Before we delve into the world of day care, and all that it entails, as a Sleep Consultant in Denver and Kansas, and for many of you who have worked with me personally, please know that when it comes to daycare and sleep schedules, my approach as a sleep consultant, is “hands off.” I have found that most day care providers are well versed in getting babies and toddlers to sleep. In my experience, I have found when you tell one provider your specific request – regarding daycare and sleep schedules – for your child, it often does not get passed down stream causing unnecessary frustration. Please know that this does not mean we cannot lay guidelines for these providers; I just want to give you permission not to stress out about it.
Below are practical ways to embrace daycare and make your baby’s sleep schedule work at home and away, while you work on teaching your baby independent sleep skills. As you embark on securing the right daycare, you will face the challenge of putting your baby in someone else’s hands for the day.
I am going to be honest and tell you that it can be tough to combine day care and sleep schedules. When your baby is testing your willpower during a tough night where you stood strong and did not give in, it is hard to put your trust into someone else and hope they will keep your system in order.
Personally, as a sleep consultant and a mom, when I faced this situation for the first time I felt like I had just achieved first place in the Sleep Olympics for being the best sleep consultant in Denver and Kansas, (and maybe even the United States), and as I was reaching for my medal, some stranger jumped on stage and took it from me.
Ok, so I am being a little dramatic. I really was a nervous wreck when I faced handing my baby over for the first time, because the strange person holding onto my gold medal in my fantasy was my mother, and while I know for a fact she was fully capable of watching my son, I was scared and had these thoughts in my head.
I was the best at this!
I knew all the sleep benefits my baby was getting with my routine!
Why would I trust someone else to take away my hard work and determination?
No way. Not on your life.
However, I came to my senses and am happy to share that there is good news; it is an achievable goal to entrust in someone else. They may not win the gold, though the silver is a fairly good second, and sending your little one to daycare will not sabotage their sleep routines if you take the time to work with your provider. I have great tips to help you do that in a way that will make this as easy and conflict-free as possible.
First thing first, do you have a daycare provider in mind? If you do not, keep reading. If you do, you can skip down to the next section if you want, or you can read and share this advice with one of your mom friends who might be looking.
Daycare and Sleep Schedules: Choosing a Daycare Provider
A couple of sleep-centered ideas to keep in mind when deciding on a day care provider are listed below, and please note, these are not deal breakers, just considerations:
- Ask what their approach to naps are. Are the kids on a specific sleep routine?
- Do they allow individual nap times, or are all the kids on the same sleep schedule for the same amount of time?
- Ask to see where they will be sleeping, is it safe?
- Is the room they sleep in dark?
- Is the room separated with several kids, some sleeping and some awake playing quietly?
- Can you bring a white noise machine for your kiddo? (It can be beneficial to provide a replica of your room at home for your baby to stay on task.)
- Ask if they are capable of accommodating your specific requests such as allowing your baby to cry for a few minutes, or will they not offer sleep props per your wishes?
These are important questions to ask. You do not want to start off at a great daycare to find out they do not match your sleeping schedule for your child. Do not be afraid to hold this conversation with a potential day care, you are entitled to ensure your hard work and schedule your child is on will not be compromised.
Daycare and Sleep Schedules: Communicating with Baby’s Caregiver
You’ve settled on a great daycare provider, or you have already had your little one in a place you have been happy with, the question now is; how do you ensure the daycare and sleep schedules are on the same page as you with your baby or toddlers sleep routine?
Speak up. Share with them the allotted time you are comfortable with letting your baby fuss. Typically, care providers will default to a “no-cry” approach, unless they are instructed otherwise.
Discuss what they use for sleep props. A sleep prop can be pacifiers, mobiles with music, rocking in a chair or rocking bassinet, a bottle or sippy cup to suck on and sooth them to sleep, amongst others. They are many sleep props or methods, and it is up to you to ensure they follow your pattern at home to ensure a cohesive sleep routine for your little one away from home.
Daycare providers are often at capacity with little ones ranging in ages, and you need to be respectful of their limitations, too. They are often required to follow strict safety rules and may not be able to accommodate every request you are asking of them. A dark room with white noise machines might not be a request they can accommodate due to these rules.
The most important part is to maintain open communication. Be sure to let your provider know where you are in the process of your baby’s sleep schedule, and if there are any issues. Keep in mind their goal is to ensure your little one’s sleep schedule is on track with them, too. A well-rested baby who sleeps well at nap time, with little fuss, is a dream baby for them.
A Few Random Tips
Here are a few tips that are likely to come in handy, regardless of the differences between your home, and their daycare:
- If you have not begun your sleep training schedule yet, choose the furthest date away from their next day of daycare.
- Note that the first couple of nights will be a rollercoaster of emotions for both you and baby and you will both feel a little out of sorts for the first 48 hours. Stay strong! You can do this!
- If you can, try to get at least three to four nights of sleep training before you baby has to go to daycare. Keep track of milestones reached as well as reasons baby won’t sleep.
- Ask if there is a provider at the daycare who is willing to help you with the schedule for a day or two, preferably Monday and Tuesday if you started on Friday, and have them sit with you during their nap time, so your baby has the time needed to grow accustomed to their sleeping arrangement both at home and at daycare.
- It may seem best to ease your baby into their new situation; however, it is imperative to start off with the same schedule you want them to end up at. If your baby will be going to daycare the entire week, Monday through Friday, ensure they go each day, so they are not missing a day of their same sleep schedule. They will adjust much faster, and far easier this way. Avoid any situation where they are only going one day the first week, two days the next week, etc. it will not be easier on them to maintain a schedule, even if it seems that way.
- Babies can distinguish between their various environments. The habits they pick up at their daycare will not always crossover to home. Do not give too much thought to your baby being offered a pacifier at daycare, your baby should be able to understand this is only something they will receive at daycare, and not at home.
- If you have a set schedule at home, and it varies at daycare, it is okay. While it is ideal, it is not the end of the world if the two do not sync up. It is preferable, though not essential.
- When driving home from daycare and your baby is dozing off, do your best to keep them awake. Avoid a catnap and put them to bed earlier if it is after 4:00 p.m. If you cannot keep baby awake for the ride, ensure they have some awake time before bed to keep a consistent schedule.
In the end, there is no reason why daycare and sleep schedules should not work together. Know that your daycare providers are on your team. Their goal is to create a cohesive schedule for your little one the best they can. Keeping your baby well rested keeps you happy, and that is a win-win for your provider.
Keep an open line of dialog with your provider. Be kind, be respectful and most of all, be patient. They will try to do the best they can to ensure a similar situation for your baby at daycare and sleep schedules they are following at home. Stay strong with your bedtime routine at home and stay on schedule as best you can. Avoid sleep props and trust that everything will fall into place. As one of the most sought-after sleep consultants in Denver and Kansas, and most importantly, as a mom who is going through this right now, I assure you I speak with authority on the subject, and I am here to help you in any way I can.