Whether you are only off for a few weeks or taking a longer maternity leave, returning to work can be a challenging and stressful time.
Many parents look for childcare options but fail to give much thought to sleep and sleeping arrangements when making these choices. In addition, the changes can cause some significant sleep regressions, especially if your little one isn’t sleeping well at childcare. There are some few steps though that you can take to make this transition as smooth as possible.
Depending on where you live, childcare options might have quite long waiting list that can go up to a year, so planning ahead is crucial. Looking at options ahead of time can take some the stress away as you will have the time to consider all the alternatives and find the solutions the best fit your family.
The Transition to Childcare
The transition to childcare, whether at home with a nanny or a relative or away from home at a childminder, will likely go smoother if your child is sleeping well. As changes can cause some sleep regression, it would be best to start working on your child sleep well ahead of time, at least a few months in advance to avoid waiting until you’re ready to go back to work. If your child is not sleeping well at night, this would cause issues with your baby being tired and cranky and it would make it very stressful to you to restart your work life if you are sleep-deprived. Starting ahead means that your little one can have the opportunity to begin with a gentle and holistic approach and get into a new routine without too much stress. This transition is going to be way easier if other people have the ability to put your baby down to sleep. If you are the only one able to put your baby down, it’s a wonderful feeling but it’s also a huge responsibility so getting practice from time to time by grandparents, relatives, friends or a babysitter can help make the transition going smoother.
Choosing the right childcare option
If your little one is going to a childminder or daycare, spend some time researching your options and don’t forget to keep sleep in mind when you are evaluating alternatives. Sometimes childminders offer great services in terms of food and activities, but the sleep environment or the routines might not be ideal for your child, so it’s always important to take into consideration sleep when choosing a childcare provider and ask questions about their practices. It’s important to know if they have a separate environment for sleep, how dark it is, how often are the babies checked and if you can bring in your own bedding to help make the environment more comfortable. Most of all, it’s important to ask ahead of time if they are willing to work with you to follow your pre-sleep routine according to your child schedule. All these questions are essential for you to make the right choice for your family, as you don’t want to end up having issues with an overtired baby or having to restart working on sleep routines right when you are going back to work. You can download our Sleep @Childcare Checklist to help you on this journey.
It can be very frustrating for a baby to having to go into a new sleep environment and be expected to sleep well, so playtime is a great way for your baby to familiarise with his bedroom. In our blog post Moving Your Baby To Their Own Bedroom you can find lots of tips on how to prepare your kids to sleep well in a new environment.
They are SO tired!
When babies and children start going to childcare, their schedule will inevitably change. The timing of their naps and sleep routines will likely change and be earlier than they are at home. It’s important to know your little one’s tired signs and let your childcare provider know, as they can adjust the nap schedule when your child is showing these signs.
Early to bed!
Early to bed can be so important because they are much more stimulated when they go to daycare so they are going to be really tired by the time they get home. Keeping them up doesn’t help, so you might need to move bedtime early, especially during the first months. It can be very difficult to get them to bed so early, sometimes as early as 6 pm, as it can be a conflict with your work schedule, so it’s important to carefully plan ahead in order for you to have some flexibility during the first few months.
A pre-bed snack might also be necessary so they don’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night. Sometimes, daycare provides dinner or tea around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, so they will likely wake up before morning really hungry. Giving them a snack with a combination of protein and carbs, like yoghurt, crackers or bananas, will help them sleep better by keeping them full through the night as they are slower to digest.
What to expect and what to do
It can take weeks or even a few months to get fully settled into a new routine. You should expect an overtired behaviour and naps to be resisted or quite short at the beginning. You should be especially patient during this time and communicate well with your childcare provider. It’s also important to increase the connection with your child, as it’s very important to have special one-on-one time with your little one, especially if you have a toddler or a pre-schooler.
Things will eventually adjust to a new routine for everyone, it just takes a bit of time for your little one to be comfortable in the new environment.