Sleep Training and Daycare
This may be one of the biggest challenges you’ll face when you’re teaching your child those independent sleep skills. You have worked so hard at home on teaching those skills, but now you are about to put your child in someone else’s care for the day. Combining sleep training and daycare can be tough, but the good news is, it’s achievable. Sending your little one to daycare is not going to sabotage their sleep so long as you take the time to work with your daycare provider. Below are some great tips to help you do that in a way that will make this as easy and conflict-free as possible.
First of all, have you already decided on your daycare provider? If not, then keep reading. If yes, you can skip down to the next section.
Choosing a Daycare Provider
When you’re deciding on a daycare provider, here are a couple of sleep-centered things to keep in mind. While none of these are deal-breakers, they’re just a few things to consider when you are choosing where your child will spend most of their days at.
Ask them what their approach is to naps.
Do they follow a set schedule? Do they follow wake windows? Do they determine nap timing and duration individually or as a group?
Ask about the sleep environment.
Is it a fully-lit room with several other kids or a semi-private space where they can keep things dark? Do they follow the safe-sleep guidelines per the AAP?
Ask if you are able to bring your own sleep aids.
Can you bring your own sound machine, sleep sack or swaddle, lovey?
Ask if they are capable of accommodating specific requests in regards to baby’s naps.
Will they allow your baby to cry for a few minutes if thats needed to self-soothe? Will they hold off on offering sleep assistance to your little one if you ask them to? Will they wake your child at a certain time to preserve bedtime if you ask them to?
Handling Sleep At Daycare
Once you’ve decided on a daycare provider, or if you already have your little one in a place you’re happy with, it’s helpful to be on the same page when it comes to approaching sleep. Even though many children are pretty good at separating “what happens at daycare” vs “what happens at home”, as much consistency as possible between home and daycare is helpful!
Communicate your preferences for your child’s naps.
Let them know about any sleep environment accommodations you’re hoping to see, such as a portable sound machine, a familiar sleep sack, and darkness during daytime if they allow it.
Let them know how much fussing/crying you’re okay with.
Share with your daycare providers your philosophy on a little bit of fussing or crying while your babe is falling asleep. Most daycare providers will default to a “zero crying” approach unless instructed otherwise. But if your baby has good sleep skills, you know that any fussing & crying is oftentimes their way of “winding down” and doesn’t require any intervention
Ask them to avoid unhelpful sleep props, especially ones you may have worked had to break previously.
Be specific about the types of things that you don’t want them offering to help your little one fall asleep. Example, If you’ve just worked hard to break a serious pacifier habit, share this with them and ask that they avoid offering pacifiers. If your child previously had a strong dependency on being rocked to sleep, ask that they soothe your little one without rocking to sleep. Most daycare providers are happy to make some arrangements with parents if it means a happy, rested child in their care
Be respectful of their limitations.
Daycare providers are looking after multiple children 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 ask of them.
Maintain open communication.
Let your daycare provider know that you’ve been working hard on your baby’s sleep 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 much fuss is a daycare provider’s dream come true!
Tips To Keep Sleep On Track
Despite your best efforts at open communication, sleep at daycare may still be a struggle some (or much) of the time, especially when your first make the daycare transition. If your child struggles with naps at daycare, here’s what you can do:
Offer an early bedtime
After a day of poor naps, the best cure is an early bedtime. Nighttime sleep is restorative, so even though your little one might be missing out on daytime sleep, it’s not as bad as if they weren’t getting those nighttime hours. If your little one has had a day of terrible naps, go ahead and get them down to bed earlier that evening. Yes, this might be a huge bummer and mean you have to miss out on that extra evening time together, but remember, no one enjoys an overly tired, cranky child!
Consider a car-snooze
If daycare pickup is early or you are okay with a slightly- shifted, later schedule (especially if you really want to get in those evening snuggles), you can also allow a short “cat nap” in the car on the way home from daycare. Just make sure your little one is awake with enough time to have a solid wake window before bed, otherwise you may have a bedtime battle on your hands.
All in all, there’s no reason why daycare and sleep 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. Remember to maintain open communication, and give your little one some grace—in the end, they just may need more time to make this adjustment.