Daycare & Baby Sleep
Cara Dumaplin, Founder
Through Taking Cara Babies, I get to collaborate with moms from all across the world and from all walks of life. This blog post is written by one of those amazing moms.

Let me introduce her to you-

Jennifer Swanson and her husband are both educators. They have two little boys: Lukas, who is 2 ½ and conquered rough nights through “The ABCs of Sleep” and Markus, who is 3 months old and a good sleeper thanks to his parents using the tips taught in my newborn class. I asked Jennifer to write a blog post about her experience implementing her sleep plans while having babies in daycare. Enjoy!

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Being a parent comes with so many joys and challenges, along with a world of unknowns—best ways to feed, schedules to keep, how to get everyone some sleep—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

As my husband and I started taking our boys to daycare, we found ourselves asking a whole new set of questions. Here are a few of the questions we wrestled with, specifically related to baby sleep-

What do I do if daycare doesn’t swaddle my young baby?

My littlest one started daycare at 10 weeks old and was sleeping fairly well, thanks to the tips and tricks I learned in Cara’s newborn class. However, when the daycare welcome packet said they can’t swaddle babies, I panicked: Markus hadn’t slept without a swaddle unless he was in my arms or in a car seat since he was born.

The first few days were expectedly rough; his daycare teacher told me that he kept falling asleep but would startle himself awake within a few minutes. How was I supposed to help my poor 10-week-old boy to sleep at daycare with this strong startle reflex? I scheduled a phone consult with Cara because she’s our sleep guru!

Cara suggested a swaddle transition like Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit. Within a few days, Markus was sleeping well at daycare! This is different than what we do at home, but he adapted. Somehow, he was able to tell the difference between sleeping at daycare with the help of a swaddle transition and sleeping at home, still swaddled in his DockATot.

How can I be consistent with my baby if daycare doesn’t follow the plan? Won’t this destroy our efforts to teach our baby how to sleep without interventions?

To put it simply: this will likely cause no problems.

The day our older son turned 5 months old, we started Cara’s “ABCs of Sleep” plan. We feared the inconsistency of daycare where Lukas’s naps often included interventions like constant pacifier replacement, rocking to sleep, or sleeping in a swing. Cara assured us that daycare napping would be very unlikely to affect our nights. As a mama who likes clear-cut and consistent plans, I had my doubts.

We were relieved over the next few weeks to realize that Cara was absolutely correct. Our sleep plan worked beautifully even though Lukas’s daycare sleep was entirely different from what we did at home. Lukas did not sleep well at daycare despite everything we tried. Somehow, it just didn’t matter to his night sleep.

What do I do about the drive between daycare and home? Do I have to fight to keep baby awake the whole way home every day?

Don’t worry about it.

Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything you can do to keep a baby awake in the backseat if he wants to sleep. I’ve tried all the things—singing, playing the radio, talking, throwing stuffed animals, and even reaching into the backseat when I should really have been paying attention to the road. You know what happened all of those times? Baby was asleep in the car seat when we got home.

So I stopped worrying. And Lukas did great. We tried to make sure that he had some quality awake time between that little catnap and bedtime, and it never created any problems. I think it actually helped him get to bedtime without having a major meltdown. Cara calls this the “oops!” nap. We saw this nap make our lives easier, so we re-create it with our younger son who sometimes takes a quick nap in the swing when we come home from daycare, and his daycare napping isn’t going to get him to bedtime.

How do I deal if what happens at daycare really does affect sleep at home?

After a few weeks of daycare, Markus started sleeping so well there that they occasionally let him sleep past his scheduled feeding. Once or twice in the same week, he slept for over 3 ½ hours in a row. This risked him not getting the daytime calories he needed to sleep well at night and risked him deciding that his one long stretch of sleep would be during the day!

What was I going to do to keep my good night sleeper? The answer was easier than I expected. I talked to our daycare teacher about how we were aiming for our pediatrician’s recommended feeding schedule (every 2.5-3 hours for babies Markus’s age) and recommended napping schedule (naps no longer than 2-2.5 hours). His teacher was so understanding and willing to work with this! I felt like I was stepping on toes to speak up, but she was happy to help.

The answers to all these questions led me to these conclusions-

  • Babies are smart.

They seem to just understand that daycare isn’t home, and different rules apply.

  • Daycare teachers love babies.

Both of our boys had teachers who wanted to help us help our babies. The teachers understood the cues that babies give and the routines that babies need to sleep well. AND they were very willing to listen and help.

  • Daytime sleep really is separate from nighttime sleep.

Both of our boys had different sleep experiences at daycare; one is sleeping well, and one only took short naps until he was over a year old. Nighttime sleep worked for both of them.

  • There’s no reason to stop what’s working at home.

This goes back to the idea that babies are smart and can tell the difference between home and daycare. If swaddling, white noise, DockATot, dark room, etc. are working at home, let them work at home. These help babies to sleep; there’s no reason to change it up.

  • I have to celebrate the successes I do have, and let go of what I can’t control.

We have had great night sleep with both babies because of Cara’s classes. We have quality daycare sleep with one for now and got the occasional good daycare nap with the other. Nothing was perfect, BUT mamas who stay at home don’t get perfection either.

Jennifer Swanson and her family: Markus, Lukas, and husband, Andrew

hey there!

I'm Cara.

I’m a mom of four, neonatal nurse, and wife of a pediatrician. My passion is teaching parents how to help their babies sleep with the science of a nurse and the heart of a mama so they can reclaim the joy of parenthood.

I'm Cara.

I’m a mom of four, neonatal nurse, and wife of a pediatrician. My passion is teaching parents how to help their babies sleep with the science of a nurse and the heart of a mama so they can reclaim the joy of parenthood.

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