kids playing with blocks at table

 

This blog post has many layers. Initially, I would have written only about the transition when maternity leave was over, but with Covid-19, many families are transitioning back after 3-4 months of sheltering-in-place. This will be a big transition for everyone. In both situations, anxieties can be high. And, for parents and children returning back to school, daycare and work there will be new health procedures in place. 

Currently, our daughters’ school, more or less, has a “contact-less” drop-off and pick-up. Each child and parent must wear a mask and all temperatures are taken with reporting paperwork signed. It’s pretty robotic and sad. I have only seen their teachers once since they started and that was because I caught them on the playground when the weather wasn’t hot! It’s my understanding that all classes will soon get tablets and work through an APP to communicate with parents. Much needed!

This transition could be two-fold for you. If you had your child earlier this year, you may be retuning back to work now. Below, I have outlined some strategies that will help make the leap to outside care a little easier.

Returning from maternity leave

Get acquainted with your pump if you are nursing! Plus, be sure you have gotten your little one used to drinking from a bottle. This will help eliminate any added anxiety on top of what you are already feeling. 1-2 weeks before your return, start keeping a daily log of what goes on with your baby; feeding times, sleep periods and duration, diaper changes, bowel movement habits and more. This way, you won’t be rushed or put on the spot when your new caregiver asks about your baby’s schedule. Be advise that public daycares typically have parents fill out a log of sorts for their infant at each morning drop-off. It will ask questions like, when did they last wakeup?, when did they last eat?, and when was their last diaper change? 

It’s important to know that most state licensed daycares are required to follow parents’ instructions for infants 0-12 months. So, in essence, what you say goes! 

It’ll be no surprise that you are feeling anxious and sad about leaving your baby all day, but knowing the caregiver is following your instructions can be comforting. The transition can be tough! Ask them to send you snapshots throughout the day or drop in on your lunch break for a quick snuggle. 

Daycares will always have babies sleeping in bare cribs to reduce the occurrence of SIDS. If you are anxious about your baby not yet sleeping in a crib, practice introducing it one nap at a time. Even a 30-minute nap will help your baby get comfortable sleeping in that space. 

You have to leave the house at the crack of dawn

Commutes are common and long ones are even more common. Or, maybe you work a flex-schedule and need to leave early. If you have to wake your baby at 6:00 AM or before, then early, early bedtime is key. Make this known to your caregiver and ask that they work with your child to get down for their nap first. Depending on age, the class could have 10-14 children, and that’s a lot of bodies to get settled and laid down! This is also helpful when your child ‘moves up’. At that point, they will be the youngest in their class and their sleep needs are different. Your child would benefit from getting settled for their rest time first. Keep in mind that an 11-hour in crib time is key even if that means they go directly to bed after dinner. Your child needs and craves that restorative sleep. Don’t worry--it won’t be this way forever!

Short nap or no naps at all

Yep, I said it. It happens, but the good thing is it usually doesn’t last long. But before you worry yourself, know that so many older kids (only taking 1 nap) fall asleep on their first day. It’s something about the peer pressure! I remember sending my 15-month-old twins to daycare for their first day and thought, “There is no way they will lay down on a cot and sleep with the lights on”. But, what do you know? They both slept an hour. Now, that wasn’t nearly as long as they needed, but I was ecstatic that they fell asleep at all. Now, over a year later, one of my twins continues to take 1.5-2 hour naps (Monday & Friday) and my other twin is hit or miss. Some days she can sleep an hour and other days its 30-45 minutes. I take into consideration that I know she will be tired and give her grace when she acts out. Even if I can get her to bed 15 minutes early that night, it’s helpful. 

Now, younger babies need a more intentional approach. They can’t miss multiple naps a day or things could get ugly. Even if your child is out of the infant room, take note of how naps are and ask all the questions. You are their parent and who is going to ask if you don’t? If your baby was taking really good independent naps at home, expect that they can attain that at daycare, as well. Talk to the room leader about the nap routine and what happens when your baby wakes prematurely. Did they introduce a new prop like rocking or feeding to sleep? Ensure them that your baby does not need those things at home to take a good nap! Following Eat-Play-Sleep can happen at daycare too. Older kids may skip the nap entirely. BUT, it’s typically not the case because ‘everyone else is doing it.’ They see all the other kids laying down to rest and will in turn fall asleep. Some find that their older kids actually nap better at school. 

Your baby is just learning to self-settle or is just one of those babies who needs to let out a few cries before falling asleep

This is all normal! Let the room leader know about this and that you are comfortable with 5-minutes, for example, of crying. Suggest your little one be put down first if they say this is disrupting the other children. Again, totally normal and is developmental.

Your baby falls asleep on the short car ride home!

This actually could be a good thing, because then your baby will be alert enough to eat dinner and maybe even some quiet play time. For babies, 4-7 months old, falling asleep in the car will be very common. When it happens, let them sleep for at least 15-20 minutes. Then proceed with your schedule as normal following an age appropriate wake time. If your baby is older than 7 months, a third nap isn’t advisable. Click here for suggestions on the 3-2 nap transition.

Mirror the new schedule 

Sometimes this can be important. If you know your child will be taking 1 nap at school but is still taking 2 at home. Start the steps at home to reduce down to 1 nap a day. If you’ve been hanging onto the third nap at home, but you know it’s time to drop it, adopt the new schedule 1-2 weeks before your child starts. This will be one less change for them to adapt to.

In recap, here’s what you can do to set your child up for success at daycare/nursery!
  1. Do your research: Ask ALL the questions. Are sleep periods flexible? Will they allow items from home? Can you bring a sleep sack and sound machine? Will they follow your schedule and routine? These questions are ideal for babies younger than 1-year old!
  2. Set reasonable expectations: Take a deep breath and try to accept the fact that there will be an adjustment period. Sleep won’t be as good as it was at home, but the disruptions can be temporary. There are things you can do to help make up for the missed sleep like, super early bedtimes and longer nap periods on the weekend.
  3. How is your child falling asleep? If things haven’t settled or gotten better in a couple weeks, be sure to ask about the routines and process around nap times. Did they introduce a new prop? If sleep periods are only lasting 30-minutes, it’s likely that their routine has been altered in some way. If not corrected, the disruptions can have long term effects on your child’s sleep. If you are prop-free at home, expect the same from your caregiver!

Going back to school/daycare/nursery after Covid-19 looks different than other periods of time. It’s likely you’ve all been together pretty much 24/7. Everyone may be feeling a little anxious about returning; especially with all the new guidelines. Practice wearing a mask around the house and explain that it’s for everyone’s protection. Even if they only keep in on for 30 or less seconds, tell them they did a great job. In addition, talk to your kids about what’s coming up and all the activities they will participate in. On their first day back, give them a confident “bye” and hug at drop-off.

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AUTHOR: Lindsay Loring is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and owner of Tweet Dreamzz. Lindsay is certified through The Family Sleep Institute and has completed studies in baby and toddler sleep, as well as breastfeeding support and SIDS Awareness. Through her personalized coaching, Lindsay designs plans that will ensure the success of the child according to the family's goals. To learn more about Lindsay, visit her at: www.tweetdreamzz.com.

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