So you've got babe sleeping well at home? Yay! Then the old daycare sleep comes along to throw a spanner in the mix. Can you even control the day care sleeps? While we can't control the environment 100%, we can set babe up for success.
Here, sleep consultants Slumber and Sprout give us their advice on getting the best day care sleep possible.
When it comes to choosing the right daycare for our children, it can be quite daunting - there are pros and cons for each choice. One thing to take into account? Where and how will your daycare put babe to bed? Some daycares have a sleep environment that's more conducive to sleep than others. If your little one isn’t in daycare yet, we recommend touring a couple of centres and reviewing their sleep spaces so that you know the type of environment your little one will be expected to sleep in. It’s also really important to ask the centres whether or not they will implement the routine you follow at home – some will - and some don’t have the capacity to do this. Too often we see littles ones sleeping at daycare outside of an age appropriate schedule and this can cause a lot of challenges with sleep at home, so it is important to query this.
Daycare sleep can be a tricky thing. Having somebody entirely new getting your babe to sleep in an entirely different environment is a big adjustment. Throw into the mix the sensory overload your mini will be experiencing with all the new faces and activities, it is no surprise sleep can take a hit. Don’t worry, not every baby or toddler will be thrown by the change. In fact, many actually settle really well and sleep great while in the care of others because their tired tank is filled with all of the activity they are exposed to. For some little ones, initially their sleep takes a hit when they first start daycare but then it all settles down nicely and with a little practice they are able to transfer their great sleep skills from home to child care.
Below are our top tips and considerations when it comes to daycare sleep.
START WITH A GOOD SLEEPER
If possible, it is a really great idea to start daycare with a good sleeper. Your little one is going to have a much easier time adapting to this change if they are already capable of getting themselves to sleep and you have a good idea of the awake windows that work best for them. The daycare staff are going to have a much easier time accommodating your requests if your mini is able to get themselves to sleep unassisted.
BRING SLEEP PROPS FROM HOME
If your little one normally sleeps with a dummy, comfort toy or a sleeping bag bring these along and ask daycare to use them for all naps. These are comforting items to your little one and will help let them know that sleep time is approaching, just like they do when used at home. If you use a sleep statement at home, ask daycare stuff to use the same statement to cue sleep time. If you mini does not have a comfort toy and it is age appropriate, (7 months onwards) consider introducing one. Ask daycare if you can supply a portable white noise machine if you use white noise at home. The sleep environment may not be optimal like at home but most little ones adjust quickly and become more adaptable sleepers for it.
We recommend having a discussion with the staff at your child’s daycare centre around how your bub settles to sleep at home. Ideally we want them taking the same approach. As mentioned above, it will be easier for everyone if your child can already self settle, but we understand this isn’t always possible. Work with the day care staff to come to an arrangement that works for everyone and involves as little assistance as possible for your bub.
In addition to this, we recommend letting your child care educators know when you would like your bub to be put to bed if the centre are not on a set sleep time schedule. You may feel a bit silly dictating this, but trust us, they will appreciate you taking the guess work out of it for them. Instructing educators on what time you would like your little one to go to sleep based on age appropriate awake windows and what time they woke for the day will ensure they are not trying to settle an overtired baby, which as you know is a difficult task.
STAY IN THE LOOP
In our experience, daycares are great at keeping caregivers in the loop as to how the day is going. Some use an app to inform parents of sleep times throughout the day, others allow you to call and ask how long your bub slept for. While your little one is starting out and daycare staff are learning your preferences it is a great idea to track your little ones sleep. If you learn that they had a short nap then you may be able to request that they go down for their next nap at the shorter end of their awake window bracket.
If the day is not going well and you have the option of picking your child up early to have their final nap at home, then that is ideal. Or it might be that you allow for a scenic drive on the way home from pick up to give your mini a catnap so they are not too tired to have dinner before going to bed for the night. This catnap does not mean that you should apply a full awake window afterwards, but it may help you prevent bedtime battles due to an overtired bub.
KEEP BEDTIME FLEXIBLE
There might be days where your little one just doesn’t have enough day sleep and you need to put them to bed early. Follow your little ones cues and don’t hold them out for their regular bedtime or usual final awake window if they are tired. There is nothing wrong with a 5:30pm/6pm bedtime if that’s what your little one needs.
FILL THEIR (AND YOUR!) LOVE CUP
There is little doubt you will have missed your little darling while they were in child care for the day, so when everyone is home you want to be focusing your attention on them, not worrying about dinner or home chores. Daycare evenings are the perfect night for easy or pre-prepared dinners. Rest assured that daycare will have provided nutrient dense food, so if dinner needs to be eggs or cereal that is fine. Some little ones will just be too exhausted from their day of fun to eat a good dinner.
Daycare naps take time to master. The more frequently your little one goes to daycare, the quicker they will get on top of sleeping there. If you mini is only attending daycare once or twice a week it may take them a little longer to manage long naps.
Keep in mind that daycare workers have a tough job. They do a great job juggling many children and multiple different sleep schedules and requests. The more straight forward you can make their hectic and oh so important job, the better.
Need some more help? If your little one is starting daycare soon and you need some help to get sleep sorted before they commence, Slumber and Sprout are here to help and we have different support options depending on your needs.
You can visit us over here https://slumberandsprout.com.