Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Settling Babies


Tuesday 09 July 2019

Sometimes we hear of people describing childcare as ‘leaving a baby with strangers.’ This always makes me sad. By the time a baby is spending a full day in the setting, ideally, the relationship between the baby, the educator and the parent should be well past being strangers.

The process of settling in, in my view, is as much about parents and educators getting to know each other as it is about the baby settling in. Of course, forms asking parents to describe a baby’s preferences and daily routine can be very useful and important to have recorded, but I think nothing beats the parent(s)/ guardian sitting on the floor with the baby and educator chatting, modelling preferred ways of being, comforting and tuning in. In these moments you are sowing those vital seeds of connection that begin to build relationships.  That three-way linking is really important, and we all know that relationships need trust to thrive. The foundations of that trust is built in those early days: the parents come to realise that they can trust the educator to love their child, to want what’s best for them; as an educator, you get to know what these parents expect and want for their child; and for the precious baby. It’s win/win… these people love me, they like each other, I’ll be fine here.

Of course, this has to be planned for. In these first days and weeks it is important that:

There are only one or two babies settling in at one time, and as much as possible, the times they are present in the baby room are staggered. This helps keep the environment calm, peaceful and centred on the family getting familiar with the setting and the baby room and the people there.

It’s important to have a key-person approach in place and explain this to the parents, so they know who their baby’s key person is. In some settings a key-person is described as a family worker, as the role is as much about being with the parents and not just working with the baby. Care needs to be taken, in assigning a key-person, that the educator assigned to a family is present for the periods of time the family is settling in.

Encourage the parents to bring a transitional object, something from home to ease the transition. This can be a toy, a blanket, even a suitable bracelet or scarf belonging to one parent. This object travels from home to setting and back and gives a sense of security and continuity to the baby.

The process takes more that a day or a few hours here and there. Some settings take up to two weeks and while this may not always be doable, the settling in period should be as long as possible, I suggest at least a week. During this time the parents stay in the room, sitting on the floor or in comfortable seating, playing with the baby and educators, chatting and getting to know each other, for an hour or so. Then the parent tells the baby they are popping out for a little while but will be back. If possible, there should be a comfortable room where the parent can go for a coffee for a short while and then pop back to the room. This period can be lengthened and extended to the parent leaving the setting for a short while, as the baby feels more comfortable.

If the baby gets upset and doesn’t settle quickly, call the parents back. The baby should not be allowed to get distressed. This adds to the stress and diminishes trust. Gradually build up the time the baby spends in the setting and remind parents that it is important they spend time in the room with the baby too, maybe at departure time. This applies to others collecting the baby too. It was lovely to see a grandad spending up to 30 minutes picking up his baby grandson one day in a setting I was visiting.

Building relationships with the other babies in the room is also important. And remember to introduce the new parents to other parents who may happen to be around. Make sure you have all their contact details. Make sure emergency numbers have not changed from enrolment.

Minimise transitions during the day. While a predictable routine gives a sense of security, this should not be too tied to specific times and must be baby-led. When a baby needs a sleep, put him/her in their cot and let them sleep. When the baby is hungry, that’s the time for a feed. The only transitions in the day should be arrival, play, feeding, nappy changing, sleep and home.

Sometimes, the time a baby spends in the baby room can be short. If a baby is 9 or 10 months old when they start in a setting and they move to a wobbler room at 12 months, it can be very unsettling for both the baby and their parents. Try to avoid this change so soon after a baby starts attending. If it really is unavoidable, then have the key-person make the move with the baby. This may mean a group of babies moving together, so the key-person has all their group together.

We know that love shapes brains. Aistear’s theme well-being says, ‘In partnership with adults, children will make strong attachments and develop warm and supportive relationships with family, peers and adults in out-of-home settings and in their community’. Having a strong, extended settling in period for babies and families is key to this goal.



Máire Corbett works in the Communication and Development directorate of Early Childhood Ireland.  Her background is Montessori teaching and she has an MA in Integrated Provision for Children and Families, from the University of Leicester. She is passionate about supporting ELC practitioners to achieve the best outcomes for children.

1 comments Comments

One Response

  1. Denise Collins says:

    Love this Maire. We do exactly this. 2 weeks settling in and only 1 baby per month where possible to allow for the full phase. Most parents love it-they stay for 6 days..a few hours per day.. and we feel it also helps THEM transition..having had their baby with them for 9/10 months it’s huge for them too. They can see that the baby is happy

