Starting childcare can be an overwhelming experience for both child and parent. Normally this new experience is tied in with going back to work, so emotions can be running high, especially during a time when things have not been ‘normal.’
It can be hard to think about your little one spending time away from you, but also how they are going to nap in a new sleep space, being settled by someone new. It can be a big worry for a parent to think that their child’s sleep will be affected.
Sleep can sometimes regress when a change is being made. This is normal, especially in the first few weeks.
Here are my tips for making that transition easier on you and your child.
Communication is key
Make an appointment to talk to your childcare provider. Suggest how you would like them to approach your child’s sleep. Talk to them about your little one’s wake windows and how your child settles for their nap. Provide information at drop off, if your child has woken up early or had a bad night's sleep. All this information is important.
And ask all the questions you need before your little one starts:
Where do naps take place?
Is the room dark?
Do they sleep in a cot or on a mat on the floor?
Do you have set nap times for all children or are they flexible?
What happens if my baby needs support when getting to sleep?
Remember no question is wrong! You need to feel confident about this change.
Try to keep your little one’s sleep environment the same as much as possible. If your child uses a dummy, comforter, sleeping bag, ask your childcare to use them for naps. These are comforting to your child and might make it harder for them to settle if they are without.
Early to bed
It is normal for your little one to not nap as well at childcare. Remember to ask your childcare provider how long they slept for so you can get a better understanding of what bedtime will be like. I always suggest an earlier bedtime on the days they have been to childcare, as they will be exhausted from all the fun they have had!
It is going to be hard for you and your little one not spending so much time together and this can have an impact on sleep. Even 15 minutes of special time, where you are just focusing on your child, can really help.
Talk to your child about the change and reassure them that even though you will be leaving them you will always come back.
Keep weekends free
During the first month try to keep your weekends as free as possible. Your child will be tired from the week, but will also be craving time with you.
Make sleep changes before starting
If you are going to make changes to your child’s routine do it about a month before they start.
Stay positive and be patient
Settling in can take time. At drop off try to stay positive. It might be hard for the first few weeks when your little one is experiencing this new change, but soon they will be running in without looking back!
Take time to process
Children are pretty adaptable and are capable of forming new positive sleep associations in a new environment. It is important to think about yourself and how you are feeling, this is a huge change for you too.