The time has come and you have decided to send your child to daycare. The decision to put your child into childcare is always a tough one. You may have just got your baby self-settling and napping well in a regular routine so understandably feel even more apprehensive about how beginning daycare may impact on your child’s sleep. It’s very normal, as a parent, to worry about how such a big transition is going to affect your baby or toddler and while you may notice some changes to sleep at home during the first few weeks, our little ones almost always surprise us by adapting quicker than we anticipate!
Daycare can be a big transition in your baby’s life, particularly when it comes to their sleep. It’s really common for them to not sleep at all in the first few days or require a lot of assistance to achieve any at all. Most babies will not sleep as well as they do at home, ever. There are many distractions at daycare, other children, educators coming and going, a different sleep environment and loud noises, the list goes on.
A Sleep Thrive Grow, we often get asked by concerned parents how they can help make the transition to daycare a smooth one for everyone involved. While this process will vary from family to family depending on the age of the child and so on, there are definitely some tried-and-true things that any parent can do to encourage their baby to nap well in daycare.
1. Arrange some visits in advance
Take the time to make some visits to your chosen childcare facility with your child before you return to work. Stay and play with your baby and help them become familiar and content in the new surroundings. If possible, arrange some short visits where you leave your baby or toddler for an hour or so. Doing so will reassure them that when you leave you do come back. Consider arranging a visit that coincides with a nap so you can let your baby practice settling in their new sleeping environment too.
2. Provide familiar sleep aids
Ensuring your little one has some comfort items from home can make a huge difference to how well they settle in a daycare sleep setting. It’s always a good idea to make sure you have a spare set of any sleep aids your child uses for just this purpose. We recommend the following items as excellent sleep associations:
- Sleeping bag
- Dummy if your child uses one
While daycares are often noisy places, many centres play lullaby music and have a darkened sleep room for under twos. What’s more, children that are used to sleeping in quiet, dark rooms at home with white noise blaring will often settle quite happily in this much noisier setting, much to their parents’ amazement!
3. Repeat your child’s routine as much as possible
Talk to your daycare provider about your child’s routine at home. Let them know how often your child naps and at what times, as well as what their bedtime routine consists of. Most childcare providers will welcome this knowledge and be willing to use the information you provided to help your child settle more happily. You can also request that the same staff member settle your child for each nap until they become more comfortable and secure in the environment (most daycares do this anyway).
Stay in touch with your daycare – feel free to ask them how things are going; how long your child napped for; how long they took to settle; what assistance they required in order to go to sleep and so on.
Accept that sleep may be slightly different when in childcare from home
It’s really common for children to require a bit more assistance going to sleep at daycare than they do at home. We often hear from concerned parents that their childcare provider uses shush-pat, rocks their child or sits and rubs their back until they fall asleep. For parents who’ve spent ages avoiding or undoing these habits, the fact that they’re being used at daycare can be a real worry. However, most kids are quick to accept and learn that home and daycare are different and what goes at one place, doesn’t necessarily apply at the other. If, however, you’re really concerned about what your childcare provider is doing, then talk to them. In most instances, the facility is happy to work with you to come up with a solution that’s both practical for them and acceptable to you.
You might also hear that your child has shorter naps at daycare than at home, so much more to do! Some day cares will also add another nap in later in the day than you normally would. Try not to worry too much if they do, unless of course you experience a disruptive bedtime if a nap has fallen too late. Sometimes we hear of the reverse happening where children sleep for longer at daycare, worn out from all the interaction and stimulation of the morning. If you find day care sleep patterns are interfering with your child’s night sleep or that it’s meaning they take longer to settle at bedtime then speak with your daycare provider and ask them to wake your child after a set time.
If your baby comes home and hasn’t slept well (or at all!) an early bedtime is the best way to counteract the impending over-tiredness. Babies are often extra tired after daycare at the best of times, so putting them down 15-30 minutes early can help to ensure their night sleep doesn’t get off track.
Finally, try not to worry too much about these changes. If your child is content and happy it may just be that you need to let go a little bit and accept that their routine may vary somewhat on days when they are in childcare. They will soon let you know if they’re coping or not!
Knowing what we can control and how we can improve on the things we can’t, is the best we can do as a parent. I’m here to help too. If you are feeling overwhelmed and would like to chat through your babies sleep issues, please book in a free call today.