As a former nursery nurse, I thought I would share some tips about starting nursery.
Under 18 months
Personally I think the children under 9 months are far too young to be in nursery. I never looked after babies under this age and I don't think I ever would! Over 9 months, you can expect your child to experience some separation anxiety when starting nursery. The good news is, this means you and your baby have formed a brilliant attachment. The bad news is that you are going to have a lot of crying, a lot of routine disruption and a very clingy baby at home!
A baby is perfectly capable of making additional attachments. This is why there is a "key worker" in a nursery. Your baby will be assigned a "key worker" with the idea being your child will form a good attachment with them and feel a lot happier to be at nursery. Your "key worker" will ask you to write out your child's normal routine and any information about them (diet/ allergies etc). Be specific and give as much detail as possible!! If your child hasn't tried strawberries yet, tell them. If your child only sleeps on their back with a teddy, let them know that! If you have chosen a good nursery, staff will be more than happy to cater for all of your child's needs, no matter how silly. I once allowed a new baby to sleep in their buggy for the first 2 weeks because that's where she slept at home!
At this age, your child will probably be able to understand what is happening a little more. They will more than likely understand that you are coming back (though may still not be happy about you leaving), and so communication is key. Talk to your child about nursery, and be positive about it! Tell them about all the friends they will make, the arts and crafts, the garden! Try not to be nervous about it in front of your child, they can and will pick up on it. Asking questions like, "are you sure you will be ok? You do know mummy won't be there?" are only going to worry your child.
It's true that nurseries have routines. I always thing it's best if you can try to tweak your home routine to the nurseries. Your nursery will be happy to tell you the routine, but it typically goes:
8am- Breakfast followed by free play
10am- Fruit snack followed by structured activity
11am- Garden play
2pm- wake up and juice and biscuits followed by activity
4-6pm- free play
So just adjusting your routine at home so that your child is eating lunch around midday and then taking a nap after it will be enough to help them to feel more themselves.
When to complain
Some parents never ever complain. Some complain every week. Here is when I feel is the right time to complain.
Remember, your child is not the only one attending nursery. Fact. No matter what you like to think, there are other children who need attention in the day! So if your child goes home with paint in their hair, or mud on their jeans, don't complain. Unless it is really excessive. Children get messy, it just means they have had fun!
If your child didn't sleep/ eat well one day, it's probably not a good thing to complain about. Chances are, food was offered to your child. Nursery staff can;t force feed your child! But they will offer lunch again later if they feel they didn't eat a lot. If your child doesn't eat, or sleep and they are not ill, there's not much anybody can do!
Here is when to complain. You pick up your baby and they have a dirty nappy, that you know has been dirty for a long time (you can tell!). Your baby has a temperature and nothing has been done about it/ staff didn't even know (they should!). Your child has a serious accident that could have been avoided (usually if they were somewhere they shouldn't have been, or got hold of something they shouldn't have). Your child comes home and says they have been watching tv all day! Or eating chocolate for lunch!
Accidents happen. The thing about nurseries is that they have to document every single accident that occurs, no matter how small. So it may seem like your child is having more accidents than usual, but they probably aren't. It just seems like a lot when you have to keep writing down every time they bump their head or someone steps on their fingers!
At the end of the day, remember that it is your child. If you really have a bad feeling about a nursery, follow your instinct and pick another one.