Many parents are concerned about how their child will sleep when they start daycare or preschool or how these changes will affect sleep in general.
How can you support your child to sleep optimally in daycare and reduce the impact these changes could have on your child’s sleep?
Examine the sleeping environment
- Is it dark where the children sleep?
- Is white noise or lullabies played, so the children are less distracted by each other? (the former would be preferable).
- Is the temperature/environment right for the child?
- Does the child have its teddy bear, or something else it is used to sleeping with at home.
- If the child is used to sleeping in a sleeping bag at home, it could be good to have one there as well, just make sure to dress the child according to the temperature of the room. If that’s not possible, the child can get used to other arrangements there.
What is the schedule like?
- Do all the children go to bed at the same time and are the same number of naps available for everyone? Or does the daycare/kindergarten consider the needs of each individual?
- It is worth discussing which routine is suitable for your child and whether the routine is similar at daycare/kindergarten. If there are big differences between timings, it may be possible to accommodate the child to some extent, put the child to nap first or last, e.g. If the child still needs two naps, but the daycare/kindergarten generally only offers one, the child may be allowed to lie down on the way to the playground, or may be invited out to the pram in the morning even though the other children are awake inside.
- Is the child given a chance to go back to sleep if it wakes up after a short nap or is it taken out immediately, even though it is lying quietly in bed?
- Are they ready to wake the child after a certain time in order to support the routine that suits the child?
Is it important that the daily schedule is the same at daycare as at home?
No, it doesn’t have to be the same. Although the child sleeps differently in daycare than it was used to at home, you don’t have to keep that pattern at home on weekends. You can put it to sleep like it used to at home on weekends. Children can get used to different day-plans at daycare and at home. If your child sleeps e.g. a shorter nap or one nap in daycare while it is used to a longer nap or two at home, it’s fine to allow two naps at home or a longer midday nap and allow the child to recover after the week.
If your child sleeps less than it is used to in daycare, it’s important that you compensate for this by putting the child to bed earlier that night. Even if it sleeps well in daycare, it may need to go to bed earlier, because it is more tiring for the child to be in daycare, especially at the beginning and the child is more tired than it was when it was still at home or on summer vacation.
A few tips
- Don’t have too high expectations about how well your child will sleep at daycare/kindergarten, especially at the beginning.
- Allow for a three-week adjustment period when it comes to sleep. Children adapt differently, for some children this can take time.
- Give your child 100% attention for a good while before bed. When the child starts daycare/kindergarten, separation anxiety can increase and giving the child good attention and closeness before bedtime helps, the child is also less likely to wake up in the night looking for attention.
- If your child is very restless at bedtime, the likely reason is tiredness after a long day that included a large amount of activity. If the child needs more help falling asleep, you can offer more support and then slowly reduce it again, try not to panic and go back to full sleep, but provide support up to the level the child needs. In these cases, offering a slightly earlier bedtime the next night may also help.
- The same applies when the child gets sick, which is likely to happen in the first few weeks. It probably needs more sleep and increased support, but again to the extent that the child needs.
If you want to help your child learn to sleep well, my online courses can help you:
Sleep Tight: 3-12 months
Sleep Tight: 12-24 months