Almost every client I work with has some level of anxiety when the time comes to put their little one in daycare.  Whether a mom is just coming off maternity leave, or parents have just sleep trained their baby, the result is the same, anxiousness. And let’s not forget about the never-ending pandemic that adds a whole new layer of anxiety into the mix! Parents know all too well the worry of keeping little ones safe and the inconsistency of their child’s attendance due to contact tracing, exposure and/or infection.

Shew… that’s a lot… it’s more than a lot. It’s heavy.

The good news is that daycare can be a positive experience for everyone involved even during unprecedented times. Honestly, some of the best nappers attend daycare! There is hope. Adding daycare into the mix and maintaining your child’s independent sleep is achievable!

Sending your little one to daycare is not going to sabotage the sleep that has been established at home. However, you do want to take the time to work with your daycare provider, and I’ve got some great tips to help you do that in a way that will ease the transition.

Choosing a Daycare 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?

Ask if they have specific nap times?

Ask if they allow kids individual nap times or is it all kids together for a specified duration?

Ask if they have specific ages they transition naps? For example, all babies are only offered 1 nap once they turn 12 months.

Ask if the sleep environment is a fully lit room with several other kids or a semi-private space where they can keep things dark?

Ask if you can bring your own white noise machine?   

Ask if they can accommodate specific requests regarding baby’s naps?

At the end of the day, communication is the biggest key for daycare success. Ultimately, your baby’s sleep environment does not have to match their sleep environment at home to have success. Consistency is what babies, and all children thrive on. If there is consistency at daycare and consistency at home, baby will thrive in either situation because baby knows what to expect.

Communicating with Baby’s Caregiver

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 be done to ensure everybody’s pulling in the same direction regarding sleep?

Be respectful of their limitations. Daycare providers are looking after a lot of kids at once and are often required to follow some overarching safety rules and state regulations, so, don’t be surprised if they can’t accommodate every request thrown 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 daycare provider know that you’ve been working on your baby’s independent sleep skills and where you’re at with the process.  Ask your daycare to avoid using the specific sleep props your baby has learned to sleep without. Remember that they want your little one sleeping well 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 More Tips

If you haven’t started sleep training yet, start on a Friday night, or whatever day is farthest away from their next day of daycare. The first couple of nights are usually a bit of a roller coaster and baby is 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 there’s a care provider who can help you out for a day or two, consider asking them to sit in for the Monday and Tuesday, so baby has had a good amount of time to get accustomed to their new sleeping arrangement.

Don’t “ease baby in” to starting daycare. 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 from the start. 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 daycare won’t necessarily transfer over to sleep in the home. If your daycare provider allows them a pacifier, rocks to sleep, or whatever the situation may be, don’t worry too much about it. Baby will still be able to understand that it’s not the same when they’re at home.

Different schedules at home and daycare are okay.  It’s not the end of the world if their nap schedule at daycare doesn’t sync up with the schedule they have at home. It’s a definite bonus if you can make it work, but it’s not essential.

Sleep begets sleep; meaning daytime sleep will always affect nighttime sleep. When you pick your child up from daycare in the afternoon or evening, make sure you know when they slept and for how long throughout the day. Communication here is key. You will need this information so you know whether to keep bedtime the same, move it earlier, or push it back later.

Below are a few charts that can help guide you when deciding if baby needs an additional nap and/or if bedtime needs to be adjusted:

 

 

All in all, there’s no reason why daycare and sleep training can’t work together. Just keep in mind that your daycare 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 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, and things will fall into place.

Take a deep breath, Mama. It’s all going to be okay!