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The importance of finding sleep supportive childcare

Baby sleeping in a sleep sack

If your child will be attending childcare or is in childcare currently or even has grandparents caring for them, there are some things to consider, especially if your child is under the age of three years old.  I talk to many parents with babies and toddlers who are experiencing sleep issues and the main issue is the child’s daytime sleep.   Daytime sleep for babies and young children seems to be different than night time sleep.  According to distinguish Pediatric Sleep Researcher and Author Dr. Mark Weissbluth, day time sleep appears to be controlled by a different part of the brain than night time sleep.   Research also states that day time sleep occurs for babies and young children because their brains build up sleep pressure so rapidly that their brains need to restore.  We also know that babies and young children are developmentally changing  frequently and during their sleep is when the majority of these changes occur.

Daytime sleep or naps are crucial for babies and young children therefore if your child attends a child care facility or is cared for by someone other than yourself during the day it is very important that your child’s sleep matters to them.   So here are some things that a childcare provider should be doing:

  1. A structure and routine for naps.  It is so important for babies and young children to have a nap time routine.  Babies and young children sleep well when their sleep routine stays the same from day to day.  Naps should be happening at the appropriate time for your baby.   Ensure your childcare provider understands what your baby’s nap needs are, when and how they should happen.  Also naps should never be skipped or delayed as that is very difficult for a baby’s overall development and sleep needs.  
  2. A quiet, dark sleeping area.  It can be very difficult for babies to sleep in an open room where other babies are awake.  It is more beneficial if the sleeping area can be somewhat separate from the play area.
  3. Sleep space stays the same.  Some babies really struggle to sleep in different cribs for each nap therefore having the same crib for naps is very helpful.  If they can’t accommodate that, request that your baby gets the same crib for the entire day, this will also prevent the spread of germs.
  4. Follow your sleep plan.  If you have worked hard to develop healthy sleep habits for your child, it is so important that your childcare provider is following your sleep plan or as close to it as they can so your child can continue to have good sleep habits.

If you already have a childcare provider and your child is experiencing sleep issues during the day, ask to meet with the manager or director of the facility and explain to him or her what is going on with your child’s sleep.  Chances are very good that they don’t know that what they are doing for your child’s sleep is causing the more sleep problems.  Request that they make some changes to how they are dealing with your child’s sleep.   Write or type up a list of very specific things that they can do to help your child sleep better and then follow up and keep them accountable.

Finally if they aren’t willing to work with you on your child’s sleep and your child is continuing to experience sleep issues during the day, it may be time to consider another childcare provider.  Your child’s daytime sleep is so essential to their overall health and development, it cannot be overlooked.  However, from my experience working with hundreds of families, this option has only been necessary for a very small percentage of families.  Most childcare providers are willing to work with the family when asked to do so.

About the author

Shannon Glenn

Shannon Glenn is the owner and founder of Sleep Well Children Consulting and a Certified Pediatric Sleep Specialist. She is dedicated to helping parents assist their children and babies in developing healthy sleep habits. With a B.A. in Psychology, Shannon has worked extensively with children and their families for over 15 years in a variety of settings.  She has been offering sleep solutions for over six years.  

Why didn’t we try this sooner?! As we speak he is sound asleep in his crib – and has been since 7:15 pm.

Karianne Wanggaard

Sleep Well Sleep Specialists

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Working with Shannon, I went from 2-3 wake ups every night to 1 or 0. She aligned the plan with my preferred sleep cycle. She was always coaching, never judging. Shannon was great, I have referred MANY people to her! That's the best testament to her work that I can give.

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