Help Your Child Adjust to Daycare (Daycare Series, Part 3)
Whether you’re going back to work after 6 weeks or a few years, knowing how to help your child adjust to daycare can be a challenge.
This transition can be a stressful time for any family, and in my Daycare Series I’ve already outlined how to choose a day care which respects your child and sleep, and best practices when it comes to helping your baby adjust to napping at a daycare.
This 3rd installment of the Daycare Series I’ll share my tips on how to help your child adjust to daycare with its new and unfamiliar routines:
Be Up-Front with Your Daycare Provider
Before you begin taking your child to a new daycare it’s critical that you communicate openly and honestly with the day care providers about your little one’s sleep, feeding, and eating requirements so that you can ensure that you are on the same schedule.
Keeping this pattern consistent will help your child feel more secure because they are following a familiar, established routine, and it also helps the daycare workers make sure that your child is happy and comfortable.
Bring a Comfort Item for Your Baby
Check to see if the daycare will allow your baby to bring a comfort or “lovey” item with them, such as a special stuffed toy or blanket, which can stay at the daycare for all naps. For young infants, there should not be any items in the crib, but for the older ones, your daycare may allow a small, soft lovey. It shouldn’t have any parts that can come off such as buttons, nor should it be stuffed to prevent a choking hazard.
If you can, have Mom or Baby sleep with the item for a few days before bringing it to daycare for the first time, so that the item has familiar scents attached to it.
Do a Gradual Introduction
If your schedule allows, ease your child into daycare alternating days when they are at daycare, and when they stay at home. One alternative that I recommend (if possible) is to do the morning nap at home, and then bring the baby to daycare for their second nap, or vice versa.
If your child has already gone through the 2-1 nap transition, then you may want to again bring him or her for only half a day for the first week and then alternating full days in week two.
The first several weeks at daycare are usually a bumpy time for families, and it’s common for a child to resist napping, or to skip napping altogether at the start.
In order to help your child adjust to daycare the quickest, I suggest that parents reschedule bedtime for earlier in the evening to accommodate any sleep loss which may be happening the day. Sometimes it may feel like you are barely able to spend any time with your little one because they are needing to go to bed earlier, however, if this helps everyone to continue to sleep well at night, then it’s worth the initial sacrifice.
Usually by the end of the first month, our little ones are doing much better with the new routine and are able to return to their regular bedtime. (Keep in mind that for children under 5, bedtime is often between 6-7:30pm)
Continue to Communicate Consistently
Some day cares provide daily logs, or summaries, of each child’s behaviour and routines throughout the day. If your daycare doesn’t provide one for you, make sure to communicate about their naps every day, and ask questions like:
- Did your child nap?
- How long did they nap for?
- How long did it take for them to fall asleep?
- What was their mood like pre and post-nap?
- Did the provider have to do anything to help them fall asleep?
These answers will help you understand how your child is sleeping, and assist you in determining if you need to adjust bedtimes accordingly.
Remember; the best thing that you can do to ensure a smooth transition for your baby, and to help keep them as well-rested, happy, and healthy as possible, is to communicate with your daycare.
Would you like more tips on how to help your child adjust to daycare?Join me during one of my Q and A sessions on the Baby Sleep 101 Facebook page and ask a question.