Sleep Training and Daycare

One of the biggest obstacles my clients face is what do when they send their little ones to daycare.

Whether they’ve already gotten their baby on a carefully planned nap schedule or they’re planning on starting one, a problem obviously arises if their daycare provider doesn’t follow that same schedule.

 In the latter scenario, parents have a little bit more leeway, and I always suggest that they look around and try their best to find a daycare that follows at least a similar schedule as the one the parents are comfortable with.

After all, sleep is such a crucial element of your little one’s development, and their day to day life, that it should be a primary concern when you’re choosing where they’ll be spending their day, so I’m a huge advocate of shopping around until you find one that’s on the same page as you, nap-wise.

Unfortunately, there are a finite number of daycare providers in any given area, so that might not be an option. Or maybe your little one has already started going to daycare and they only put the kids down for one nap a day. So, let’s be realistic here.

In this instance, the most important thing to do is communicate what you’re okay with. Let them know that you’ve been working on a naptime schedule and ask if they can accommodate the times you’ve been working with. If they agree, great! Many daycares are happy to have a baby that sleeps a lot, and are always happy to have one that goes to sleep easily. Champion sleepers are welcome everywhere they go!

It’s also important that you let them know if you’re alright with a little bit of crying while baby falls asleep, because if you don’t tell them otherwise, they’ll almost always soothe baby to sleep in one way or another as soon as they start to make some noise.

Some daycares, however, 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 fall asleep after 45 seconds of fussing, but if it’s the policy of the daycare, there’s not much you or the staff can do about it, so it’s best to just focus on how to minimize the effect they have on the program.

So let the daycare providers know what you would prefer as far as “sleep props” go, and what you would prefer they avoid. If you’ve just broken a serious soother habit, tell them about it and ask that they avoid offering pacifiers. If baby’s got a strong association between rocking and falling asleep, 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.

The good news is that babies are quite often able to distinguish, somewhat, between what happens at daycare and what happens at home, as far as sleep routines are concerned. They have an easier time realizing that, even though they might have gotten rocked to sleep in the one environment, it doesn't necessarily mean they’ll be getting the same treatment at home, so bear that in mind when you’re deciding how much diversion from the plan you’re willing to accept. You can also use this knowledge to let your daycare know that your little one may not fall asleep as easily, or sleep as soundly, with their help as they would on their own.

The other silver lining is that nap time sleep isn’t quite as deep and “high-quality” as nighttime sleep. The night is when baby really gets the good hours of rejuvenation and restorative effects of a solid snooze, so even though they might be missing out on some nap time, it’s not as bad as if they weren’t getting those hours at night.

I’m not usually big on making exceptions to the rules, as routine is such an important part of a baby’s sleep, but sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders and accept the reality of the situation. Work with your daycare, communicate your wishes and explain why it’s important, and whatever they can’t accommodate, well... you might as well accept it and move on.

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