Sleep at Daycare
One of the biggest sources of worry for many of my clients is what do when they send their little ones to daycare. Whether they’ve already gotten their baby on a carefully planned nap schedule or they’re beginning to work 1:1 with me to get their baby sleeping better overall, parents are frequently concerned about whether their daycare provider will be able (or willing) to follow that same schedule.
Choosing a Daycare
If you have not enrolled your baby into daycare yet, I always suggest looking around and trying your best to find a daycare that follows at least a similar schedule as the one you’re comfortable with (or one where the providers are at least willing to work with you.) After all, sleep is such a crucial element of your little one’s development and day-to-day life that it should be a primary consideration when you’re choosing where they’ll be spending the majority of their days. I’m a huge advocate of shopping around until you find a daycare that’s on the same page as you in all areas, including sleep.
Improve Naps at Daycare
Unfortunately, there are a finite number of daycare providers in any given area so shopping around might not be a feasible option. Or maybe your little one has already started going to daycare and they are pretty firm on when they put the kids down for daytime naps.
In this instance, the most important thing to do is communicate with the daycare providers what you’re okay with and what you expect. For example, let them know about any sleep environment accommodations you’re hoping to see in the nap area. Share your favorite blackout shades with them; bring a portable sound machine and ask if they can use it near your baby’s crib as an extra layer of comfort and familiarity; bring an extra sleep sack. Don’t be afraid to speak up and advocate for your baby’s sleep needs.
Additionally, share with your daycare providers your philosophy on a little bit of fussing or crying while your babe is falling asleep. If you don’t tell them otherwise, they’ll almost always soothe baby to sleep in one way or another as soon as they start to make some noise. If you’ve been working hard on independent sleep habits at home, you know that’s not something you want them unintentionally messing with. If you’ve just broken a serious pacifier habit, tell them about it and ask that they avoid offering pacifiers. If baby’s got a strong association between rocking and falling asleep, ask that they soothe baby without picking her up. Most daycare providers are happy to make some arrangements with parents if it means a happy, sleeping baby and a happy, satisfied parent.
Go to Daycare & Have a Great Sleeper Too!
But what happens if daycare’s nap schedule is vastly different from yours at home? Again, communicate your ideal schedule your child’s providers and ask if they can accommodate the times you’ve been working with. If they agree, great! Many daycares are happy to have a baby that sleeps a lot and are always happy to have one that goes to sleep easily. Sleep superstars are welcome everywhere they go! But if they are resistant to your preferences or the rules are less flexible, there are still things you can do like allowing for a car snooze on the way home, opting for an earlier bedtime on daycare days, and offering more naps on the weekends.
The good news is that even if your daycare does things a little differently, babies are usually able to compartmentalize what happens at daycare and what happens at home as far as sleep routines are concerned. They have an easier time realizing that even though they might have gotten rocked to sleep in one environment, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be getting the same treatment at home.
The other silver lining is that daytime sleep isn’t quite as deep or “high-quality” as nighttime sleep. Nighttime is when baby really gets some good hours of rejuvenation and restoration, so even though they might be missing out on some nap time, it’s not as bad as if they weren’t getting those hours at night. If your little one has had a day of crap naps, go ahead and get them into bed a bit earlier that evening. Though it may be a bummer to miss out on some time with them in the evenings, remember that it’s quality over quantity, and no one likes hanging with an overly tired, cranky baby!
I’m not usually big on making lots of exceptions to the rules since routines are such an important part of a baby’s sleep, but sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders and accept the reality of the situation. Work with your daycare, communicate your wishes and explain why they’re important, but remember that you can only control so much and that most of the time what happens at daycare stays at daycare.
If you’re getting ready to start daycare and don’t already have a great sleeper, it’s a wonderful time to make some lifelong changes. Get started with a complimentary 15-minute sleep evaluation and learn more about how your little one can be a sleep superstar in no time!
If you’re exhausted, totally overwhelmed by your child’s sleep habits, or looking for answers to the sleep questions that keep you up at night (literally), then you’ve come to the right place. I’m Jamie, founder of Oh Baby Consulting, and my goal is to help your family get the sleep you need to not just survive, but thrive!