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

COVID-19(13) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) UN(1) Little Buddies(1) Line-ups(1) Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years(1) refugees(1) Trade union(1) Bereavement(2) Yoga(1) Investment(2) Trauma-Sensitive(1) Cognitive development(1) Anthony Semann(1) Staff Motivation(1) learning(19) Iraq(1) Relaxation(1) Through the looking glass(1) environments(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) purpose(1) Confident(1) Belonging(3) Arithmetic(1) Qualifications(1) memories(1) Blocks(1) Early Childhood Ireland(7) Rich Documentation(1) Limerick(1) Ceremony(1) play therapy(1) Event Guide(1) early years research(2) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) mushrooms(1) Confidence(1) Workplace Relations(3) Breathing(2) First 5 strategy(1) Time Out(1) Nonverbal(1) Administrative Burden(1) First 5 transitions for children award(1) conversations(1) Book Review(1) Leadership(1) TOY Programme(1) Support(1) Consent(1) keep in touch(1) Obesity(1) AsIAm(2) Supernanny(1) Afghanistan(1) Prexit(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) Scents(1) Biting(1) Children's Voice(1) scéalta(51) planning(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Learning Story(1) Early Years(1) Laugh(1) Professionalisation(5) early years learning(1) Inspirational(2) Potential(1) emotions(2) Dance(1) Síolta QAP(1) trust(4) Social Skills(1) Funding(1) Health(2) social science(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) Oireachtas(1) GoToMeeting app(1) National Annual Awards 2020(1) interacting(2) Creativity(5) Technology(3) Mark Twain(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) inspiring interactions(1) College(1) science week(2) Learning journals(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Training(2) Inspired Practice Award(5) Thinking(1) Communications(1) Story(2) gender bias(1) Document Learning(1) Recycling(2) reopening(1) Window(1) Covid pandemic(2) Scéalta Book Review(1) Twitter(1) Large Doll Play(1) Graduation(1) food(1) Digital(1) Snakes(1) Primary School(2) Xbox(1) Inspiring Practice(1) Syria(1) Traffic Lights(1) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) imotion(1) Socioemotional development(1) child-centric(1) Margy Whalley(1) Body Language(1) MA(1) research(6) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) under 3's(3) Traditions(2) Hand Hygiene(2) The Lullaby Book(1) UNCRC(2) mental health problems(1) CCTV(1) First 5(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) TRAP(1) emotional well-being(1) HR(1) baby room(1) pets(1) Flowers(1) Shapes(2) United Nations(1) Community involvement(1) Light table(1) Mantra(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Maynooth(1) outdoors(4) Irish guidelines(1) supportive environments(2) reading(5) Wendy Lee(3) Inspections(1) Glitter(2) Self-regulation(1) Academic Skills(1) Exclusion(1) Seanchaí(1) Rituals(1) community(5) Certificate(1) bonds(1) EM Standing(1) listening(1) Celebrations(4) EECERA(1) blog(48) Teamwork(1) annual awards(1) Jenga(1) relationships(18) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) play pods(2) AIM(2) World Health Organisation(1) Employee(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Role play(1) Sweets(1) Leprechauns(1) Your place(1) Halloween(2) Treasure(1) Sustainable(1) Mayo(1) Trigonometry(1) Performance Management(1) Anxiety(2) behavioural science(1) Playdough(1) Budget 2020(1) Our Little Seed(1) Visual Impairment(1) Research Seminar(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Engineering(3) Wesco(1) Exploring(1) lockdown(1) Appreciation(1) COVID-19 crisis(1) Settling in(4) meals(3) Policy(2) eating(1) RTE Investigates(1) bloom app(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(2) grandchild(1) Love(3) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) DES Inspection(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) Leargas(1) transitions(10) Identity(5) The Play and Learning in the Early Years(1) Early Years Education(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) apps for children(1) Albert Einstein(1) STEM(3) Winter(1) childcare services(1) democracy(1) Maternity Leave(1) Photographs(1) E.coli(1) Inspired Practice Awards(1) Exit interview(1) Counting(1) Return to Work Training(1) child-centred approach(1) Buddies(1) University(1) Valentine's Day(3) Inter-generational(2) code of ethics(1) Kilkenny(1) Wilenski(1) risk(2) Care-giving routines(1) Sport(1) Eritrea(1) Culture(2) Inclusion(3) emotional environment(2) Party(1) Educators(2) Reading Time(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) budget(1) Pre-School Services(1) Giraffe(2) Brain(1) Impact(1) Learning Stories(9) Maynooth University(2) Thank you(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) ECCE(7) Intention(1) Leaders in Practice(1) racism(1) Santa(2) National Awards 2019(1) Performing(1) European Project(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) outdoor space(3) NCCA(3) Sleep(1) Children's Rights(3) Design(1) aistear blog(3) children development(1) awards 2020(1) listen(1) Workplace well-being(1) Visitors(1) collaboration(1) Self-Esteem(1) phone apps(1) learning hub(1) Children's Research Network(1) worries(1) Plants(1) Engagement(1) Mount Everest(1) Pedagogical leaders(1) Mud kitchens(1) Children and families(1) Painting(1) Loving Relationships(2) COVID-19 landscape(1) Easter(1) Siolta blog(8) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Síolta(132) Learning through Storytelling(1) responsive relationships(1) youdoodle(1) Challenges(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) dining(1) Touch(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Decisions(1) Snack