The start of daycare is a big and exciting time in your family’s life that often comes with mixed emotions. Just like most things in parenting, there are highs and lows, and pros and cons, and unfortunately one of the big lows or cons is the daycare sleep regression.
The daycare sleep regression is when your baby starts daycare and then suddenly sleep falls apart. Daycare sleep regressions can come in 3 different forms:
- Poor naps at daycare
- Poor naps when at home
- Poor nighttime sleep
In this blog post, I am going to go over these three possible daycare sleep regressions, and help you work through the regression so you can get sleep back on track as quickly as possible!
Poor Naps at Daycare: Daycare Sleep Regression 1
The story goes something like this: you work hard to help your baby become a great sleeper, you find their optimal schedule and help them learn to take solid naps. You send them to daycare and then BAM, they suddenly start taking crap naps at daycare.
The unfortunate truth is that this is very common, for a number of reasons. Daycares (especially daycare centers) have rules about keeping lights on during naps, and other babies might be playing while your baby is trying to nap. They also most likely do not have the capacity to hold or rock your baby during any part of their nap, which means it might be more difficult for your baby to fall asleep, stay asleep and/or lengthen their nap.
That being said, there are things you can do to help your baby through this sleep regression and start taking more restorative naps at daycare.
Talk to your daycare provider about utilizing the same sleep tools that you use at home. For example, using a white noise machine or the same sleep sack. Keeping the sleep environment as similar as possible is ideal.
Optimal Wake Windows
Share with your daycare provider what your baby’s optimal wake windows are, and teach them about your baby’s sleepy cues. It may not always be possible, but if they can put your baby down for their nap when they hit their sweet spot (before they are overtired and not when they are undertired) then your baby is much more likely to take a solid nap.
Handling Short Naps
Discuss with your daycare provider what the protocol will be for short naps. Are they able to try and soothe your baby back to sleep? Will they squeeze in a cat nap later in the day? In an ideal world, you would work together to devise a nap plan that works best for YOUR baby.
If all else fails and your baby is lacking daytime sleep at the end of their day, I recommend putting them to bed a little earlier that night. I know that’s hard because you barely got to see them all day, however preventing overtiredness is key to helping your baby fall asleep easily, not have additional night wakings or an early morning waking.
Poor Naps When at Home: Daycare Sleep Regression 2
The really special daycare sleep regression is when your baby actually takes decent naps at daycare, but suddenly starts having crap naps at home.
There are two main reasons why this can happen.
- Their daycare nap schedule is different from their home nap schedule
Sometimes little ones do not do well when their sleep schedule is different throughout the week. If your daycare nap schedule is different from what you have been following when your little one is home with you, you can try following the same schedule that they would have at daycare. Consistency is often the ticket!
If that doesn’t help, then it’s most likely that your little one has a case of FOMO. They are just so happy to be home with you and would much rather spend time with you than sleep.
Daycare is a tricky transition and can be hard on some kiddos, especially in the beginning. So try and spend lots of quality time together during wake windows, and asses their overall sleep. Is the missed nap(s) messing with nighttime sleep? Is your little one old enough that they can skip their nap some days of the week? Are they fine if you just do an earlier bedtime on those days instead?
Tune into what your baby needs to determine the best way to handle missed naps when they are at home. If you would like some help navigating this, we would love to help!
Poor Nighttime Sleep: Daycare Sleep Regression 3
Last, and definitely least, is the daycare sleep regression that results in poor nighttime sleep.
The first thing you want to do is try not to lose your actual mind. Yes, this is worst case scenario as far as sleep regressions go, but you are a parent- you can get through anything!
Start by assessing why nighttime sleep has fallen apart. The number one reason why this happens is overtiredness.
Daycare can be a lot for little ones. It’s a new environment, with new routines, new people, and there is a lot of stimulation. Your baby will likely be more tired than usual, however if they are not compensating for this during their nap, then they may head into the night being overtired. And an overtired baby is very likely to have multiple night wakings and/or early morning wakings.
The best way to mitigate this is either squeezing in an evening cat nap or doing an earlier bedtime. Like I mentioned above, I totally get that you would rather spend as much quality time as possible with your little one in the evening. I also know your little one needs their Mama, however they also really need adequate sleep. And if they are up a lot in the night then they will be starting the next day off tired which means the whole day will be more challenging for them.
Independent Sleep Skills
The second piece to avoiding poor nighttime sleep is ensuring that your little one has independent sleep skills. If they can put themselves to sleep independently, then it will be much easier for them to fall back to sleep peacefully if they wake in the night.
It doesn’t matter if your little one is a baby or a toddler, they can still learn better sleep habits and we can help! We have multiple different approaches you can take to achieving the goal of independent sleep. I outline all of these approaches in my 4-24 month course, or hop on the phone with one of our amazing sleep consultants!
Recap on Daycare Sleep Regressions
Bottom line is if sleep falls apart when your little one starts daycare, it WILL bounce back! It’s just a bump in the road as your little one is learning to navigate and adjust to an exciting and positive change in their life.
The best thing you can do is assess why the sleep regression is happening, and calmly evaluate your options to help your little one get the sleep they need.
And of course we are always here to help! Oftentimes, it is so beneficial to have an expert in your corner, to bounce ideas off of, look at things with a fresh set of eyes, and give you professional advice that is geared towards what YOUR baby needs. Get started with a consultation here!
We’ve got you!