One of the biggest milestones in your little one’s life (and your own) is when they start nursery. I know this transition can bring both joy and sadness, as it’s a sign that your little one is growing and transitioning to a new environment.
As hard as it may be to say your goodbyes on the first day (regardless of how long your child has been attending), in time, your little one will grow into a new person as they explore, learn, and socialize in their nursery.
Of course, starting nursery often comes with many questions and concerns, especially when it comes to sleep. If you’ve been working on improving your child’s sleep at home, you may wonder how their sleep will be impacted, or what you should do to preserve their sleep habits.
While every nursery is different, I’ve compiled my tips to keep your child’s sleep on track at nursery.
Communicate with the Nursery Caregivers
The caregivers at your child’s nursery are important players on your team. Yes, they’re on your team. While they may not be able to accommodate every request you have, they also want what’s best for your child.
Opening the line of communication with the nursery staff is a great way to ease your concerns and ensure your child is getting the best sleep possible.
Share How Sleep Looks at Home
Talk to the nursery caregivers about what your child’s sleep looks like at home and the schedule you follow. Of course, remember that your child isn’t the only one at nursery– they won’t be able to adapt their environment or routines for your one and only child.
But you can share with them what you’re doing or what you’d like to do, especially if you’re in the middle of sleep training, and see if there’s anything they’re willing to do to help your child stay on track.
Since we’re not able to control nurseries, I recommend starting any sleep training on the weekend, and then take a few days off of nursery until you’ve been doing the routine and methods for 3-4 days. This will prevent stress on your part, as the nursery staff may not be able to continue the same sleep plan you’re following.
Once your little one has gotten used to their new routine and has begun falling asleep independently, returning to nursery may be an easier transition for them.
Ask Questions About Sleep at Nursery
Again, while you may not be able to change the nursery’s policies or procedures, knowing what sleep looks like there can help you make decisions at home.
Here are a few questions to ask the nursery staff about your child’s sleep situation:
Where will my child sleep – on a floor bed, in a crib? Do you follow safe sleep guidelines?
What’s the routine like before nap?
How long do the kids sleep?
Do you wake the children or let them sleep as long as they want?
When you ask these questions before committing to a nursery, it allows you to determine whether that facility is the right fit for your family. But even if you ask these questions after enrolling, it’ll give you an idea of what to expect with your child’s sleep at home.
Bring Home to Nursery - Within reason
One way to help your little one feel comfortable in their new environment is to bring home – what they’re used to – to the nursery. Within reason, of course.
Ask the nursery if you’re able to provide your child’s bed sheets or crib sheets to help give them a sense of familiarity.
And of course, anything that your child sleeps with, you’ll want to bring. Here’s a few things to pack in the nursery bag:
Your child’s sleep sack
The pacifier – or multiple, if your child loses them frequently. And if you’re ready to ditch the pacifier, check out this blog.
Any loveys your child sleeps with
Your crib sheets
Your white noise (not all nurseries will allow but it is worth asking!)
When your child has a sense of home with them, they’ll feel more comfortable and will have an easier time falling asleep than they would without them.
How Nursery Sleep Impacts Home Sleep
Despite your best efforts, your child may still not nap well (or at all) at nursery. How do you fix this when you get home in the evening?
The trickiest part of your child not sleeping properly at nursery is the car ride home. Most likely, for the first few weeks at least, your child will be tired when you pick them up.
After a day of poor sleep and a lot of stimulation, the car ride home can quickly lull your little one to sleep. If you notice these car naps interfere with your child’s bedtime or their nighttime sleep, you’ll want to get creative in ways to keep your child awake in the car.
But don’t stress yourself out over this. In some cases, especially if your child didn’t sleep at all during the daytime, emergency nap situations happen and are okay.
Starting nursery is going to be a period of adjustment for your child. Of course, you have to give them time until what’s new becomes their regular routine. Eventually, they’ll start napping better at nursery, just as they do at home.
If your child’s nursery follows a different schedule than you do at home, you can continue following your usual schedule. Kids can differentiate between nursery sleep and home sleep, so don’t feel as though you must match what the nursery does.
If the idea of heading to nursery is stressful because your child doesn’t have independent sleep skills and you’re worried that the caregivers won’t be able to provide the assistance in getting your little one to sleep, I encourage you to set up a call with me this week.
We can work together to help establish independent sleep habits with your little one so that, regardless of where they sleep, they aren’t reliant on outside help. If this sounds like something you want to explore, find a time that works for you here.
I can’t wait to speak with you!