Updated: Mar 23
One of the common parental concerns I hear is around sleep at daycare. How can we keep our little one's routine and have them sleeping well at daycare? The good news is, our babies and toddlers are resilient and great at adapting to 'what happens at daycare' vs 'what happens at home'. They can separate the two and are more clever than we give credit too but there is plenty we can do to help the transition run as smoothly as possible.
Keep communication lines open at daycare - ask them the following (especially if you are transitioning or choosing a new daycare provider). Whilst some requests likely can't be accommodated, most daycares will come on board with your routine as they want your little one happy, content, and well-rested!
Questions to ask your daycare providers:
1) Ask them what their approach is for naps. Do they follow a set schedule for all children? Do they adhere to wake window guidelines? Do they determine nap timing and duration individually or as a collective group?
2) Ask to see the sleep environment. Is it a fully-lit room where the other kids will be playing? Do they have a semi-private space where naps happen? Do they follow the AAP’s safe sleep guidelines?
3) Ask whether you can bring your own sleep aids. Can you bring your baby’s white noise machine? Can you send along a sleep sack or lovey?
4) Ask whether they can accommodate specific requests. If your baby cries for a few minutes as they are falling asleep, is that allowed? Can they hold off offering assistance if you ask them to? Will they wake your baby at a certain time to preserve bedtime?
Tips to preserve sleep whilst at daycare:
1) Take their familiar sleep props to daycare - if you can take their white noise, sleeping bag and comforter/lovey this will help optimise their sleep potential away from home.
2) See if you can transition them in gradually if you can - it's not always possible, but even consecutive days or some half days in there as a short-term option. This helps hugely before transitioning into longer full days.
3) Offer an early bedtime. If they have had a day of less than ideal naps, then the best cure-all is an early bedtime. Night time sleep is different from nap sleep, its restorative and rejuvenating! So even though they may have missed out on nap times, night sleeps more important. Get them into bed earlier even though it can feel hard if you haven't seen them all day!
4) Let them catch up on sleep in the weekends - you may find your little one naps longer at home, let them! Even if they do sleep well at daycare, there's still so much more stimulation than at home so its likely they will need to catch up on some shuteye outside of daycare.
5) It can help if we lower our expectations around sleep at daycare. Sleep is likely not going to be as deep and restorative as it would be at home - there are distractions, other people around and it will be harder for them to link sleep cycles.
6) I'd encourage you to try and offer extra time in the evenings one on one. Yes, an earlier bedtime is needed, but try to take time out with them to fill their emotional tanks. They need it if they have been separated from us all day. I know it can be hectic getting home getting dinner sorted etc, so try to schedule at least 10 mins of quiet cuddle/reading time with them before bed. This means they will be less likely to wake looking for that overnight which we want to avoid! Give yourself grace though - it's a big period of adjustment for you all!
7) If your little one is under 12 months of age and has had 2 really short daycare naps, then sometimes it can be helpful to slip in a 3rd nap from 3-5pm (even on the way home in the car) but cap this around 15-20 minutes if you can.
Try to let go of any mum guilt! Often we worry when our little ones are upset at pick up and bedtime because they have been left during the day. More often than not it's just that they are tired from full-on busy daycare days. Stick to your consistent bedtime routine and if you feel they need a little bit more reassurance from you, then offer it but short term - have a plan to remove yourself from the room so you don't become held hostage!
If daycare doesn't match at home style - don't panic. It's likely your little one will be able to maintain a new way of doing things at daycare and their home way. You may be thinking how will my great sleeper who loves the dark, their cot, and their white noise settle in the light surrounding by others on a floor cot!? They will - the other great thing with daycare is herd mentality - they see everyone else doing the same and it will soon become their norm!
Give them some time to adjust - they'll get there. Be prepared for sickness, which will likely happen in the first weeks after starting daycare. This may affect their sleep. Again, offer early bedtimes to build their immune system back up and try not to fully assist them to sleep.
If you find your little one is struggling with sleep at daycare and you need some help to get things on track or come up with a good routine, book in a consult or give me a call and we can discuss things further.