Prev Next
When to Pull the Plug on Your Daycare

When to Pull the Plug on Your Daycare

By Amalah

Hello Amy,

I am a desperate mom of a 11 month old boy who has just started daycare. He has been going for 2.2 weeks now and with the exception of his two naps, stroller walks and eating time, he is constantly crying. The daycare teachers did say that some babies take longer to adjust but he just cries even if he is picked up. He seems to like one of his teachers as she is able to calm him down but not the other three. His favorite teacher isn’t always available to pick him up. He sits there crying even if they give him toys.

He is a happy baby otherwise, loves to play by himself. He is not carried always at home. His eating has not been very good at the daycare but fine at home. He sleeps well through the night (most often). He loves to play with toys, explore everything around everywhere except at the daycare he just stays in one place crying. I am just so miserable and guilty now and have to go back to work in 3 days. He never cries at home and now I am afraid that this is traumatizing him. I did the transition with him at the daycare and it went so smooth initially. Once I left him there for the whole day, the crying is bad. Please advise if you think this is a phase or if crying after 3 weeks is not healthy.


Hmmmm….yeah, I’m not okay with this. What I would consider “typical” daycare adjustment issues at 11 months old would be something along the lines of: He cries consistently at drop-off, settles himself at some point soon after, and is generally happy when you arrive to pick him up. That’s normal separation anxiety. A baby who is still crying ALL DAY well into his third straight week? That sounds like this particular daycare environment might not be the best fit.

That’s NOT to suggest that this daycare is “bad” or neglectful or anything sinister — the fact that they are being open and honest with you about the situation throughout the day is actually a sign of the opposite. Sometimes this stuff just happens. Maybe it’s too loud or bright or overwhelming to him. Maybe there are too many other kids or it’s an overly large, open floorplan so he feels too hesitant to explore. Maybe four teachers is too many different adults for him to bond with and he feels confused.

This is also NOT to suggest that oh well, you better just up and quit working because this particular daycare setting isn’t working out. It’s obviously heartbreaking and crazy stressful for YOU as well, so from that perspective, it’s doubly not working out. Neither of you are happy. Okay. Let’s try something different.

I don’t know what specific type of daycare environment this is — a center or in-home, all infants or mixed age, etc. — so I can’t make specific recommendations on what “other” type you can try. Just know that there ARE other types and options, which for any number of reasons might be a better fit for your baby. Maybe he’d rather stay at home with a part-time nanny who he can bond with one-on-one. Or just a smaller traditional daycare with fewer teachers and children. Maybe joining a playgroup or other group class on your days off will help him grow more comfortable around larger groups of children, if that’s not something he’s regularly been exposed to.

I’m sorry to just be flinging out random guesses here, but honestly the biggest takeaway from this column for you should be that it’s OKAY to say, “You know what? I don’t particularly care that some babies take longer to adjust, MY baby is taking too long for me to comfortably and confidently continue this arrangement.” You don’t feel like this is normal behavior from him, and you know him best. The end!

You’re miserable and guilty and clearly distressed, and apart from the “guilt” (because these things happen!! there can be trial and error in the childcare-finding process!!), I’d say you’re justified to feel pretty upset right now. I wouldn’t want my babies crying all day! I could barely handle the tears at the morning preschool drop-off, even though I had every reassurance that they stopped the second my little guys entered their classroom! It’s really not anyone’s fault, but yeah. Your happy, well-adjusted at home baby is literally crying all day, he seems to actively dislike three of the teachers, and (as of when you sent this letter) nothing is improving with time. Listen to your gut. Only you get to be the last and final arbiter of what a “normal” adjustment phase looks like and when you pull the plug. You can and will find an alternative place or style of childcare that better meets the wholly individual and unique needs of your son.

(And here’s where I ruefully laugh at the possibility that the situation magically improved in between the time you hit the “send” button and when I hit the “publish” button. In that case, AWESOME! He should totally stay put, sorry it took the poor little guy to settle in, happy it worked out. BABIES ARE SO CRAZY-MAKING.)

Photo source: Photodune/Ryanking999


Dear readers, as you have noticed by now, with the new website, we have a new commenting system. You can leave a comment without having to register. Just sign in as a “guest.”  We love and appreciate your insights!

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon