Sleeping at Daycare
“I know they won’t be sleeping at daycare.”
I remember when my twins were starting daycare. We had always had in home care and I worked from home so I could see them all the time. I was now trusting my heart and soul to someone else and that was scary.
What worried me, almost as much as trusting other people with my monkeys, was sleep. I kept coming back to “I know they won’t be sleeping at daycare!” on loop in my head. Maybe no surprise coming from a sleep consultant!
This is a very common concern for parents. If your little one is struggling with sleep at daycare or you are preparing for your child to start daycare, I’ve put together these tips to help you.
Partner With Your Daycare Provider
If you share your concerns with your daycare provider, most of the time, these amazing caregivers are willing to make accommodations where they can, within state regulations. Most daycare providers want what’s best for your little one and you and will work with you!
Daycares are strictly regulated and safety is always first. There may be things that would improve sleep that are outside of the control of your daycare. But there may be some quick changes, within the regulations, that the daycare can make to help improve the sleep of your little one.
Children sleep best in a room that is cool (68-72 degrees), dark and consistent white noise is playing for the entire sleep period.
What you can do:
Ask your daycare provider the following questions
- Can my child be put in the quietest, darkest corner of the room?
- Can I bring in the same sound machine that I use at home to put next to my child’s crib?
- Can my child wear their sleep sack from home?
- Can the teacher do a similar short routine like I do at home before putting my baby down?
- Can the teacher put my little one down first so that he or she has time to settle before other babies go down?
- Can the teacher put my little one down awake? (if that is what you do at home)
- If my baby stirs, can the teacher give my child a little time to resettle, if they wake up, to see if they can go back to sleep and extend the nap?
Another area where your daycare can help is to keep your little one on the same nap schedule at daycare that your little one is on at home. Sleep regularity is important in having quality sleep. A consistent schedule will go a long way towards giving your child the best chance of quality sleep while sleeping at daycare.
What you can do:
- Create a little chart with the desired nap times that the daycare providers can have on hand.
- Ask for a daily nap report of when your little one napped so it will help you with timing bedtime.
Many daycares try to transition babies to the toddler room at 12 months. In the toddler room, they only offer one afternoon nap.
Most babies need two naps a day until 15-18 months. Transitioning too soon to one nap can cause your little one to get into an overtired downward spiral and it can cause sleep disruptions at home.
What you can do:
Ask your daycare provider to keep your little in the infant room as long as possible or at the very least, allow your little one to take a morning nap in the infant room and spend the rest of the day in the toddler room.
More often than not, babies won’t sleep as well at daycare as they will at home in their perfect, sleep optimized nursery. I don’t know about you, but I sleep better at home than I would at an office or a public place!
This doesn’t mean that sleep has to completely fall apart, just know that the nap sleep quality may not be as good when your child is sleeping at daycare.
Many children will only sleep for one sleep cycle – 30-45 minutes. In a brighter, noisier environment, your baby may have a hard time linking their sleep cycles to take a restorative nap. Naps under an hour aren’t as restorative so your little one may get overtired from short naps all day.
What you can do:
Compensate with an early bedtime on daycare days.
- For babies, this can mean bedtime as early as 5:30 – 6:00 pm.
- For toddlers and preschoolers, this can mean bedtime as early as 6:00 – 6:30 pm.
The earlier bedtime can help your child recoup their sleep debt in the beginning part of the night when the sleep cycles have more deep, nourishing sleep. The early bedtime will help stave off the overtired downward spiral.
Many babies like to make up for the lost sleep during the week at home on the weekends! By all means, encourage long naps at home, but try not to overdo it. If babies nap too long during the day, it can cause difficulty falling asleep, night wakings and early morning wake ups. Try to stay within the normal range of total nap duration based on your baby’s age.
Remember the story about my boys above? They transitioned beautifully to sleeping at daycare! I wasted all that time worrying for nothing! Some babies actually sleep MORE at daycare because hanging out with their favorite people – YOU – isn’t an option. Your baby may surprise you!
As working parents, daycare is a necessity and if our babies don’t sleep as well there as they do at home, that’s ok! Night sleep and day sleep really are totally different. Plus your baby knows the difference between sleeping at daycare and at home.
Stay consistent at home and on daycare days use that early bedtime to your benefit!
If you need help figuring out daycare sleep or sleep in general for your little one, sign up for a free introductory call. During this 15 minute call, we will learn more about your child’s sleep challenges and discuss how we can help. You don’t have to survive sleep deprivation – you can help your family thrive with more sleep!
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