A question I’m asked regularly by parents is “how do I help my baby to sleep at nursery’?
Sleep and nursery can have it’s challenges. Particularly if things have been going well at home, now that everything’s finally running smoothly, you need to put your trust in someone else to keep things in order.
But here’s the good news. This is absolutely achievable. Sending your little one to nursery isn’t going to sabotage their sleep so long as you work with your childcare provider. I’ve got some tips to help you do that in a way that will make this as easy as possible.
So if you’re asking yourself “how do I help my baby to sleep at nursery… first of all, have you already decided on your childcare provider? If not, then keep reading. If so, you can skip down to the next section.
Choosing a Childcare Provider
When you’re deciding on a childcare provider, here are a couple of sleep-centered things to keep in mind. None of these are deal-breakers, they’re just a few things to consider.
Ask them what their approach is to naps. Do they put kids down at a specific time? Do they allow kids individual nap times or is it all kids together for a specified duration?
Ask to see where they’ll be sleeping. Is it a fully-lit room with several other kids or a semi-private space where they can keep things dark?
Can you bring your own white noise machine? It can be super helpful to provide the same white noise machine that baby’s accustomed to at home.
Are they capable of accommodating specific requests in regards to baby’s naps? (i.e. will they hold off on offering sleep props if you ask them to?)
Communicating with Baby’s Caregiver
So, once you’ve decided on a childcare provider, or if you already have your little one in a place you’re happy with, what can we do to ensure everybody’s pulling in the same direction on this sleep issue?
Let them know how long you’re comfortable with baby fussing. Most care providers will default to a no-crying approach unless instructed otherwise.
Ask them to avoid sleep props. Be specific about what you consider a sleep prop. Ask that they refrain from using dummies, rocking to sleep, feeding to sleep, or whatever you’ve established as methods to get baby sleeping that you think they might become dependent on.
Be respectful of their limitations. Childcare providers are looking after a lot of children at once and are often required to follow some overarching safety rules. So don’t be surprised if they can’t accommodate every request you throw their way. Keeping an eye on several little ones at the same time can mean no white noise machines and no dark rooms.
Above all, maintain open communication. Let your childcare provider know that you’ve been working on your baby’s sleep and where you are with the process. Remember that they want your little one sleeping well almost as much as you do. A well-rested baby who goes down for naps without a lot of fuss is a childcare provider’s dream come true.
How do I help my baby to sleep at nursery – additional tips
Regardless of the particulars of your baby’s situation with their sleep, here are some tips that can help…
If you haven’t started sleep training yet, start on a Friday night, or whatever day is farthest away from their next day of childcare. The first couple of nights are usually a bit of a roller coaster and baby’s likely to be a little out of sorts for the first 48 hours.
It’s best to get at least three or four nights in before going to nursery. If there’s a care provider who can help you out for a day or two, consider asking them to sit in for the Monday and Tuesday so baby’s had a good amount of time to get accustomed to their new sleeping arrangement.
Babies are usually capable of distinguishing between different environments. Habits they learn at nursery won’t necessarily transfer over to sleep in the home. So if your childcare provider allows them a dummy or rocks to sleep, don’t worry too much about it. Baby should still be able to understand that it’s not the same when they’re at home.
Different schedules at home and in childcare are OK. In the same vein as the last point, it’s not the end of the world if their nap schedule at daycare doesn’t sync up with the one they have at home. It’s a definite bonus if you can make it work, but it’s not essential.
If baby starts falling asleep on the drive home, try to keep them awake. It’s better to put them to bed early than offer a catnap after 4pm. If baby falls asleep, wake them when you get home to get some more awake time before bed.
All in all, there’s no reason why daycare and sleep training can’t work together. Just keep in mind that your childcare providers are your allies in this mission. They have a vested interest in your little one being happy and well rested, and they obviously want to keep baby’s parents happy too.
Maintain open lines of dialog, be respectful and patient, and accept that they can’t always tailor things to each individual child as much as they’d like to. Keep your bedtime routine, stick to your schedule, keep baby away from those sleep props, and things will fall into place. If you’d like some more support to get your little one sleeping well, read more about my online programme, Slumber School, or join my waiting list to work together 1 to 1. Click here to learn more about my packages.