As our babies grow and become more stable us moms often begin to wonder, can my child with CHD go to daycare? The answer, of course, will be different for everyone. But, hildwith-

Finding the Right Caregiver

There are so many emotions around going back to work after having a baby with CHD. Finding the right childcare situation for your baby tends to be the chief source of anxiety and concern. Who can care for your baby after all they have been through? The truth is, if you find someone trustworthy, attentive, and willing to learn, just about anyone can do it. I knew nothing about caring for a child with CHD when my son was born, but I learned! You can train someone else to be a great caregiver too.

Start by asking your child’s cardiologist what kind of childcare situation your baby is cleared to participate in. My son has a pretty complex single ventricle heart defect. After his first heart surgery (the Norwood and BT shunt) he was not cleared to go to regular daycare. I also felt uneasy about training someone to care for him at home since we were in and out of the hospital often. Thankfully, I was able to extend my maternity leave to stay home with him a little longer than we first anticipated. After his second heart surgery (the Glenn/Hemi-Fontan) at 5 months old it was a whole different story. He was cleared to go to a regular daycare just 8 weeks post-op.

CHD and Daycare

Many parents may say that CHD and daycare just don’t mix. But, at 7 months old (and two months post open-heart surgery) my son went to his first day of school at a regular daycare with his NG-feeding tube in tow. I was nervous for him but I knew his teachers were well prepared and he would be in good hands. I had visited the daycare 3 times during my last week of maternity leave. This allowed me to train them on how to feed Calvin and use his NG tube. His teachers practiced using the tube and it turned out to be much easier for them than I anticipated. We spent a couple hours there each time so Calvin could become a little familiar with the environment. He had never really spent much time with other children before so I knew the whole experience was going to be a big adjustment. After spending roughly half of his life up to that point in the hospital, anything “normal” was totally new to him. 

Baby with CHD on his first day of daycare.
Calvin, 8 weeks post Glenn, heading off to his first day of school.

His teachers did great taking care of him and going to “school” soon became our new routine. I was so scared about starting this new season of work and daycare, but it went perfectly! Calvin took it in stride and showed no distress. The only change being he fell asleep almost immediately at bedtime. He was so tired from learning and playing all day! I think the transition was actually harder on me than it was on him. I was worried about him, but he was living his best life playing outside, experimenting in sensory bins, and making little friends.

Suppressed Immune System

I want to highlight the immune system really quick because it may be something you are thinking about as you consider daycare. Some parents are under the impression that because their child has CHD then they also have a suppressed immune system. This is sometimes true, but not always. A child with CHD may be more affected by an illness. They may be sick longer or have complications arise that other kids would not be at risk for, BUT they may not actually be more susceptible to contracting an illness than any other kid.

If your child has a suppressed immune system then that diagnosis is probably separate from their CHD (like primary immunodeficiency or other diagnosis) OR they may have had all or a portion of their thymus removed during heart surgery. The thymus is a gland that is positioned near the top of the heart. It plays a role in the immune and lymphatic systems. You can ask your child’s cardiologist if there is any reason to believe your child’s immune system is impaired. Because as I’m sure you know, daycare often can be home to a variety of childhood viruses.

Sickness in Daycare

Kids are germy little people. There’s just no getting around it, especially when you have a classroom full of toddlers together. They stick everything in their mouths, cough right in your face, and take sips of your drink when your not looking. Great daycares will do their best to minimize sickness by having the children wash their hands frequently and disinfecting the toys daily. However, kids will get little illnesses the first winter they go to school – whether that is in daycare as a toddler or later in Kindergarten. Calvin had several mild colds and viruses his first year which I have to believe helped build his immune system. He now rarely gets sick. It probably helps that he’s 4 and doesn’t put his hands in his mouth anymore too!

Leave the Mom Guilt Behind

In the beginning, I felt so much guilt about going back to work and sending my son with CHD to daycare. Staying home was just not going to work for our family, but most of the other heart moms I knew were staying home with their babies. Was I doing the right thing? Did I make the right choice? Looking back, I can definitely say it was the right choice for us, even though it was so hard at first.

Now, I’m working in a job that I love and Calvin is thriving in school. He’s entering Pre-K and has learned more than I ever could have taught him at home. Don’t get me wrong, stay at home moms are AMAZING and I respect them immensely. However, our path was different and I’m thankful for it. So, if you are considering going back to work don’t let mom guilt get you down. You are a great mom no matter what you choose!

Also read: “Going Back to Work After Having a Baby with CHD.”