Last month I vis­it­ed a young friend who had her baby just three weeks before. He was born nat­u­ral­ly but appar­ent­ly about a month ear­ly, weigh­ing just over 6lbs and need­ing eleven days in the NICU. He now weighs 7lbs 11oz, I believe thanks to his mum nurs­ing him (or at least pro­vid­ing him breast milk reg­u­lar­ly). This baby is still a tech­ni­cal pre­mie (still not at his ‘due date’), although in all respects he now seems nor­mal, yet he’s tiny! 

He start­ed off life weigh­ing just a few ounces less than my full term first born son and now weighs the same as my full term sec­ond son. I’d for­got­ten how tiny both our sons were!

For many full term babies their next three weeks of life would be the last con­tin­u­ous weeks they will ever spend with their moth­ers, assum­ing mum goes back to work after only six weeks mater­ni­ty leave. I am aghast! It’s final­ly becom­ing so much clear­er to me. I hope that mums of pre­mies don’t put their chil­dren in care too ear­ly but I know that some do, and I believe they often fail to tell their baby’s car­ers that their child even was a premie! 

I now tru­ly realise these pre­mie babies, even full term babies, are far too tiny to be left in the care of strangers, often fre­quent­ly-chang­ing car­ers! Throw in the fact that very few car­ers have any real expe­ri­ence with rais­ing a healthy and robust baby let alone a pre­ma­ture baby; many haven’t had their own babies. Even when they claim to be ‘trained’ their train­ing is the­o­ry only, and brief. For exam­ple the six-week US Amer­i­can Montes­sori Soci­ety Infant/Toddler train­ing or even the one-week RIE 1 course (Don’t get me wrong, I love RIE and the Gerber/Pikler phi­los­o­phy it teach­es). Even some lov­ing grand­mas who have raised their own chil­dren are get­ting it wrong. It rarely seems to hap­pen but some grand­mas do get it right.

But what exact­ly is going on the minds of women who return to work and don’t real­ly think about who will care for the babies in their most vul­ner­a­ble months and years of devel­op­ment and whether the car­ers are real­ly capa­ble of offer­ing every baby in their care what they need for opti­mum devel­op­ment? How exact­ly do two peo­ple care for six babies younger than 18 months? How do two peo­ple care for twelve chil­dren under three? 

Anoth­er friend has a child who was pre­ma­ture and to my obser­va­tion is still some­what devel­op­men­tal­ly delayed at two years-old. She has recent­ly been signed off from phys­i­cal ther­a­py (which I under­stand to mean that by all mea­sures no more progress can be shown – in my expe­ri­ence rehab­bing my hus­band con­tin­u­ing all his ther­a­pies at home on a dai­ly basis caused him to improve way beyond the lev­el any ther­a­pist expected!) 

This child is about to move into her third day­care class­room in the eigh­teen months she been in group care — her third set of day­care car­ers! She was cared for by mum, dad, grand­ma and var­i­ous great-aunts for her first 6 months of life. All told about ten dif­fer­ent car­ers in her first two years! I’m stunned that the new care ratio for the child’s two year-olds class is 2:16!

If all expe­ri­enced and very knowl­edge­able car­ers know how impor­tant con­ti­nu­ity of care is, is it pos­si­ble that the mul­ti­tude of car­ers could be con­tribut­ing to her delays? I def­i­nite­ly think the fact that last time we vis­it­ed she was sat in her high­chair with her ipad could be a con­tribut­ing fac­tor! The prin­ci­pal delay for which she is still receiv­ing ther­a­py is: drum roll please…speech!!!

The moth­er was telling me about the cost increase in her child’s care and how she’s look­ing for­ward to her mov­ing on to the next age group because she will save $100 a month! She then men­tioned that if her daugh­ter has breath­ing prob­lems (for which she was recent­ly hos­pi­talised overnight!) she sends her daughter’s inhaler to school and they treat her there. 

What imme­di­ate­ly came to my mind was this: when her daugh­ter needs her treat­ment she gets…1:1 care. Who then is car­ing for the oth­er 15 chil­dren in her group? One car­er to 15 two year-olds! Who can man­age that? How much spe­cialised train­ing has that one car­er received? I sug­gest that all those 15 chil­dren are at risk dur­ing the time my friend’s daugh­ter needs her 1:1 care.

If you haven’t worked in a day­care you can­not know how chal­leng­ing it real­ly is!

I am con­stant­ly aghast at the rea­son­ing of oth­er­wise high­ly intel­li­gent and well-edu­cat­ed parents.