Baby Transitions to Daycare: Sleep Schedules
One thing I struggled with the most was getting my son on some sort of schedule. Looking back, I was a little crazed in the early days...ok a lot crazed. But when it was time for him to go into a full time daycare setting, I had a relatively "easy" schedule set out for him, following the eat, sleep, play model and closely watching his wake times. What I didn't realize is that most daycares are highly regulated on a variety of things including separate rooms for sleeping, swaddles and how long they are in the crib awake. I found when I started to Google suggestions on schedules, sleep training, or really anything sleep related, unfortunately it was mostly for stay at home moms. So read below working mamas and best of luck!
Prepare for daycare
1. Before your baby even starts daycare, you can attempt to adapt them to the environment by mimicking some of the things they do. My son's daycare didn't allow swaddles but I will be honest we never had luck with it at home and he did ok there. Ask if they use cribs or pack and plays, white noise, or keep the lights on. Also, bring a few familiar items and definitely a shirt or blanket that smells like you. Sounds corny, but it works.
First nap of the day
2. Write down your schedule for your daycare provider and keep it simple. Focus on the FIRST nap of the day because most likely things will go down hill from there if they are caring for multiple babies. We actually used Baby Sleep Science consultants who gave us the tip about the first nap. We decided to nap train our son around 5 months because he needed to learn to sleep on his own at daycare.
3. If you are making any transitions at home, let daycare know and vice versa. Our son slept on his tummy at daycare before he did at home and I was furious. There was NO way he was really doing that...and sure enough that night, he flipped right on to his tummy to sleep at just 4.5 months old. Keeping open communications is key across the board.
4. Concentrate on keeping an early bedtime if your baby doesn't sleep well at daycare. We were putting our son down later (8-9 PM), but once he started daycare he was asleep definitely by 7 PM. Our commute was 45 minutes so we worked hard to get in dinner and bedtime, but we did the best we could. Of course we would have rather spent more time with him in the evenings but he was clearly happier getting more sleep.
5. Keep a tight schedule on the weekend. Stick to your nap and bedtime schedule as much as you can. Again, we got a ton of flack about sticking to our schedule but everyone was happier that way. A lot of babies will try to make up sleep at night and on the weekend so you might score with some power naps.
6. Be flexible. There are likely going to be some really shitty sleep days at daycare and we still have them, but as long as your baby is happy and you trust your teachers, everything will be ok. Daycare does get better and have its benefits as your baby gets older. My son loves his friends at daycare and learns something new everyday. Early on it doesn't feel that way, but I promise it gets better. And if it doesn't, always trust your gut!