How to choose a nursery to suit your child’s sleep needs
Maybe I am biased, but how a childcare setting deals with sleep is one of the most important factors for your child’s health and wellbeing. If they are not napping much or at all, you can expect to see problems happening at bedtime, during the night and early rising creeping in due to that old chestnut: over-tiredness. For those who don’t know, this essentially means excess levels of cortisol being released into the body during the day which suppresses the much-needed sleep hormone melatonin.
Nurseries/childminders that fit your criteria of being en route to work, are in your price range etc. are not always easy to come by. So, you might be thinking that finding one that also meets your child’s sleep needs is just not going to be possible with everything else on the checklist? From my personal experience, the childcare providers who are keen to invest in getting your child the sleep they need, are great at everything else too! I believe their attitude on this issue is quite telling.
When you have a visit ensure you ask questions about sleep:
- Where the children sleep
- When they sleep
- How they get them to sleep
Try to work out the following from your enquiries:
- Do they concentrate on an individual child’s sleep needs?
- Are they flexible with location of naps (i.e. buggy/cot room)
- Do they push them to stay awake for too long/i.e. on their schedule?
- Do they make them sleep in a room full of activities going on down the other end of the room with the sun streaming through the window (my pet peeve!)?
If you child is still on a two nap a day schedule, be firm for them not to try to cut this down to one for their own ease, keep a close eye on how they are at home and remember you know your child best. If they still need that morning nap, then insist they have it! Likewise if they are 3 and still having a afternoon nap, then this is perfectly normal and they will still really need it.
To prepare you for reality, even if your child sleeps well at home, the shift into childcare will always be a difficult one when it comes to sleep. It is likely that they will never sleep as much on nursery days. The best way to combat this is to give them an early night (as early as 6pm) and to catch them up with longer naps on the days they are at home. If a child is in full-time childcare and gets home after 6pm I would prepare yourself for them not to get as much as they need overall in the week and the most likely sign that this is taking its toll, will be early rising (before 6am).
The good news is that the older they get, their sleep needs are less demanding, and they are more likely to mimic their peers as they get into toddlerhood, so put up less of a battle.
In summary, take control of your child’s sleep needs even when they are not with you, it will result in a happier healthier little one!
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