Sleep & Starting Nursery

Sleep & Starting Nursery

31 Aug 2021

One of the things parents and caregivers worry about is how their little one will sleep when they start nursery or you introduce childcare at home and someone new is going to take over the sleep process. This is a concern for both parents of little ones that sleep well and others that are having deep challenges. Will your child’s sleep regress at nursery? If they already have disrupted sleep, will this cause problems for the nursery? Either way, this can feel like a huge step for both you and your infant.  

So what can you do to reduce the stress for you and make sure your little one has the best sleep as possible? 

It starts with picking a nursery or childcare that best suits your family. Once you have worked out location, opening hours etc. there are other things may want to consider in regards to sleep and it’s important to add questions about naps to your list. Find out if they have set nap times or whether it is individual child-led. Ask about the nursery’s sleep environment and it’s good to know what support they offer if your little one needs help settling. None of the answers are wrong, it just helps you make the right decision for your family and/or help you make tweaks to your child’s sleep routine ahead of them starting nursery or crèche. 

The Routine

Your child might surprise you and settle into a new routine really well, and so many do. But also share your routine with the nursery; let them know what worked well for your little one so they understand what is normal for them and they often make adjustments. It’s slightly easier when you have childcare at home or your child goes to a childminder as you will likely have more control over the routine. One thing to remember is that nurseries have lots of experience helping little ones sleep in a new environment and without their primary caregiver around. Have the conversation with them and tell them your concerns; they may be able to accommodate more of your child’s routine than you think. 

The Sleep Environment

One of the things that can cause the most disruption to sleep outside the home is a different sleep environment. They may be used to sleeping in their own room with blackout curtains or blinds; whereas at nursery they may not have the same dark and quiet environment as most nurseries have a shared nap room. This is outside of your control but be encouraged to know that little ones can adapt so quickly and some even sleep better at nursery than at home! If your child has certain comforts like a teddy they sleep with or their own pillow/sleeping bag, agree with the nursery that they can take them with them. These small comforts from home can make all the difference. 

Nursery & Siblings

Starting nursery can also have an impact on younger sibling’s sleep. The most common disruption is when the nursery run clashes with a nap. Some things to consider:

  • Try and work a siblings nap schedule to fit in with you being in the house but if it’s not practical don’t fret over it too much. Naps should ideally be in the cot, but it’s not always practical. If your little one needs to have a nap on the move, if you are walking, think about taking a longer route so your baby had the opportunity to sleep for a full 45 minute sleep cycle. I love SnoozeShade for naps on the go as they make the pram as dark low stimulating as possible but have been designed to be air-permeable. Use DADDY10 at checkout for 10% off.
  • If you are nipping out in the car and it’s a short trip, think about whether you can transfer your little one to their cot when you get home. My first was a nightmare for it! The moment he was woken he didn’t go back to sleep. Whereas my second could easily be transported to his cot to continue his sleep. If your baby does tend to wake the moment the car stops, I’d try and keep them awake in the car with some singing and then give them a full nap when you get home.
  • Then there is the reverse problem! Little ones falling asleep when they aren’t due a nap! This only really gets problematic when it’s close to bedtime and it will impact them going down for their night sleep. I used to use a Smartrike for my youngest. He loved a pram snooze but when we were literally only out for 10mins it wasn’t ideal. Using the Smartrike meant he was alert and enjoyed the ride rather than dozing off. Do what you can I say!
  • Something that is often forgotten is a younger child that naps with their sibling in a shared bedroom. If they are not there the little one can become upset. Nursery can be a big transition for them as well as their older sibling.

The Adjustment Period

Most nurseries have settling-in days so don’t expect them to sleep just as they do at home straight away. Although some little ones settle really quickly, it might take a bit of time. If you find they are extra tired when they get home, don’t be afraid of bringing bedtime forward. They will likely still wake at their normal time as they need to catch up on a bit of missed daytime sleep.

One other thing to be mindful of is that your little one might start to develop separation anxiety. This might be something they have shown signs of when they were younger, or it might be totally new. It’s important to remember this often isn’t about the nursery itself; more around being away from parents.

Separation anxiety might start at bedtime rather then when you are on your way to nursery. Make sure you offer them lots of additional support at bedtime so they feel reassured that they are safe and you aren’t going anywhere. But make sure you keep set boundaries such as what time and where they go to sleep.

The last thing you want to be worrying about when going through this big change is sleep. If your little one is struggling with sleep I can support you to make improvements before they start nursery. I work with clients on a one to one basis and I also have a series of age-specific online courses for you to implement at your own pace.