So you’ve worked hard for several weeks to establish healthy routines and independent sleep skills for your little one. And now they are heading to daycare or preschool and you are worried everything is about to unravel!
Whether you’ve already gotten your baby on a carefully planned nap schedule or you are planning on starting one, a problem obviously arises if their daycare provider doesn’t follow that same schedule.
If you have already sleep trained your little one and are now searching for a daycare or preschool program, you have a little bit more leeway. I suggest you look around and try your best to find a daycare that follows at least a similar schedule as the one you’ve implemented at home.
After all, sleep is such a crucial element of your little one’s development and their day to day life, that it should be a primary concern when you are choosing where they will be spending their day, so I’m a huge advocate of shopping around until you find one that’s on the same page as you, nap-wise.
Unfortunately, there are a finite number of daycare providers in any given area, so that might not be an option. Or maybe your little one has already started going to daycare and they don’t offer as many naps a day as your child needs, or the timing is way different than when he naps at home.
In this instance, the most important thing to do is communicate what you’re okay with. Let them know that you’ve been working on a nap time schedule 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. Champion sleepers are welcome everywhere they go!
If you’ve been working on independent sleep skills for your child and you know your baby always fusses a little right before falling asleep, it’s important that you let the childcare providers know if you are alright with a little bit of fussing while baby falls 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.
Some daycares, however, have a policy regarding crying, and will pick baby up as soon as they start crying regardless of your instructions. This can be frustrating if you know your little one will fall asleep after 45 seconds of fussing, but if it’s the policy of the daycare, there’s not much you or the staff can do about it, so it’s best to just focus on how to minimize the effect they have on your child’s sleep skills.
Let the daycare providers know what you would prefer as far as “sleep props” go, and what you would prefer they avoid. If you’ve worked hard to break a serious pacifier habit, tell them about it and ask that they avoid offering pacifiers. If baby has a strong association between rocking and falling asleep, ask that they soothe baby without picking her up. Again, most daycare providers are happy to make some arrangements with parents if it means a happy, sleeping baby and a happy, satisfied parent.
The good news is that babies are quite often able to distinguish, somewhat, between 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 the one environment, it doesn't necessarily mean they’ll be getting the same treatment at home, so bear that in mind when you’re deciding how much diversion from your boundaries you are willing to accept.
Whatever sleep cues you’ve implemented at home, let the daycare know what your child uses, and provide those same things for the daycare as well (i.e. a lovey if age appropriate, sleep sack, white noise, etc.). Again, different daycares have different policies on these items, so find out ahead of time what is allowed, and what isn’t.
The silver lining is that nap time sleep isn’t quite as deep and “high-quality” as nighttime sleep. The night is when baby really gets the good hours of rejuvenation and restorative effects of a solid snooze, 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. When you pick your kiddo up from daycare, find out how they napped for the day, and if naps were a disaster, be prepared to go straight home and do an early bedtime to avoid extreme over-tiredness.
Generally speaking, it’s best not to make exceptions to the boundaries you’ve established with your child, as routine is 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 it’s important, and whatever they can’t accommodate, well... the daycare will have to figure out how to make things work in their own way. As long as you are staying consistent at home, it is likely your child's night time sleep will stay in tact. He will eventually get used to his new normal.
If you are struggling with establishing routines of any kind at home (never mind daycare), please use the link below to book a FREE evaluation call with Dream Factory Sleep Solutions to find out how to help your little one start getting the sleep they need both at home AND at