When you hand your baby over to the excellent daycare team, it can be scary. Yes, you will worry about them the entire time, and yes, you will miss them. It's also great that they have multiple people showing up for them and loving them. It's a blessing that you can show them more people that love them!
With daycare, there can be some trouble communicating what your baby needs in terms of feeds and sleep and how to continue the great work you've done to ensure your baby is healthy. Let's use this time to chat a bit about how daycare can influence naps and how to prep for daycare.
But first - what comes first: the naps or the night sleep?
The truth is that they relate to each other very much. Naps that are appropriately timed and at proper lengths will help your baby quickly go to bed at night and stay asleep until the morning. It rocks.
So that makes it challenging when you cannot control a daytime care situation. A lack of control happens with any daycare - whether you have a grandparent or a nanny taking care of your child or you send them to daycare. In any situation, you want to prepare the child carer and your baby to thrive in these situations. The great news is that babies are incredibly resilient, and you can do many things to support them in this transition.
What if you are sending your baby to daycare?
Daycares are usually the toughest because it will depend on how the daycare approaches naps. We know the best sleep scenario for your baby is in a dark, cool room with a consistent noise (like a sound machine). Not all daycares have this environment set up for sleep. That's ok! We evolve.
Ask them: What's the environment for sleep?
Get a good understanding of how your baby will be sleeping while at daycare. What does it look like, and how does it sound? Are there other babies napping at the same time? Are they open to adjusting their sleep environment to help all of the babies, or are they set in the way they have it (for whatever good reason!)?
From these questions, you will have a good understanding of the obstacles to great sleep. Now, you want to replicate this environment at home for naps. With the same environment, your baby can practice how to sleep in that environment. It would be best if you left your evening sleep environment untouched.
Once your baby is in this new environment, remember that they have to adjust to it. Since it's new to them, it will take them longer to fall asleep and stay asleep in this new environment. Practice is going to be your friend. The best way to do this is to have them fall asleep in this daycare replica environment for every nap. But, if you find that every nap is too much, let them sleep in this new environment for the first nap of the day, then the second, and the third. This modified approach will work. The only downside is that it may take a little longer.
Ask them: How will they put the baby to sleep?
You need to know how your baby will fall asleep during naps at daycare and compare that with how you put them to bed at home. Ideally, the two are the same. When daytime naps are pretty different, your child can be confused about how they should fall asleep, making falling asleep harder for them.
The best thing is to explain to the daycare provider how your baby falls asleep at home and see if they will replicate that in the daycare environment. However, if they will not reproduce it, expect to see some disruptions in your naps at home.
In this case, you can put your baby to sleep differently at home vs. at daycare. Your baby will learn that the sleep you offer them is different than it will be at daycare. If your baby is facing short daycare naps, this would be a better option for you. But if your baby is taking long naps at daycare and short naps at home, you might want to copy what they do at daycare instead.
Ask them: What time are naps offered?
Timing is essential for baby sleep (which is why the Lovebug app exists!). Sleep becomes easy when you can get your nap schedule to match your baby's body - naps get longer naturally and your baby will fall asleep faster. You get these results because we meet their sleepiness wave. So, we want to do everything we can to match the daycare naps to your baby's natural body clock.
Daycare has a tendency to have set schedules when it comes to daytime naps. Because they are managing many kids with different sleep schedules, they use set sleep plans that make it easier for the caretakers. We don't judge them for doing this - sleep is hard! But what can happen is your child's entire sleep rhythm gets thrown off. When your baby's sleep rhythm is thrown off, it can mean that they face bedtime struggles, shorter naps, split nights, or early morning wakings. Our goal is to avoid any of those issues.
Customizing the lovebug app's schedule can help you find a plan to match daycare to your baby's natural rhythm. Go and talk to the daycare center and get a good understanding of how many naps they can offer your baby and when they plan on offering naps.
Next, go to the settings tab in the Lovebug app and play with the options. Start with how many naps to offer and then play with when to wake your baby in the morning. Keep fiddling until the schedule roughly matches what the daycare center will offer. At that point, you will start to follow this schedule at home and daycare. Your baby's body clock will adjust to match what the daycare center offers, and you will avoid any issues that can come up from an off-schedule child.
Ask them: What happens when there is a shorter nap?
Some days will be off, and your baby will take a shorter nap at daycare. When you have off days like this, the key is to find a way to offer your baby a little more sleep either later in the day through a cat nap or early bedtime.
Ask daycare how they will let you know about a short nap. From there, you can log the nap in the Lovebug app, and Lovebug will tell you whether to offer a cat nap or an early bedtime. If you don't have the Lovebug app, figure out how much additional sleep your baby needs that day to stay well-rested. You can find the baby sleep recommendations HERE.
What to do when your baby starts to refuse naps at daycare?
You first want to ask yourself whether your baby is going through a major developmental leap. Many babies will practice new milestones in their sleep, so a significant leap will cause them to refuse a nap altogether. Nap refusals often happen in months 7-9 when language and movement explosions are happening. Typically, it will stop on its own, but if it continues to happen, take this gameplan with daycare:
- Talk to them about their environment. Ask if many other kids are refusing naps, or is it just your child. If other kids are refusing naps too, it's worth chatting with them again about the environment at the daycare. Maybe some of you can come together and talk to the daycare together.
- Consistently do an early bedtime. When your baby refuses naps for a while, you will be on an earlier bedtime schedule. You can pull bedtime in by an hour without impacting your morning schedule.
- Prioritize sleep on the weekends. Since your baby is not sleeping at daycare, you will have to prioritize sleeping at home. Keep the environment the same as at daycare, but use your sleep training technique while your baby is supposed to be napping. Use the Lovebug full-day schedule as guidance.
What if you are using a nanny, relative, or friend?
You have much more flexibility when using a nanny, relative, or friend. The biggest thing you must do to prepare is to encourage them to learn about baby sleep. The Lovebug app has many videos on how baby sleep works and why a schedule is essential. Our biggest recommendation is to give them access to Lovebug to watch the 100+ videos we have there. Also, you can use Lovebug to coordinate your schedules for feeds and sleep with your nanny.
Make sure you communicate three key things:
The way your baby is falling asleep at night.
We want your nanny to replicate that during the day. Please explain how you put them to sleep and ask them to copy that. Many families will post their routines in the baby's room so that everyone knows what the baby will expect. When each of us follows what the baby will expect, it will be the easiest for the baby to fall asleep.
The way to handle wakings when the nap shouldn't be over.
After your baby is over four months, you should have different rules for when it's sleep time vs. when it's awake time. Some call this a "sleep training approach," and it's a way to communicate to your baby that they should still be sleeping. Figure out what method works best for your family and explain that to everyone who will be watching your children during naps.
The timing of naps.
You can use the Lovebug app to get everyone on the same page or keep a pen and pencil record and determine when naps should be on your own. But, make sure you are on a nap schedule that honors your baby's biological clock.