Daycare & Baby Sleep
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Sleep challenges can be experienced when children are enrolled in daycare simply because the schedule at daycare will often vary from the schedule that is in place at home. But, don’t worry, you can still have a great sleeper, even if your child is in daycare. I actually worked in a daycare for over 8 years, so I’m going to share with you why things are so different at daycare and how you can adjust to make sure that your child’s sleep isn’t impacted at home.


Baby Sleep & Daycare

Ever wonder why babies are not swaddled in daycare? Or maybe why the room is not darkened for sleep in the newborn stage?

It’s important to keep in mind that in a daycare environment, daycare teachers are responsible for the safety of several babies at once and oftentimes these babies are in different stages with their developmental and physical needs.

Daycare teachers are taught that safety of the children are top priority, understandably, and because of these developmental differences from one child to the next, it’s not safe to allow swaddles, even though as a sleep consultant we often recommend using swaddles in the newborn stage to help with sleep.

In addition, most babies start daycare around the time they are likely to roll which also factors into the safety aspect especially when monitoring more than one child. Once a baby is capable of rolling over, it’s always recommended to transition away from the swaddle.

With regard to a darker sleep environment, since many babies are at different stages developmentally and physically, they also have very different schedules. While some babies may be sleeping, others are awake so it would be difficult to keep the room dark for sleep when they don’t all have the same sleep schedule. It’s also important to know that daycare teachers are trained to watch the rise and fall of a babies chest to ensure they are breathing, and are to regularly check on sleeping babies to make sure the baby is not in any form of distress. To be able to easily assess, babies are usually never in a completely dark environment.

What To Do When Daycare Impacts Your Baby’s Sleep

There are several reasons when daycare can impact a baby’s sleep, but a few of the most common reasons include:

  • Baby not getting enough sleep at daycare. If your child isn’t getting enough sleep at daycare it can lead to baby being overtired which often leads to problems with nighttime sleep. When night sleep is affected that will end up affecting naps the next day and then it just becomes a cycle which leads to an overtired baby.
    What Can Help? Moving up bedtime can be extremely helpful to close the gap. Bedtime can be as early as 6 p.m. For babies under 6 months, a catnap can be helpful as well to close the gap, but for babies over 6 months, a catnap can push bedtime later, so I would recommend skipping the catnap for babies 6 months and older and going with the earlier bedtime!
  • Baby is getting too much sleep at daycare. When babies get too much daytime sleep they don’t sleep well at night. The main reason for this is because if baby is sleeping a lot during the day they’re missing calories they would have normally gotten and wake up overnight to make up for those missed calories. Too much daytime sleep can keep baby from having enough sleep pressure built up to encourage falling asleep easier and staying asleep.
    What Can Help? Talk to your child’s daycare teacher if you’re noticing that this is starting to happen to see where adjustments can be made during the day to avoid too much daytime sleep.
  • Baby has transitioned to one nap at daycare too quickly. This happens often at daycare, and while some babies make this transition and do okay during the day, it can often affect night sleep and lead to multiple nightwakings or in some cases cause early morning risings which are often the result of baby being overtired.
    What Can Help? Moving up bedtime (as early as 6 p.m.). This can be really helpful even though it may seem really early and a 6 p.m. bedtime is not always ideal, but it would surely help your baby avoid becoming overtired and avoid those early morning wakings before 6 a.m.

Additional Daycare Tips:

Daycare teachers find ways to help babies sleep well without the need for swaddles, a darker environment or in some cases not having a sound machine turned on. Keep in mind that it can take some adjusting for your little one in daycare, and that can take time and patience.

If you’re worried about your little one’s sleep at daycare, here are a few additional tips that can help:

  • If your newborn needs help settling for sleep (or is easily being woken from sleep) – Ask your child’s daycare teacher if you’re able to bring in a portable sound machine to place near baby’s crib.
  • If your newborn is still experiencing the Moro Reflex (also known as the startle reflex) – Ask your child’s daycare teachers whether you’re able to bring in a sleep sack since the swaddle can’t be used. If you can, it may be worth considering a sleep sack like Swaddle Sleeves.
  • If it’s a scheduling issue – Talk with your child’s daycare teachers to see if they are able to accommodate your child’s home schedule. While this isn’t always an option for older babies, these types of adjustments can sometimes be made for newborns.

It never hurts to ask, but keep in mind that for some daycares due to policies, procedures and licensing regulations that are often in place there are times where the daycare may not be able to allow certain items or make certain adjustments.

As I mentioned, I was once daycare teacher and now I’m on the other side as a daycare parent. Children can truly thrive in daycare, but like most things, it can definitely take some time to adjust. There will be some days where sleep doesn’t always go as expected in daycare, and there will be some days where sleep isn’t always going well at home. As a sleep consultant, and someone that has worked in daycare center in the past, I was pretty concerned about my daughter’s sleep. If you find that you’re having some concerns, just know, it’ll all work out just fine!

Keep these few things in mind:

  • Be sure to choose the daycare that best suits your family’s needs.
  • Parenthood takes a village and daycare teachers are a part of it, so be sure to keep communication open.
  • Babies often adapt well and THRIVE at daycare, but it’s important to be patient with the process.