To help keep your baby or toddler on a regular sleep routine everyone needs to be on board, and that doesn’t just mean mom and dad. Childcare providers must also be aware of your usual routine, and attempt to maintain it as much as possible. This can be a struggle for both the parent and the provider and I hear from both sides, almost everyday. Communication around these key issues is essential when working together to ensure your child is getting enough sleep. It’s important to have some common understanding early on and develop a shared game plan.
So what can parents and providers work on together?
Motion sleep, when your baby falls asleep in a stroller or car seat, we aren’t allowing their brain to get into that deep, restorative sleep they need to keep a sleep debt at bay. Encouraging a dark, quiet and stationary environment is best.
Parents - Create a familiar dark, quiet, and cool sleep zone at home for both naps and night sleep. Staying consistent with this will help your child fell secure and safe in their sleep environment.
Providers – Choose a room or area that is designated for sleep and have the same child or children in that room every day. Encourage parents bring something familiar from home, like a blanket or stuffed animal that they can cuddle and soothe with.
Sleep Tip! A white noise machine can help mask external sounds from other children at daycare. Use one that can run continuously throughout the nap. Mom and dad if you use one in your little one’s bedroom buy another one to leave at their daycare.
This is the biggest struggle, on both ends. Parents want their childcare provider to follow their routine and providers wish parents would establish more of a routine with their child, to prevent the little ones from showing up tired and grumpy.
Parents – If you can get your child on a consistent routine of naps and bedtime before starting childcare, the transition will be easier for all of you.
Providers – It can be difficult to maintain naps throughout the day when you are dealing with more then one child, many of whom are different ages. It’s important though that naps need to be a protected part of the daily routine, especially for the young children. The mornings are difficult because the young children need to sleep and the older children can get bored waiting around for them to wake up. If you need to go out, try to have the little ones sleep in a stroller or car seat and then focus on a stationary nap in the afternoon. It’s not ideal, but a few days a week won’t hurt.
Daycare Research Tip! Finding the perfect provider for your child isn’t easy and there is so much involved. One question that should be asked before making your decision is how many naps a day does the provider give to toddlers 12 months and up. While it doesn’t have to be a make it or break it point to your decision, I often see kids transition from 2 to 1 naps too early because it’s all the daycare provides. Removing sleep before a child is biologically ready by transitioning naps too soon can result in a sleep debt for the child and poor sleep at night. It’s a good idea to open up that conversation with your provider and work together on an age appropriate nap schedule if possible.
One of the biggest components to healthy sleep is for your child to learn to fall asleep on their own. Your child doesn’t need your help falling asleep at home, and the expectations can’t be on the provider to do it when you’re not around.
Parents – It’s encouraged to teach your child this skill before working with a provider. Trust me! It helps with the daycare transition big time. Start to practice a consistent soothing routine and avoid the associations of rocking, holding, and nursing your child to sleep.
Providers - If you feel that a child needs too much help in falling asleep and isn't getting the sleep they need, make the parents aware of the situation. Together, you can teach the child the skills they need to fall asleep alone.
Parents – Starting up at a new daycare is a major transition, and sleep can be disrupted. It can take your child time to adapt and if they’re no longer getting enough sleep during the day, it’s important to move their bedtime earlier until they have adapted.
Providers – Parents can be flexible with bedtime according to the quality of sleep their child had during the day. Morning drop offs and evening pickups can be a whirlwind of rushing but it’s so important to open up communication between both the parent and provider. Parents, make it a priority to in the morning to tell your provider how your child slept throughout the night. Having this information will allow your provider to make the best decisions in terms of how your child naps throughout the day. Providers, let parents know at pick up how their child slept throughout the day. Parents can then decide on an appropriate bedtime armed with that information.