(Family Features) Long days of school, first trips to day care or even a return from a period of at-home care can be difficult or downright nerve-wracking for parents and children alike. This new adventure can bring challenges from keeping children healthy to supporting their nutrition and more. Sending a little one to day care can even result in maternal separation anxiety.
To help alleviate some of the anxiety and parental concerns, the childhood nutrition experts at Gerber teamed up with Dr. Whitney Casares – a board-certified practicing pediatrician and creator of “Modern Mommy Doc” – to share these tips for families preparing their little ones for child care.
Keep Important Factors Top of Mind
As part of appreciating the milestone of the first time at day care, Casares encourages parents to remember that, while daunting, day care means new experiences, new friends and opportunities for growth, fun and healthy development. As part of the transition, she suggests paying attention to critical factors like sleep, nutrition, illness prevention and emotional development.
Support Their Immune Systems
Offer little ones a diverse array of nutritious foods during the transition to day care. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is essential for building immune systems. Additionally, iron-rich foods like iron-fortified baby cereals, eggs, beans and meat are critical for a strong body. Caregivers should frequently wash hands and focus on good sleep hygiene.
Put Nutrition on the Menu
When packing lunch boxes for a day of care, it’s important to keep nutrition in mind. Once children transition to finger foods, Casares recommends snacks from Gerber like Peach Puffs, Fruit and Veggie Melts and Wonderfoods Superfood Hearts, which come in a variety of flavors and include vital nutrients to optimize health.
Be Prepared for Separation Anxiety
Not all infants and toddlers experience separation anxiety, but many can, so it’s good to be prepared. Casares encourages parents to pack a familiar swaddle blanket in infants’ diaper bags to help ease those anxieties. Some toddlers benefit from having a beloved stuffed animal or blanket with them. Try introducing these transitional objects to little ones early so they smell and feel familiar when drop-off comes around.
Pack the Essentials
While nutritious foods, like Gerber Fruit and Veggie Pouch Blends, are certainly near the top of the list, there are plenty of other essentials to pack for each day. Don’t forget to add breast milk or formula, bottles and extra nipples alongside snacks and meals. Also remember to pack extra sets of clothes, diapers, wipes and those anxiety-soothing must-haves like blankets and stuffed animals.
Prepare for Appetite Changes
It’s common for children’s appetites to decrease during their first few days of child care as they may eat a little less while growing accustomed to their new environment and surroundings. There’s no need to worry – parents can adapt to these changes by understanding they’re often a natural part of the transition. While you may find little ones are hungrier before and after day care, this behavior should ease over time. If it doesn’t, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to be sure babies stay on track.
To find more childhood nutrition advice, visit Gerber.com.
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