Will starting nursery affect my baby’s sleep?

One of the biggest worries I hear from parents is how their little one will transition to starting at nursery or daycare. Some have finally got them into a decent routine, and are terrified of this being disrupted. Others aren’t great sleepers, and they are worried about things getting even worse!

My top tips for making the transition easier

Send them with comfort from home
Starting at childcare can be a huge change for our little ones. Sending them with a piece of home can help them feel more at home, and also help with their sleep. For example, this may be their favourite cuddly toy, blanket or muslin.

Let their key worker know their routine & sleep cues

Many nurseries will try their best to work around your little one’s routine (particularly during their transition). Talk to them about the best timing for naps, how your little one tells you when they are tired, and what to do when things go wrong. Often nursery workers are open to working alongside parents, and might make adjustments (e.g. cuddling to sleep, using white noise, or rocking in a pushchair). And if they aren’t able to incorporate your little ones individual needs – ask them to make a detailed log of naps so you can adjust bedtime accordingly!

But be prepared for naps to differ from at home (and that’s OK!)

You are NEVER going to manage to get your little one on identical routines at home, and in nursery. Nurseries have multiple other children to consider, the environment is different, they are more likely to be woken sooner – and you aren’t there! But children are amazingly flexible, and can thrive on two completely different routines.

Will starting nursery affect my baby's sleep? Doze Sleep Coaching

Be prepared for shorter than normal naps
This is one of the most common results of a child starting nursery! At home they might have 1-2 hour naps, but at nursery they will only catnap. This is completely normal, just be prepared to offer an early dinner and bedtime to compensate.

Consider the benefit of a post-nursery catnap, or let them catch up at the weekend
Many children will nod off in the car of pushchair on the way home from nursery – and parents panic this is going to impact their night sleep. Often, it can help reduce some of the overtiredness – and lead to a calmer evening! You can always push bedtime a touch later to compensate – and at least your less likely to get an early rise after a 6pm bedtime.

Similarly, some children might have very little sleep during the week (or have less naps than usual). It’s absolutely OK to let them catch up at the weekend, offering them more naps, or longer naps to compensate.

Top up their love tank before bedtime

It’s worth remembering that nursery is the longest period of separation between you and your child. This can cause spikes in separation anxiety (and lead to LONG overnight nursing sessions in breastfed babies). I recommend topping up their love tank before bed – think lots of lovely 1:1 time together, reading, skin-to-skin, nursing and bathing together.

And finally remember it will be OK!

Childcare workers are magic, and childen usually fall into their own routines and rhythms. Here are the words of a couple of real life parents to give you more confidence:

“My 14 month old falls asleep on his favourite nursery worker, and they transfer him to the cot. I think it’s important to remember that they won’t be the only ones that are held/cuddled to sleep. And the nursery staff have their amazing ways!”

“My oldest boy (3) was a terrible sleeper day and night. It used to take me ages to get him to nap, and there needed to be 101 things ‘just right’. I was so worried when he went to nursery, but what did he do there? Climbed onto his mattress after lunch and just closed his eyes and napped!!!!!”

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