daycare and your baby's sleep

August 12, 2022

Starting daycare can be a stressful transition as a parent. Let’s unpack some common challenges that daycare brings and how to work through them. Maybe you’ve been establishing a schedule, learning your baby’s sleep and hunger cues, and are even getting some nice long naps at home. Or, you’re still getting the hang of things. […]

Daycare & Your Baby’s Sleep

Starting daycare can be a stressful transition as a parent. Let’s unpack some common challenges that daycare brings and how to work through them.

Maybe you’ve been establishing a schedule, learning your baby’s sleep and hunger cues, and are even getting some nice long naps at home. Or, you’re still getting the hang of things. Either way, it’s hard to let go of control when it comes to your baby’s sleep.

The number one thing I want you to hear when it comes to daycare is that it’s okay to be clear about what your wishes are for your child’s naps and feedings. Especially if you are a new mom, it can feel intimidating to ask for what you want. But the thing is if you don’t ask, then you definitely won’t receive.

Most daycares have a 4:1 ratio of caregivers to infants. They have to do what makes sense in that situation which typically means their goal is to get the babies fed and down for naps efficiently and to keep everyone as happy as possible. They’re pretty much winging it in terms of when feedings and naps occur, which is why you need to provide them with a schedule.

Provide written instructions for daycare.

Depending on how old your baby is when starting daycare, you can either use wake windows or a set schedule. If using wake windows, provide a window of time that your baby can typically be awake before needing a nap.

List the following clearly:

  • How long they can nap before they need to be awoken for a feeding.
  • A minimum amount of time that baby should be awake before being offered another nap.
  • What time in the day that naps should end (i.e. 4pm).

Ask questions and clearly state your non-negotiables.

For example,

“Do babies ever sleep anywhere other than their crib or being held? “

If so, I would probably be looking for another daycare. But if that’s not an option, then make it a point to say that you don’t want your baby sleeping anywhere other than in their cot or being held if you’re okay with that.

Ask if you can bring a white noise machine for your child, as well as if they are able to be placed in a sleep sack for naps. You can also ask that their cot be placed in an area of the room that is a bit darker.

Be clear with daycare about your feeding expectations.

In order to ensure great night sleep, it’s important that baby gets full feedings during the day. Sometimes this can be a challenge at daycare. They’re distracted or an attempt to feed them is being made at the wrong time.

Daycare staff sometimes have a tendency to view baby being upset as a sign that they are hungry. They may try to feed them too often, which can result in your baby taking in small quantities of milk throughout the day. Be specific about when you want feedings to occur. And similar to with sleep, ask that they wait to feed your child until the amount of time you specify has elapsed (anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on the age of your baby.)

Be flexible.

You will experience an adjustment period when starting daycare. Especially if your baby is used to sleeping in an environment with blackout curtains and no other kids.

On days when baby had short naps or they skipped a nap, you have options. You can either: a) offer a bridge nap (a nap less than 20 minutes long) to get them to bedtime; or b) offer an early bedtime.

Eventually, your baby will be able to take longer naps at daycare. Naps may still be shorter compared to when baby is at home, and that’s expected.

On weekends, allow your baby to nap a bit longer to help make up for any sleep debt they may have experienced that week.

Know that in the end, you can only control so much about your child’s sleep when they’re at daycare. Continue to advocate and update your child’s sleep and feeding needs as they grow.

Was this helpful? Hit reply to let me know your thoughts or questions about daycare and your baby’s sleep!

Want an age-appropriate schedule for your little one? Try the Free Schedule Generator!

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