Daycare and Your Child's Sleep
Updated: Sep 7, 2022
Some babies sleep surprisingly well at daycare, maybe even with stronger independent sleep skills than they practice at home. Some babies actually sleep much better at daycare!
For most babies though, daycare sleep is a struggle, and this makes a lot of sense. The daycare sleep environment is stimulating. There are more variables, increased excitement, initially unfamiliar caregivers, different routines, and sometimes different timing. It’s just very very different from what we work so hard to create for ideal sleep when we’re at home, and so it’s no surprise when naps are shorter or even skipped at school.
Here are FIVE tips to get the most out of daycare sleep for your child.
Work on strong healthy and independent sleep skills at home so your child is familiar with putting themselves to sleep when their bodies and brains are asking for sleep. Read my blog on the top 5 healthy sleep tips for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers for more information on what to address.
Communicate with your child’s daycare staff! Daycare teachers are amazing, and they are also invested in having a well rested child who can give them a few well deserved breaks during the day. Initiate a conversation about how they offer naps to the children and provide information about your child’s preferred environment, routines, and timing for sleep.
There are usually going to be some restrictions limiting a truly ideal sleep environment, but it’s always worth asking if you might be able to bring in a continuous white noise machine or if they have any ideas for making the room even a touch darker when sleep is being offered.
You will probably be encouraged to bring in a security item such as a lovey if your baby is >1 year, and they are likely going to be curious about any unique steps to your pre-nap routine that will help your child lean into sleep a bit easier.
Be clear about your child’s sleep schedule. The timing around when sleep is offered is one of the most critical aspects of healthy sleep. Make sure you have clearly communicated the times that you would like them to aim for your child to be in their crib and ready to sleep.
The daycare staff is there to help you and care for your child, so don’t be afraid to advocate and communicate about what matters to you.
Bring your child’s familiar sleep items. This might include a lovey if age appropriate, a sleep sack, a pack n play sheet, and maybe even a continuous white noise machine if they don’t already use one in the sleep room.
Have realistic expectations around daycare sleep. It’s a different and less than ideal sleep environment, with different caregivers, and timing that may not be ideal either. It’s no wonder when naps are shorter or even skipped on daycare days. Recognize that much of this aspect of sleep is out of your control. After you’ve thoroughly communicated with the staff and have brought in all of the appropriate items, then it’s time to remember that the sleep your child gets at night is the most beneficial sleep they will ever have, and that is what you do have control over.
Use your best tool to offset poor daycare sleep! Yes there’s a limit to how much you can improve your child’s sleep at daycare, but home is your domain and this is where you can help minimize the damage from short naps. Your strongest tool is bedtime. Shift bedtime earlier to allow your child to re-set from poor or missed sleep during the day. The sleep that happens before midnight is the deepest and most restorative sleep they will get. Shift bedtime just 15-30 minutes earlier to reap the benefits of this powerful catch up sleep so they can start fresh again tomorrow.
Daycare is the best for so many reasons! Play, socialization, learning, and quality care. More involved and experienced caregivers helping to raise your precious child! It’s mostly great, and I am a huge fan of daycare in general. Sleep does tend to take a hit here, which is why it’s important to learn about what you can do to minimize damage and work hard to promote healthy sleep habits at home.
If you'd like to learn more about working one on one with me to create a strong healthy sleep foundation at home schedule a free 15 minute discovery call to get started.