When you visit a centre for the first time, ask to see a sample of their current weekly menu and make sure they have planned enough physical activities for the children. Many day care centres have outdoor areas and play equipment, but you should also check that they have options for physical play on wet weather days, too.

Myth: Day care will give my child behavioural problems

Fact: The largest and most thorough childcare research, which was conducted in Norway, found that there was very little evidence that the amount of time children spent in childcare caused behavioural problems.

According to Andrew Whitehouse of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research at the University of Western Australia, studies of Australian children have also found no association between hours spent in childcare and behavioural problems. The key ingredient is the quality of childcare. “High quality childcare can be a wonderful environment for children,” he tells The Conversation.

Myth: All day cares are created equal

Fact: The day care centre that’s right for your family won’t suit everyone — but that doesn’t mean that there’s a problem with it.

Choosing a day care facility that suits you and your child comes down to individual preference: Consider staff, menu, daily activities, other children and the physical environment. Many women report that their “gut instinct” kicks into gear when they’re researching day care facilities.

“Make the time to visit a childcare centre, talk to the carers and show your child around, and you will get a great sense of whether the centre will work for you,” CareforKids.com.au advises.

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