Supporting your child's sleep
in group care

24th January, 2024

Written by Lucia Sandford

Child Sleep Consultant

As a sleep consultant I often get asked the question:
“How do I prepare my child’s sleep for starting daycare?”
This common question likely comes with many other concerns about what your child’s care routines and days may look like within childcare.

  • “Will they have to follow a different routine and schedule?”
  • “Who will be responsible for my child’s sleep each day?”
  • “What if I am the only one who is able to settle my baby to sleep like we do at home?!”

Being both a sleep consultant and qualified head infant teacher, I am here to give inside knowledge, answer these common worries, and hopefully give you a boost of confidence before making those first steps towards starting childcare.

Typically, beginning at a new childcare requires a few visiting days with your child. These visits can be a great way to support your child to get familiar with the new spaces and faces. Getting down to their level and playing with them on the floor models to them that this is a fun and safe environment!

These visits can also be a great opportunity for you to meet the teachers who will be taking care of your little one so that you can ask all the burning questions you might have. You may find a lot of questions are also directed at you too, as teachers are curious to find out about all the special things you and your child do at home, and how they can best support their sleep and care routines within the Centre.

These conversations about your child may support you to feel more involved in how your child transitions into care, and help their teachers bridge the gap from home by incorporating the special items, songs, and routines you share.

It is often a misconception that Childcare Centres have set daily routines that all children are required to follow, but often (particularly within infant spaces) ratios are lower in order to provide individualised care for each child. Care routines around sleeping and feeding may be followed as closely as you do at home, and can be adjusted through regular conversations and updates with teachers each day.

This means that you may not need to do anything special to “prepare them for childcare” but instead build a trusting relationship with your child’s teachers and just communicate how your child’s care and wellbeing will be best supported.

Often infant spaces will have a ‘key teaching system’. Key teaching practices are where a teacher has a set group of ‘key children’ of whom they are their primary teacher. This is particularly beneficial in your child’s first few weeks to avoid them being passed around to many different adults, but instead provides the opportunity to bond with one person, and build a safe and trusting relationship where their needs are met consistently throughout the day. This may also be your go-to person if you have any questions or concerns, or just to catch up with at the beginning and end of each day.

With all these great practices and values in place, you may expect your child to eat, sleep, and play as they do at home, but it is important to ensure your expectations are realistic as transitioning into childcare is a huge learning experience. Undergoing a busy day out of home, alongside many other new children is likely to be a completely unfamiliar experience and will require a period of adjustment. Another huge change is to the sleep space. Away from their potentially quiet, solo sleeping quarters at home, children in childcare share a sleep space which comes with more adjustments: a new room, a new bed, new noises, and new adults! Bear in mind it may take your child a few days or even a few months to attune to this big change, and that is okay!

Keep communication lines open with your child’s teachers and trust that they are doing their best to support your child to get the best care and sleep during their days away from home. In my experience, I have personally never seen a teacher or team that couldn’t get a child to sleep soundly, so as long as safe and supportive relationships are built I am sure your little one will be in safe hands. Oh and don’t forget you can always phone to check in as often as you like!
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