Daycare and Sleep

One of the biggest obstacles my clients face is what do when they send their little ones to daycare in regards to maintaining or starting a sleep schedule. Whether they already have their baby on a carefully planned nap schedule or they’re planning on starting one, a problem arises if their daycare provider doesn’t follow that same schedule, or worse, they refuse to accommodate your child’s needs.

Trust me, I know how difficult it is to find decent and affordable childcare. It is literally the reason I decided to stay home after my second child was born. It may be near impossible to find a daycare provider that does things exactly the way you might do yourself.

So what do I do you ask. The most important thing to do is communicate what you want. Let them know that you have been working on a nap schedule and ask them to be consistent with your plan. If they agree, great! Many daycare's are happy to have a baby that sleeps a lot, and especially thrilled with one that goes to sleep easily. Make sure to ask about specific policies...some daycare's, have a policy regarding crying, and will pick baby up and soothe them as soon as they start crying regardless of your instructions. This can be frustrating if you know your little one will fuss for a bit and them put themselves to sleep. If this is the case at your daycare, there’s not much you or the staff can do about it, so it’s best to just focus on how to minimize other habits you are working on breaking.

So, If you’ve just broken a serious pacifier habit, tell them about all the hard work you did to get there and tell them not to give one. And make sure you take any home that were previously left there for you child so they won't be able to give in. If you are trying to break the habit of your baby being rocked to sleep, 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.

Here’s some good news: babies are quite often able to distinguish between what happens at daycare and what happens at home as far as sleep routines are concerned. They seem to be able to realize that just because they were rocked to sleep at daycare, doesn’t mean they will be at home as long as parents remain consistent with bedtime expectations.

More good news: nap time sleep isn’t quite as deep and “high-quality” as nighttime sleep. Nighttime is when most of your child’s restorative sleep happens, so no matter what happens at daycare, focus on bedtime and night sleep when you get your child home. And remember, a rocky nap day at daycare may mean an earlier bedtime to catch up on missed sleep.

I do believe consistency is important but, although you can do anything, you can’t do everything. Some things are just out of your control so focus on the things within your control.

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