Transitioning your child to daycare

Time to go back to work already?! In Canada, we are fortunate to be able to stay home with our children for a full year. I know that I certainly felt privileged to be on maternity leave with both of my children during that time. There are many changes happening to babies that first year, including teething, transitioning to solid food and improving sleep.

After the first six months have passed, or perhaps even before, parents will begin planning to take their baby to a place for child care while they themselves prepare to head back to work. The transition to daycare is always a busy time of juggling new morning and evening schedules, getting back into the groove of going to work and adjusting your little one to a new environment at a daycare. Most of my clients have LOTS of questions once sleep is on track about what that means when daycare starts, so to help put your mind at ease, I am going to share my top tips for dealing with the change and keeping your little ones rested.

Choose wisely.

Pick a daycare that is good fit for your child and your family. Ask any questions and raise any concerns that you have and make sure that the answers align with what is important to you for your child. A couple of important things to consider when it comes to choosing a daycare:

  • It is a good idea to interview a few places and decide which is the best fit for you and your child. Getting referrals from other families, going to visit in-person during daycare hours, asking about sleep and daily schedules, how they handle emergency situations, etc. will provide information that you will want to know!
  • Parents are often concerned about transitioning their child to one nap in order to follow the schedule at daycare. If your child is around one year of age, he will typically adjust well to the new routines with the other children and will be fine with moving to one nap a day. However, the nap will need to begin much earlier, so ensure that the daycare is willing to schedule the nap to begin at 11:30 a.m. so that your child is not overtired. Some babies still need two naps a day to be rested so it really needs to be discussed ahead of time.

Bring a lovey.

 Lovies are wonderful transitional items to help children deal with normal separation anxiety that they begin to experience during this time.

  • Some children will cling to a lovey or if they have not attached themselves to one already, parents can choose a lovey for them prior to beginning daycare. Giving the lovey to children at sleep times (if they are old enough; ask your pediatrician or doctor), when they are visiting grandparents or having play dates will allow them to form an attachment.
  • A lovey can be a stuffed animal, doll, blanket or even a shirt worn by mom or dad – the scent of mom/dad is so helpful.
  • Make sure that the lovey is safe and free of ribbons, buttons and small plastic parts that are possible choking hazards.
  • Remember to buy two! Lovies often get lost so it is always a great idea to have a back-up that is “well loved” and used just as often.

Begin new daycare routine early.

Families should practice getting up at the same time that they need to for work a few days or a week prior to taking children to daycare. This will help parents and children align with the new schedule and ease everyone into the new routine beforehand, making it less tiring and stressful for everyone on the first day of daycare and back to work. If parents are planning to transition children to one nap a day, it will be important to transition them at least the week before, allowing their bodies some time to adjust.

It is also helpful to plan new routines for the weekdays during this time so that mornings run as smoothly as possible. Packing the daycare bag the night before, scheduling time to eat breakfast, planning clothes (yours and baby’s) the night before and having 10 minutes of free time to deal with unpredictable situations that might come up in the morning, or just to have a few minutes to be with your child before drop-off, are also helpful.

Move bedtime earlier.

A child will be tired from being in a new space, meeting new people and having busier days in general (ie. getting out the door, dressed and eating breakfast is a tighter schedule than before). An earlier bedtime of 30 minutes to 1 hour will be necessary for everyone at first. After the first 3 weeks to a month, bedtime can be moved closer to the normal time again.

If you are looking for more sleep tips to help your child sleep well before going to daycare, you can schedule a free 15-minute call or check out the upcoming More Sleep For Baby online workshop coming up Friday, April 7 (limited to 4 families).

Sleep well,


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