For most of us in the Great White North, some form of regular child care becomes a necessity when our little one is around 12-18 months.
Oh the emotions!
It’s no secret that Canadians are blessed with long maternity leave, but it can still pull at our mama heartstrings when the time comes to go back to work and leave our child with someone else. We know that daycare can be a place where they make friends, have fun, and learn life skills, but it can be hard to let them go at first.
One of the major concerns my clients have about sending their kids to child care has to do with their sleep. And I’m not surprised! They’re used to going to sleep in their own home, and now they’ll be somewhere new with lots of other kiddos. It’s as much a change for Mom & Dad as it is for your little one.
But as usual, I’m here to give you the goods on sleep and daycare so that you’ll know what to do, and ease your fears before sending them off. It’s gonna be okay, Mama!
So, How Do You Keep Sleep Struggles Out Of Daycare?
You can put those fears to bed! It can be stressful leading up to your return to work, but kids are extremely adaptable, and that totally works in your favour here. Most kids sleep really well at daycare, once they’ve settled in to their new normal. We all need time to adjust to changes, and that goes double for the little ones in our lives.
Since many of our littles are starting some form of child care around 1 year old, they’re somewhere between 2 and 1 naps a day. If your child is already used to 1 nap a day, sleeping at daycare should be fairly smooth.
If your child is used to a 2 nap schedule, but you know your daycare has everyone taking 1 nap, a little preparation can be helpful. You could try practicing it a couple days in advance, but no more than that. Why take away those needed naps earlier than you have to? If you’re nervous about making that jump from 2 naps to 1, check out these tips I whipped up for you!
Make sure you’re clear about the sleep situation at your child’s daycare. And feel free to ask questions! Most child care providers are reasonable and totally understand your request for better sleep. They care about your kids (almost!) as much as you do.
Control What You Can Control
If your child care option isn’t the go with the flow type, they likely put all the kids down for 1 nap a day at the same time. If your toddler is used to 1 nap, it’s not a big change. But if the 1 nap life is new for them, that’s where things can get tricky.
If you find yourself in this boat, there’s still plenty you can do! You’re not out of options, even if your daycare isn’t as flexible as you’d hoped.
Having an early bedtime is the first thing you’ll want to do. At least 30 minutes early at night is a great start - add more if needed. On top of not getting the daytime sleep they’re used to, daycare is a stimulating place! If they’re too tired, their adrenaline and cortisol levels spike, and their melatonin levels drop. This creates the perfect storm for an overtired wee one, which is not what we’re going for. Prevention is your best defense here.
If it’s been a few weeks or a month of consistently poor naps at daycare, that’s a good time to have a conversation with someone there. Clearly there’s something that goes beyond needing time to adjust. Respectful advocacy for your child can get to the root of what’s throwing off their sleep. Is there any wiggle room in their nap procedure to accommodate? Could you bring your white noise machine from home? Can they sleep in a more private area? You could pack a special stuffy that stays at daycare. It becomes their special friend and reminder of home, which is a great comfort while they sleep there. Bring their familiar things (think sleep sack, white noise, or blankie, if age appropriate) to mimic their home sleep environment as much as possible.
I’ll say that sometimes the premature transition from 2 naps to 1 can create some wonky sleep for a bit. If your little one is super tired in the morning, I’ve heard of daycares putting kids down for a morning nap (they’re super tired, after all!), but when the typical afternoon nap comes around, the child has no interest in a snooze. They stay up all afternoon and get wildly overtired by the evening. That’s tough on the child, and a lot to handle as the parent. If you find yourself in this sitch, feel free to talk with your daycare provider about actually sticking to the 1 afternoon nap as your child makes the transition.
Phew! That was a lot! It all boils down to being flexible about how things go, and knowing when to step in to support your child’s sleep. Bring the comforts of home with you, and keep things consistent. Daycare can be a wonderful place for your child, and they’ll learn to sleep well there, just like at home!
Big sleep changes always take time and patience, and a little support goes a long way in seeing the results you want. If you need support on any sort of sleep struggle, I’m always here for you. Connect with me on Instagram, or book your personal call to discuss how we can help you get your sleep, and enjoy parenting again.