Time(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Spiders(1) Home Corner(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Exercise(1) Facebook(1) INTO(1) preschool(4) Grief(1) annual conference(1) Summer(1) Capable(1) Irish(1) Competent(1) code of professional responsibility(1) Meet the Members(1) Trade Unions(1) learners(1) Lego(2) UNICEF report(1) Time(1) Seas Suas(1) Fabric(1) risk assessment(1) educarer(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) books(4) Human Resources(1) Frustrations(1) Self Help Skills(1) New Appointments(1) Orla Kenny(1) Gratitude(1) Mathematicians(1) dublin(2) National Research Conference 2019(1) staying connected(1) ELC(1) Queues(1) Smiles(1) Reggio(1) Buddy Bench(1) Plastic(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Sessional service(1) ECIAwards20(1) Motor neuron disease(1) Imagination(3) curriculum(5) Nutrition(1) Exploratory Play(1) science(3) Names(1) DCYA(6) Environment(2) primary education(1) Snacks(1) Death(2) Pobal sector profile(1) ECEC(3) Special Needs Assistants(1) Fee Play(1) Reopening Childcare(1) learning bias(1) Craft(1) UD(1) Builders(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Early Years Educators(3) Magnavacchi(1) Scéalta Blog(103) Adverse Childhood Experiences(1) Interaction(1) Horizon 2020(1) Reggio Emilia(2) Music(3) Educator of the Year Award(3) Reflective Practice(1) play(35) St. Patrick's Day(1) Malaguzzi(1) Shoes(1) play stories(2) communication(4) dogs(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Kids Own(1) EECERA 2016(1) reopening ireland(1) documentation(4) National Holiday(1) Feeding(1) Behaviour(3) Stress(2) Art(6) Interests(1) experience(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Early Learning and Care(1) play pod(1) Infectious diseases(1) feisty(1) NAEYC(1) Meal time(1) june29(1) Treasure Chest(1) outdoor play(6) Laughter(1) Pobal(1) Kerry(1) Building Resilience(1) animals(2) Aistear(128) SAC(1) Opportunities(1) risky play(2) gender stereotype(1) Learning Journal(2) Favouritism(1) Book Club(2) Pedagogy(2) early childhood(1) Covid19 crisis(1) structure(1) IGL(1) educating(1) story time(2) National Awards 2018(2) overhear(1) Routines(2) routine(2) ERASMUS+(3) ECEC Setting(2) maternity health(1) National Pyjama Day(1) pablo(1) preschool settings(1) Wrapping paper(1) online training(1) continual professional development(1) Wonder(1) value(1) Mindfulness(3) education(2) Child mental health(1) ICBN(1) Empathy(1) Maths(6) Maths Week Ireland(1) Budget 2019(2) conference(1) Learning Story Awards(2) CIT(1) Arts(1) ReCreate(2) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Sociodramatic play(1) Upcycling(1) Graduate(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) curiosity(3) Proceedings Journal(1) Child Care(1) Quality(4) Running(1) early childhood educator(2) Change(1) role playing(1) Sequins(1) Interactions(3) Thanks(1) movement behaviours(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Cork(1) Drawing(2) Ariana Pucci(1) Family(1) respect(5) Norway(2) European Early Childhood Education Research Association(2) Maths Week(1) education system(1) Celebrate(1) Italy(1) MECPI(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Independence(1) Inter-generational learning(2) Playschool(1) Pretend Play(1) show and tell(1) Mealtimes(1) Masterclass(2) Well-Being(10) Awards Night(1) life long learning(1) Mo Scéal(1) stories(3) Awards 2018(3) Affordability(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Whole Group(1) christmas(9) social media(1) early life(1) Arlene Forster(1) outdoor environment(1) Universal Design(2) Magda Gerber(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) Recycle(1) National Childcare Scheme(1) friendships(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Adoption(1) Positivity(1) research submissions(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) Family wall(1) Mental Health(4) Youtube Series(1) Magic(1) peer group(1) COVID-19 Reopening(2) family time(1) Storytelling(7) Games(1) Online Research Symposium(1) Research Conference 2019(1) Awards(2) Equality(1) iOS(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Super Shed Stories(2) International Narratives(1) SPICE Framework(1) Patterns(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) journey(1) The Jelly King(1) art of the relationship(1) RIE philosphy(1) San Miniato(4) Study Trip(1) Sculptures(1) creche(1) Decision Making(1) Covid response(2) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) PIP(1) Communicating(1) Trick or treat(1) Fantasy play(1) Childhood(1) Engineering Ireland(1) CPD(1) Childcare(3) School Age Childcare(1) Advocacy(1) Effect of Lockdown(1) Vertical grouping(1) Degree(1) Iceland(1) linc(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Sustainability(3) Weather(1) Budget 2018(1) babies(7) developing motor skills(1) Workforce(1) Online(1) ears(1) Map(1) toddlers(3) democratic citizens(1) GDPR(1) Infection Control(1) Awards 2019(1) Reggio Children Network(1) healthy eating policies(1) Small World Play(1) Universal Design Guidelines(1) Engineers Week(2) Montessori(3) Creative(1) Care routines(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) man up(1) Vietnam(1) Gardening(1) development(8) Academics(1) parents(6) Japan(1) dining experiences(1) Identity and Belonging(4) Autism(4) Mixed age groups(3) Penguins(1) Digital Devices(1) Pen green(1) Titles(1) Diversity(1) keezy(1) Loss(1) children’s learning(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Maria Montessori(1) coronavirus(1) Elders(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(1) Children(4) Participation(2)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine