I started daycare at six months old. My mom begrudgingly brought me for the first time when her maternity leave was over, and she cried the whole way to work. Of course, so did I. In fact, we both cried from approximately 8:00am to 8:30am every day for a while after that as we adjusted to spending mornings apart. We both got over it, as all children and parents will. However, studies about attachment have made me wonder what kind of affect day care might have on a child’s personality and closeness with his or her mother.

According to research, daycare might have an effect on a baby’s feelings of attachment. When the mothers return to work after six months of time with their baby, the baby is securely attached without any problems. He or she is neither too attached nor too distant from his or her mother. However, when the mom leaves before six months and the baby starts day care early, he or she might become avoidant attached, which means he or she does not feel a secure bond with the mother and trust issues might later surface.

On the other hand, part-time child care doesn’t seem to have any affect on a baby’s attachment, so if you are returning to a part-time job even before your baby is six months old, there shouldn’t be any serious problems.

Unless a baby suffers a traumatic event such as abandonment, he or she will not have attachment issues that actually interfere with a normal social life. Yes, a baby who is avoidant attached based on early parental interactions might turn into an adult who has a hard time being co-dependent on a partner later in life according to research. However, everyone is different, and there’s really no telling what dictates that part of a person’s personality anyway.

Don’t worry that putting your child into daycare will harm him emotionally. If you have to work at the end of your maternity leave, remember that it’s better to have a baby who is financially safe than a baby who is home with you all the time but lacks the safety of a sizeable bank account. Spend a lot of time with your baby in the first six months, but don’t feel bad at the end of your maternity leave. He’ll make new friends and you’ll learn how to cope.

Source: The Effects of Infant Child Care on Infant-Mother Attachment Security: Results of the NICHD Study of Early Child Care. Child Development Volume 68 Issue 5 pp. 860-879 October 1997 

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