Navigating childcare and your child’s sleep routine

I often do phone consults where parents tell me they’d like to make a plan for how to tackle sleep when their baby or toddler starts childcare. Similarly, I often have phone consults to help trouble shoot and fix sleep issues that may have arisen since the beginning of day care.

How can I set my baby up for sleep success at child care?

The educators at your baby’s childcare are used to helping babies fall asleep every day. This may look a little different to how you might do it at home, but there are a few things you can do to help your baby adapt to this new environment.

  • Bring your own swaddle or sleeping bag from home.
  • Ask if the childcare centre uses white noise? If not, I would be offering to bring a portable white noise machine to help buffer out the noises of the other children nearby.
  • If you have a social and easily engaged baby (this is both of mine), then I recommend asking to use the cot at the back of the sleep room, as far away from stimulation as possible.
  • If your baby or toddler is sleeping on a mat, take the cot sheet home and wash it in your own laundry detergent to help it smell like home. I even slept with P’s childcare sheet so it smelled even more comforting for her.
  • Don’t forget to pack your baby’s comforter.
  • Communicate your baby’s sleep schedule with the educators. I am yet to come across a team that won’t try their very best to meet your baby’s sleep schedule.

My baby apparently gets patted to sleep at childcare, but at home we just put her down in her cot and she falls asleep independently. Is this going to cause confusion?

The reality is that childcare is a stimulating and exciting environment. If you follow The Sleep Concierge’s prep and plan for good sleep, you’ll know that we promote a pitch black room, white noise, and no stimulation at nap time. This is of course impossible to replicate at childcare. Understandably, your baby may need assistance to fall asleep. If you your baby usually falls asleep without assistance then communicate this to the educators. They can give your baby a chance to fall asleep on their own and if it’s not happening then they can go in and assist. This is exactly what I did with my baby. P was always ‘too excited’ to sleep and even when she was in the kinder room she got patted by a loving educator for nap time. I have categorically never patted her to sleep since she was a newborn napping on my chest. When she was home I just remained consistent with our sleeping expectations. I continued to put her down and she would self settle. Not a single pat in sight!

So, don’t panic. It’s more important that your baby gets some sleep at childcare than not. When they’re napping at home, remain consistent. It’s fine to do one thing at childcare and another at home, if needed.

Childcare want to transition my baby to 1 nap, but I don’t think they’re ready…

This is a common childcare and sleep issue that I see. Often, a baby is too excited and overstimulated to have their early nap, which means they then end up having a much later nap and then it’s too late for a second one. 

Understandably, it can be easier for childcare educators to put a bigger group of babies down at one time, then staggered across the day. However, transitioning too early to one nap can really upset nighttime sleep and sleep at home. This is because your baby’s wake windows are suddenly stretched dramatically and it can be a slippery slope into overtiredness. 

If this is happening at childcare, it might be worth tweaking your two nap schedule to help build sleep pressure for your baby. I can help create a schedule for this purpose over a phone consult. If that doesn’t do the trick, then many babies can manage one nap at childcare, and stay on two naps at home.

Naps were short at childcare today. Help! What do I do about bedtime?

Early.To.Bed. This is my go-to rescue plan for short, rubbish naps at childcare. Chances are you baby is exhausted from the social and engagement factor too, so into bed by 6pm please. This can be tricky if you’re racing home from work and still have to fit in dinner and bath etc… I would making getting your baby into bed early the absolute priority of the night.

When P was 14 months, she was still very much on two naps at home. However, she would stand in her cot and chat and sing and play for nap 2 at childcare. So, I would bring her home and have her in bed at 5:30/45pm that night. I remember putting her to bed in her pitch black room and then walking out into the bright summer evening and wondering if I was crazy for putting her to bed so early. 9 times out of 10 she slept perfectly and slept until 6:30am. 

I have some flexibility with the days. Do you recommend any particular childcare schedule to help my baby transition well in terms of sleep?

If you’ve got the flexibility, I love one day on, one day off. So for me that was Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It meant that I had a day in between to dedicate to catching up on any sleep debt, and also spending the day with my baby. It was a big transition for me too to send her to childcare. I’ll be doing the same when my son goes.

Things to remember:

  • For me the benefits of childcare and play and socialisation outweigh any sleep wobbles.
  • Take anything and everything that will help replicate the home environment.
  • Communicate with your child’s educators. They are on your side and want to help you and your baby.
  • Early to bed is always the answer.

If you are looking for support with sleep for your toddler, I can help.

Download my 5-12 Month Sleep Guide and let it guide you through this beautiful time in your child’s life. Or, book a phone consultation with me and we can talk about all things baby sleep. I am here to champion you and I can’t wait to chat.

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