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Preparing your Child for Daycare

Time to chat about Daycare, a topic you have all been asking for!

When thinking about placing your little one in the care of someone else, it can be seriously daunting. Maybe you decide to use a dayhome, nanny, or family member instead. Either way, putting that trust into someone else can be scary for many parents. We’ve all heard our fair share of daycare horror stories, or know of someone who’s been impacted (myself included), but we’ll save those stories for another day.

Ultimately, my family chose the daycare route. We had a quick chat about what we both were looking for, and it came down to affordability and location. Let’s be real, this is probably the deciding factor for most families. Childcare is wildly EXPENSIVE. I will mention that I live in Alberta, and the government has a really neat child care lookup tool online. You can find every licensed or registered daycare or dayhome by location and it lists any incidents the facility has had past or present. It’s a really nice feature to help give you a little comfort when choosing the right place. If you live in Alberta, I encourage you to use it!

Anyways…There are hundreds of different daycare topics to get into. Choosing the right one, the benefits it has on baby & parent, embarrassing stories, horror stories, ILLNESS & building immunity, and of course our favourite topic over here, which is SLEEP!

Maybe you are a little like me, where you might have a few control issues. Control freak is a strong term, I personally like to think that I'm just more of a particular person, but either way, I really feel the need to overlook EVERYTHING! I remember walking into the daycare the first day, and just handing my son over and thinking “this is it, I just leave now?!” Is the staff going to remember the trick needed to open his special cup, they don’t even know he’s going through a phase right now where he likes all his fruit and veggies cut into sticks, coin shapes are so last week, will they know that?! What about the sleep space? Typically he naps twice a day, now once?! And don’t forget he NEEDS his soother to sleep, and by the way how the heck is he going to sleep on that mat on the floor? Will the sleep space be dark enough, cold enough, will there be a white noise machine? How is he ever going to sleep there, and I hope all my hard work sleep training doesn’t get wrecked!!!

Sterling's son, Edison

Once I finally accepted that his schedule at daycare wasn’t going to change, and it’s entirely out of my control, I had to move on and make lemonade out of lemons. If you’ve been sleep training, nothing will be wrecked, all your hard work won’t be ruined, your child will adapt, the adjustment period will end and life will be ok again. Promise!

I would like to add that it is always ok to ask questions, see if there are exceptions for adding white noise, or suggesting that based on your baby’s age, they will actually be happier and in a better mood if they nap twice a day. The benefits of a happy baby is what is best for the staff at the daycare, but baby himself and the family at the end of the day. There is never any harm in speaking up and asking, afterall the worst that could happen is that they say no.

If you’ve been following Counting Sheep for a while, you might have heard that we can technically drop to one nap anywhere between 12-18 months. My little guy started daycare at 15 months, and was still napping twice a day until then. Every child is different, and so are their sleep needs, and that’s ok! Our little ones are so adaptable at that age, they pick up on their surroundings and what the other children are doing so quickly, and follow suit (for the most part). So even though you have no control of what happens at daycare, you CAN CONTROL what happens at home.

Does this sound familiar? Your little one just got home from daycare, and it’s been a day! It’s their first time being there, they hardly slept, and they basically feel abandoned by you for leaving them all day. It’s now suppertime. You probably worked all day, your child is hungry, they're tired, you’re tired, they want to be held by you, and you only, and so on... Your house is basically on fire every night between the hours of 4-7pm. Been there!

Here’s what we CAN CONTROL and what we CAN DO. Keep your weekend routine at home the same. Perhaps you let them catch up on some extra sleep, maybe that’s two naps, maybe it's one extended nap, depending on your child's age. Another thing you can do, and what will come in handy on those really hectic evenings, is early bedtime. This is especially true when your little one was napping twice a day, and all of a sudden cut down to one when they aren’t quite ready. I would recommend moving the bedtime up to one hour earlier. So if bedtime is typically 7pm, try 6pm. You’d be surprised by how often an earlier bedtime actually means more night time sleep, and less night wakings…which also means more time to yourself!

Another thing we can do to help make the transition easier is to practise! Daycares in most cities, such as Calgary, come with some pretty lengthy wait times. In most cases you’ll know when your child's first day will be, and will have about a month's notice. Once you have your start date, try seeing how your child sleeps on their schedule at home, and give them a few weeks to adjust. Maybe you test out increasing their wake windows, little by little each day building up to the start date. This way it’s a little easier on them when the big day comes. You can also see if it’s possible to let them start a week or so early, part time! Let your child go a couple days a week, or even start with half days! This will give them an opportunity to get used to the new space and caregivers, when you are still available to come pick them up if needed!

At the end of it all, be consistent. Make adjustments to the things you can control, let go of the things you can’t control and trust your gut. IT'S OK TO ASK QUESTIONS, then once those questions are heard, ask some more. I know how hard finding quality child care can be. It’s just another thing added to our neverending to-do list, and if we can stress a little less about it, that’s a really good feeling. Trust your instincts, and soak up your time with your child when they are with you! It all goes too fast!

As always, we are here if you need support! You can book a free call to chat about daycare, or any other sleep concern you may have!

-Sterling Galliott

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