Sleep Training can be a stressful scenario for many parents as it requires patience, time, effort, and courage. Now imagine you have to add daycare to the sleep training equation. Which puts a child in a different environment with more children, more stimulation, caregivers, and possibly a different schedule. I have worked in childcare settings for many years and almost every single child I have met, struggled with sleep. I have worked with babies needing to be rocked to sleep, pacified to sleep, babies that required white noise, babies that needed a bottle to go to sleep, or a dark room, and babies that only catnapped 30-40 minutes, every single day. I have seen it all! The most important part is that the parents and I worked together to get the baby on an age appropriate and healthy sleep schedule to avoid sleep troubles.
Also, from my experience most babies adjust very well to daycare and the environment because babies/children love to be around other babies and children. Babies learn to trust the caregivers at daycare which will make it easier to have peaceful naps. They see others take their naps in cribs and mattresses which calms them down as well.
Here are a few tips that you can include in your sleep training plan for clients that have babies going to daycare or a childcare setting, or children that are already in daycare.
1. When considering a daycare make sure the daycare is open to working with you when it comes to your child's needs. This doesn’t mean they should just stop doing what they are doing but be flexible and open to your sleep training plan. This could be a question when you interview them, “Are you open to help adjust our child’s sleep schedule if she/he needs to?”.
2. Do not be afraid or hesitant to ask daycare for help with implementing good sleep strategies as you are the one paying them and you are your child’s main caregiver. Also, keep in mind your daycare wants your child to be on a age appropriate sleep schedule and routine, as it makes it easier for them as well. Everyone will profit from sleep training- your child, you, and your day care.
3. Before you involve daycare in your sleep training, you should consider committing to 3-4 days (perhaps over a holiday weekend) of sleep training at home. Those few days will be the hardest and it will make easier for your child and the daycare to keep to follow up with teaching good sleep habits.
4. Ask the day care to keep the room dark if possible and preferably in the same crib and same location. Consistency is key!
5. If you use white noise machine, a lovey, favorite blanket, or sleep sack, get a few of them to keep at the daycare. This helps keep a familiar routine for your baby, and will help him/her settle easier.
6. Create a sleep log sheet and ask the day care to log your child’s sleep schedule. This will be helpful so that you know when and how long your baby napped. End of day/pick can be hectic. Having a log that you can take home to look can be really helpful for both you and the daycare. A log also really helps so that you know where to pick up with sleep training at home.
7. Ask the daycare to at least follow an age appropriate sleep schedule based on proper wake times. You can't expect daycare to fully sleep train your child, but they can at least keep a proper schedule.
8. Limiting nap time may be necessary if your baby tends to nap too long. Speak to the daycare about not allowing too much naptime. Some daycares enjoy when a baby takes a 2hr+ nap, but it's not fair for you, the parent, when you have to deal with this at home. When naps are too long, this can intefere with bedtime and can keep a baby up at night. Reminding daycare of this, should be no biggie. And they will likely agree if they understand that this is interfering with nighttime sleep.
9. Ask the day care not to put your child in a crib to play. Cribs should only be for sleep times, so that when your baby is laid down he/she associates the crib with sleep, not playtime.
Daycare and sleep training can be a stressful experience, but it doesn't have to be. Making reasonable requests such as a proper sleep schedule, very simple sleep routine, and not putting baby all the way to sleep after parents have already worked on this at home, is very doable for a daycare.