One of the most common worries of parents transitioning to using childcare is the concern over little ones and nap time. ‘How will my baby cope sleeping in a new environment without mum or dad? Will they be an overtired mess, will they be uncomfortable? Or will they get the rest they need to have a good time?’ These questions and more can cause anxiety for parents, especially as babies and their sleep needs vary so greatly!
At Kids Club, there is no need to fear nap times because our educators are willing to work with families to meet their child’s needs. Macquarie Park Centre Director Louise, who has been working in the childcare sector for 25 years, has assured parents placing their baby in care. “I’ve never had a child who doesn’t sleep at all. Initially they might not sleep as well as home, but we get there in the end,” she says.
These are six parenting tips to help your baby with the transition as they learn to sleep and settle at childcare.
1. Don’t nap baby in total darkness, keep it light
There will typically be more light and noise at daycare than at home, especially if baby naps with minimal lighting. Keep the lighting levels at a similar level by opening the blinds and let the sunlight in. An added bonus: Napping with light helps the body clock (circadian rhythm) regulate and allows a child to differentiate between day and night time sleep. For more information on how to help babies sleep have a look at one of our resources here.
2. Play your childcare’s sleep soundtrack
Ask the childcare about the music and/or white noise they use in each room and request a copy, or the name of any musical tunes that you can introduce into your own sleep routine.
“We often have a lot of children who need white noise to go to sleep,” Louise says. “Sometimes it will depend on the room and what the majority of children need. Ask the centre what they use and try to replicate that.”
3. Pack the right comfort item for sleep time
Childcare centres must strictly observe safe sleep and SIDS guidelines, so keep that in mind while packing any comforters for your child. Acceptable items include dummies and a small, breathable muslin square.
Infants cannot be placed in a cot with any soft toys, like teddy bears, or other comfort objects. Ask your centre about their policy, and whether that changes for older children.
4. Introduce simple sleep cues
Developing sleep cues that can be easily, and safely, replicated at childcare will help with the transition as baby recognises it’s nap time. These can range from gentle bum pats or stroking baby’s hair to wearing the same sleeping bag both at home and at daycare. Some children like a certain bedtime book, while others drift off while mum or dad sing a little tune.
5. Communicate with educators
Provide carers with information about your baby’s general sleep patterns and preferences. We know every family works differently and some babies are independent sleepers while others love to be snuggled.
You can ask the centre about their general routine and if it fits in with your lifestyle you can try and mimic the nap times at home. Ask plenty of questions about how they settle children to sleep and get them to adjust to a new environment.
“Once they get more comfortable with staff, they settle into sleep more,” Louise says. “For babies who aren’t independent sleepers, it is a lot of rocking in arms when they first start. Sometimes it’s also about finding out if there’s a particular staff member the child prefers, because they will have the most success.”
At Kids Club, we encourage families to continue communicating with educators about their little one’s life at home, especially as sleep needs change over time. Also, let the staff know if there are other big changes happening in baby’s life, such as moving home or the arrival of a new sibling as these can disrupt sleep.
6. Prepare mentally and keep calm
Just remember this is a transitional period and soon your baby adjust to the change that comes with daycare.. If you have any worries, it’s important to communicate to the centre and speak to loved ones to seek reassurance so you can be a calming presence for your little one. Children, even babies, pick up on the anxieties of parents so take care of your emotional needs. If your chosen centre accepts, you can coincide a short visit during nap time. Check the facility meets ACECQA sleep, rest and relaxation guidelines.
For more information on the typical 6 week settling-in period read our guide here.
If you want to learn more, call Kids Club Early Childhood Learning Centres or book a tour now of your closest Kids Club Early Learning Centre, click here to view your closest Centre.
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