Day care and sleep, can they work together?

Putting your precious independent sleeper into someone else’s hands for the day can make us nervous right?

After all, you’ve powered through some hard nights, refused to give in when your baby tested your willpower, and now that everything’s finally running smoothly, you need to put your trust in someone else to keep things in order. Hmmmm…

day careHere’s the good news.

Sending your little one to day care is not going to sabotage their sleep so long as you take the time to work with your daycare provider.

I’ve got some great tips to help you do that in a way that will make this as easy and conflict-free as possible.

So… first of all, have you already decided on your daycare provider? If not, then keep reading. If so, you can skip down to the next section.

day care

Choosing a day care provider

When you’re deciding on a daycare provider, here are a couple of sleep-centered things to keep in mind. None of these are deal-breakers, they’re just a few things to consider.

  • Ask them what their approach is to naps. Do they put kids down at a specific time? Do they allow kids individual nap times or is it all kids together for a specified duration?
  • Are they capable of accommodating specific requests. Can you request nap times and number of naps?
  • Ask to see where they’ll be sleeping. Is it a fully-lit room with several other kids or a semi-private space where they can keep things dark?

Communication with your baby’s caregiver

So, once you’ve decided on a daycare provider, or if you already have your little one in a place you’re happy with, what can we do to ensure everybody’s pulling in the same direction on this sleep issue?

Ask them to avoid sleep props

Be specific about what you consider a sleep prop. Ask that they refrain from using a dummy, rocking to sleep, feeding to sleep, or whatever you’ve established as methods to get baby sleeping that you think they might become dependent on.

Let them know how and when you would like baby put down for sleep

Let them know specifics. i.e. how many naps a day your baby needs; how you would like baby placed down for a nap i.e. pop baby into his sleeping bag, give him his lovey (if he has one); leave baby be, to fall asleep independently. If you have a toddler dropping a his day nap, ensure day care are aware of this, and that quiet time is needed only.

day careBe respectful of their limitations

Day care providers are looking after a lot of kids at once and are often required to follow some overarching safety rules, so don’t be surprised if they can’t accommodate every request you throw their way.

Keeping an eye on several little ones at the same time usually means no white noise machines and no dark rooms.

Above all, maintain open communication.

Let your day care provider know that you’ve been working on your baby’s sleep issues and where you’re at with the process. Remember that they want your little one sleeping well almost as much as you do. A well-rested baby who goes down for naps without a lot of fuss is a daycare provider’s dream come true.

A few random tips:

Regardless of the particulars of your baby’s situation with their sleep in their home away from home, here are a few tips that are likely to come in handy…

If you haven’t started sleep training yet, start on a Friday night

Or whatever day is farthest away from their next day of day care. The first couple of nights are usually a bit of a roller coaster and baby’s likely to be a little out of sorts for the first 48 hours. It’s best to get at least three or four nights in before going to daycare if possible.

Don’t “ease baby in” to their new situation

Once you’re ready to start sending baby to daycare, start off with the same schedule you want to end up at. If they’ll be going every weekday, send them every weekday right off the jump. Don’t send them for a day the first week, two days the next, and so on. They’ll adjust quicker and easier this way.

Babies are usually capable of distinguishing between different environments.

Habits they learn at day care won’t necessarily transfer over to sleep in the home. Likewise, different schedules at home and day care are OK. It’s not the end of the world if their nap schedule at day care doesn’t sync up with the one they have at home. It’s a definite bonus if you can make it work, but it’s not essential.

If baby starts falling asleep on the ride home, try to keep them awake.

It’s better to put them to bed early than offer a catnap after 4:00 PM. If baby does fall asleep, wake them up when you get home and let them get some more awake time before bed.

All in all, there’s no reason why day care means terrible sleep.

Keep in mind that your day care providers are your allies in this mission. They have a vested interest in your little one being as happy and well rested as possible, and they obviously want to keep baby’s parents happy too.

Maintain open lines of dialog, be respectful and patient, and accept that they can’t always tailor things to each individual child as much as they would like to.

Keep up your bedtime routine; stick to your schedule as closely as possible; do an early bedtime following day care days to avoid over tiredness; keep baby away from those sleep props; and things will fall into place nicely.

Need personalised help? Book in a free sleep evaluation and take the first step to great sleep.