PART 3 OF 7 AREAS COMMONLY OVERLOOKED OR NOT STRATEGICALLY PLANNED
When evaluating a child’s sleep, it can be difficult to face the fact that we don't always have control.
For example, quality sleep involves a child’s ability to independently fall asleep and link sleep cycles. We can set the tone with the bedtime routine, create the right environment, implement an age appropriate schedule, provide space for the child to work on the skill. However, doing the actual sleeping is at the mercy of your baby.
An additional area that parents often assume is out of their control or that they do not consider is childcare and sleep. And while it is true that parents don't have complete control, it is not accurate to say you have none.
With communication and understanding from both childcare providers and parents, childcare providers can be very helpful. And if they aren’t? It’s not impossible to improve sleep. You can still work on it just at home! I would even argue that it is more crucial to work on it at home if it’s not going well with daycare.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are navigating sleep while your infant or toddler is also with a childcare provider throughout the week.
1 - UNDERSTAND THE SPECIFIC POLICIES & PROCEDURES FOR CHILD CARE PROVIDERS
Child care providers have specific policies and standards to follow at the national, state, local, and program levels. Here are just a few national guidelines regarding sleep from Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards; Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs (CFOC).
SCHEDULED REST PERIODS AND SLEEP ARRANGEMENTS (Standard 126.96.36.199)
“The facility should provide an opportunity for, but should not require, sleep and rest. The facility should make available a regular rest period for all children and age appropriate sleep/nap environment (See Standard 188.8.131.52). For children who are unable to sleep, the facility should provide time and space for quiet play. A facility that includes preschool-aged and school-aged children should make books, board games, and other forms of quiet play available.
Facilities that offer infant care should provide a safe sleep environment and use a written safe sleep policy that describes the practices they follow to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and other infant deaths. For example, when infants fall asleep, they must be put down to sleep on their back in a crib with a firm mattress and no blankets or soft objects.”
SAFE SLEEP PRACTICES AND SUID/SIDS RISK REDUCTION (Standard 184.108.40.206)
“Safe sleep practices help reduce the risk of sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUIDs). Facilities should develop a written policy describing the practices to be used to promote safe sleep for infants. The policy should explain that these practices aim to reduce the risk of SUIDs, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), suffocation and other deaths that may occur when an infant is in a crib or asleep. About 3,500 SUIDs occurred in the U.S. in 2014 (1).
All staff, parents/guardians, volunteers and others approved to enter rooms where infants are cared for should receive a copy of the Safe Sleep Policy and additional educational information and training on the importance of consistent use of safe sleep policies and practices before they are allowed to care for infants (i.e., first day as an employee/volunteer/substitute). Documentation that training has occurred and that these individuals have received and reviewed the written policy before they care for children should be kept on file. Additional educational materials can be found at https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sts/materials/Pages/default.aspx."
LIGHT DURING NAPS (Standard 220.127.116.11)
“Lighting levels should be reduced during nap times to promote resting or napping behavior in children. During napping and rest periods, some degree of illumination must be allowed to ensure that staff can continue to observe children. While decreased illumination for sleeping and napping areas is a reasonable standard when all the children are resting, this standard must not prevent support of individualized sleep schedules that are essential for infants and may be required by other children from time to time.”
2 - DON’T HESITATE TO ASK QUESTIONS
ASK ABOUT THEIR SLEEP POLICIES
The policies mentioned above are just a few examples of the policies at a national level. If you are unsure what policies your child's daycare provider must follow and whether or not they actually are following them, have a conversation to see if they are ensuring your child is reaching the best sleep possible.
ASK HOW THEN ENSURE SAFE AND HEALTHY SLEEP
A number of things daycare providers should be considering for sleep includes the following: daily routines, pre/post nap activities, location/placement of children for nap time, noise and lighting during nap time, changes in child sleep patterns, individual and age appropriate schedules, safe sleep practices, and parent and daycare partnerships.
If sleep is going well at daycare but not at home, ask for details regarding how they ensure healthy sleep habits. Follow suit at home as best you can. Try to keep the start of naps consistent with the daycare schedule.
If sleep for your child is not going well at daycare, again, ask how they work to ensure healthy sleep.
ASK ABOUT THIS COMMON DAYCARE ISSUE
Ask about the AM nap! Some daycares require infants to drop the AM nap when moving from the infant room to the toddler room, forcing your child to drop that nap WAY TOO EARLY! Usually at 12 months. If this is the case and you can help it, look for a way around this. One, if you are looking into daycares, choose one that won't force this. Two, if currently at a daycare and unable to switch, ask the staff if your child can remain in the classroom until at least 15 months of age or if they are able to figure out a way to allow your child that nap until truly ready to drop it. Three, if not possible, continue to have offer the AM nap when your child is at home. Click here to see more about age appropriate schedules.
3 - WORK TOGETHER IF/WHEN POSSIBLE
Communicate with your baby’s childcare provider regarding your child’s sleep.
If sleep is not great at daycare, understand that regardless of specific policies and procedures, a lot of people involved in early childhood care have little to no education regarding child sleep. That includes several pediatricians, lactation consultants, and postpartum doulas! But I don't want to go off on a tangent.
If you are working to improve your child’s sleep and wanting to be proactive, chat with the daycare staff, your babysitter, or your nanny prior to creating your sleep plan. Ask them about the level of involvement they are willing and allowed to do.
If you have already created and begun implementing a sleep plan, let them know what work you already have been doing and areas to adjust. Again, ask them to what extent they are willing and allowed to work with you.
I’ve worked with clients whose childcare providers were willing to respond with the sleep training method chosen. Other clients with preschoolers whose daycare staff were willing to wake their children by a certain time to prevent bedtime struggles. Even more stories regarding adjustments to the sleep space.
Remember, people don’t know what they don’t know! You must communicate with your child’s daycare staff, babysitter, nanny, etc. in order to make sure everyone is on the same page.
4 - WHEN DAYCARE STAFF CAN’T OR ARE UNWILLING TO MAKE ADJUSTMENTS?
If they can’t or are not willing to help you out, you do not have to give up completely! You can still work on sleep at home. A little bit of quality sleep is better than none.
Focus on nighttime sleep on the days your child goes to daycare, planning for an early bedtime on those days naps don’t go well.
When your child is home for naps, focus on the time of day and duration. It is even more crucial to prioritize naps at home if naps are not going well when at daycare. Just a few days working on naps at home will sometimes even improve naps away.
What stories do you have regarding experiences with childcare and sleep for your child? What struggles have you had? What has worked well?
Check out other related posts: 7 Daily Tools to Decrease the Bedtime Struggle (Part 1 of 7) and Developmental Milestones that Can Throw Off Sleep (Part 2 of 7).