The headmaster of Dubai College wanted his teachers back in the classroom.
So he asked Petra Arzberger to open her Children's Oasis Nursery to three-month-old babies.
"That was almost 11 years ago," Ms Arzberger says. "We were among the first to take babies that young."
Since then, the number of nurseries like Children's Oasis Nursery that enrol babies as young as three months has grown in number, catering to the demand from working mothers who do not want to leave their jobs. But communication with the nursery teachers and a gradual introduction of the babies to the larger setting outside home are necessary, say nursery owners and managers.
"The total number of nurseries is estimated at over 260, however, there is no indication related to how many are taking in three-month plus babies," says Tracey Furey, the chief executive of Bidayaat, a childcare development company that manages two nurseries.
"There is an increasing number, however, in recent years due to the rise in working mums."
Bidayat's Kensington Nursery in Umm Suqeim and Dubai Silicon Oasis takes in babies from four months. Both have a variable fee structure depending on the number of days and hours per day parents want to leave their children there. For full-time care, that is, 8am to 6pm, for five days a week the nursery charges Dh31,500 (US$8,576) per academic year that runs from September through June.
For the price, each child has their own cot and a qualified nurse is on hand. Ideally, early childhood services should work with families and communities to support and not to replace parents.
Establishing a positive relationship with the child's carers and ensuring that there is daily reciprocal communication on the child's activities from both carers and parents are among the two ways the balance can be achieved, Ms Furey says.
"It is important that parents are aware of all aspects of the nurseries' approach in terms of care and development," she says.
At Ms Arzberger's nursery, as the age of the babies dropped, the timing changed to reflect the needs of the parents. The Children's Oasis nursery runs from 7.30am until 5.30pm, which normally covers a working day.
"Nurseries like parents to be involved, so it is also important that your employer understands that the transition of settling your baby into nursery can take time - and also that there may be events and activities throughout the year that you will be invited to attend," Ms Arzberger says.
Some mothers also take their babies to the nursery if they need to run errands or pop into a hairdresser.
The nurseries cater to those necessities as well, and take in babies on an hourly basis.
While the number of nurseries is on the rise, the traditional set-up of raising a child at home until kindergarten still holds sway in the region. "The 'child-at-home' model for children below the age of four is common in the Gulf States and proliferates predominantly because of the availability of low-paid nannies and housemaids, who typically have no professional qualifications in childcare," according to a 2011 policy brief from the Dubai School of Government on early-childhood education and care in Dubai.
Most of the nurseries cater to expat parents, it said.
In 2009, 82 private licensed nurseries catered to 7,551 children of ages 0-4, of whom 95 per cent were expatriate children. In the private nurseries, 341 Emirati children were enrolled that year.
Compare the numbers to those in 2000 when 36 nurseries enrolled 2,230 babies in Dubai.
The price comparison website souqalmal.com lists about 44 nurseries in Abu Dhabi and Dubai that enrol children as young as a month old.
Back at Ms Arzberger's nursery, the cost for leaving a baby at her Umm Suqeim nursery from 8am until 12:30pm five days a week comes to Dh11,730 per term. And from 8am until 5.30pm five days a week, it is Dh18,850 per term. A term is three months on average.