Six Tips for Daycare Sleep
Parents decide to send their child to day for many reasons, whether it’s because they are returning to work, they need ‘kid free’ time at home or perhaps they want their child to experience the social interaction of other adults or children. Whatever the reason, it can be a challenging transition and it’s normal to feel apprehensive, especially if your child is a great sleeper at home. Or, your child might be a terrible sleeper at home and you are understandably worried that day-care will only make a bad situation worse.
You may have spent weeks getting your child to the point where they finally take great naps and the thought of their great sleep habits possibly unravelling can be daunting. The truth is, the length of time your child sleeps at day-care will probably be less than they usually do at home, but your child should eventually adapt. Some parents even find their children sleep for longer at day-care than they do at home, probably because they are super tired from all the stimulation and activities.
Shop around. The fanciest centre or closest day-care to your work or home may not necessarily be the best. It pays to ask questions and have a discussion specifically about naps and get a feel for how they operate. It’s impossible for staff to accommodate every parent request, but it’s still worth a discussion. Most centres are happy to do what they can to help a child nap well.
Write out a summary of your child’s normal sleep routine and any special requests or instructions and attach it to a clipboard. You may have just weaned your child off being rocked to sleep and don’t want them to regress, in which case it’s not unreasonable to request that staff don’t rock your child to sleep at day-care. It’s a good idea too, to include a brief outline of what to do if your child has a short nap but is still tired. Ask staff to hang this on the back of the cot where your child will be sleeping so they can easily refer to it. It’s hard for staff to remember every single thing each parent has told them about their child but this makes it easy.
Your child may need a power nap in the car on the way home. This is OK as it can help get them through until bedtime.
An early bedtime can help a lot, but it can be hard to get your child into bed early when you don’t get home until late. On these days, plan for a dinner that requires little preparation like a defrosted portion of casserole that you get ready the night before, or a simple meal of eggs, toast and yoghurt. It won’t matter if you give your child a quick shower instead of a bath and only read one story instead of three on these nights. Try not to seem outwardly hurried or stressed because your child will pick up on this and be more unsettled at bedtime.
Try and replicate the home sleep environment by asking if you can bring in your portable white noise machine, your child’s lovey, sleep sack or dummy. You may even be allowed to set up your child’s portacot for them to sleep in if they are used to this, and there could even be a storeroom or office space that they will allow you to set it up in. Then, you can use a portable cot cover like the SnoozeShade, to keep the cot dark and reduce the risk of distractions. If these things aren’t an option, request a specific cot or sleep mat that is in the darkest corner or furthest away from the others.
Give it time. If both you and the day-care staff are doing everything possible to help your child take good naps, that’s all you can do. It can take three weeks or more (depending on age) for a child to settle into a routine at day-care. Children are very resilient however, and are generally quick to adapt to sleeping in a new environment like day-care, even though they may not sleep for as long.