Sleep Training and Daycare

Do you have a little one who attends daycare? Some families have the ability to send their child to daycare only part-time as a way to introduce socialization and get a break. But for many more families, sending their kiddo to daycare is a necessity that cannot be changed. And it can become a big obstacle that some of my clients face. That obstacle is due to the fact that daycare schedules are not always the same as the ones that you have set up for your child.

Sometimes I will suggest that families look around and find a daycare that follows a schedule that they are comfortable with as parents. After all, sleep is an incredibly crucial part of a child’s development AND day-to-day life. If you are choosing an environment where your little one will be spending and extensive amount of their day/week, then shop around until you find one that is on the same page as you are concerning their naps.  

However, I understand that shopping around is not always a feasible option. There are many factors here; you should LOVE your child’s care facility overall, price is always a concern, and there are only a certain number of daycare providers available in any given location. And if your child is already established and comfortable somewhere, it may not be best to uproot them just for the sake of keeping a nap for a few more weeks. So I am trying to be realistic here.  

So, realistically, the most important advice I can give is to COMMUNICATE with your daycare provider. Let them know how you have been working on naptime schedules and ask them to accommodate you in whatever way they can. Many times they will agree; it makes their job easier to have a baby that sleeps consistently and goes to sleep easily. And be clear about your expectation that it is alright to let baby fuss or protest before falling asleep. If you don’t specify it, they will likely resort to soothing baby to sleep (one way or another) as soon as they start to make some noise.

But keep in mind, some daycares will have policies that they adhere to regarding crying or scheduling (per age groups). This means they may not be able to follow your instructions – and a baby who can easily fall asleep on their own after 45 seconds of fussing will be picked up and soothed. If you can’t adjust their policies, or get any kind of accommodation, then you will need to focus on what you can request.  

Let the daycare providers know about specific “sleep props” to avoid. If you’ve just broken a serious paci 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.

Another thing to realize is that babies and young toddlers CAN distinguish between what happens at daycare and what happens at home, at least to some degree. This is great news! I have worked with hundreds of kiddos who are required to sleep in a daycare environment with different light levels, different noise levels, and other characteristics who remain super-star sleepers with their home environment and strategies intact. You can decide how their sleep plan will look at home and how deviations at daycare do not have to come home with them. You can also use your knowledge to inform the daycare that your child may NOT go to sleep as easily or sleep as soundly when they are being helped as they do when they are 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.

If you know my philosophies at all, then you know that “consistency” is my big buzzword. This is how we are able to see such great progress with baby sleep. And, in an ideal world, I would have all their sleep schedules, routines, and strategies, be consistent across environments (including daycare). But sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders and accept the reality of the situation… And have realistic expectations about it all. You child CAN sleep well at home and at daycare. And you CAN support that by having clear and open communication about your wishes and why they are important. They will likely accommodate whatever they can. And whatever they cannot? You will adapt and accept and move on.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change …” – Niebuhr

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