It’s that time of year. The kids are heading back to school, and for many of us, due to the pandemic, it is their first time in daycare or preschool.
I remember when my daughter started daycare back in 2019. As my first child, I was BEYOND nervous. I was worried about her eating, and of course, sleeping well. She was 10 months old, I had sleep trained her when she was 8 months, and I was wondering how the heck she was going to sleep with other children in the room, and noises she wasn’t used to. Today my son Nico started school for the first time at 16 months. I can tell you the worry is the same. It is just in our mom dna. So without further delay, here are my back to school sleep tips.
I could go with taking my own advice, as I sit here wondering how my kids are feeling, and what they are doing on their first day. What is going to happen with nap time and if they will eat. I feel jittery and distracted, checking the classroom log every few minutes for updates. I have a feeling this is going to happen every single year until they are out of college. Heck, I wonder if I will feel this way when they have their first day at their new job. I really don’t know, but what I do know is at this point you have done everything to make the best decision for them. You have researched schools, talked to their teachers, and prepared them in the best way you can. All that is left to do is for you to trust. Trust that they will adapt. Because the one thing that sets us apart from any other living creature is our adaptability. So step one: take some deep breaths and trust they will adapt to all the big changes, and be better because of it. If you are sending them to school you are gaining a new freedom for yourself as a mom. In no time you will be able to trust someone else with their care, and I assure you that is a HUGE relief.
Be aware of the nap situation at school
Every school is different but for a large majority, nap time is mandatory for kids 3 and under. For safety reasons, many daycares require shoes to be on and at least some light in the room for nap time. For a sleep trained baby, this sounds like a nightmare, but know that they can and will adapt. Luckily kids are able to separate what happens at school from what happens at home and a child with independent sleep skills tends to adapt pretty quickly to their school nap situation. Sure there will be a period of adjustment before you get a good nap in when they start school, but it will come.
On the flip side, if your child is 2.5 or older, the school may still be asking that they nap, and this may be interfering with bedtime. I have had to work with many clients where we either ask the preschool to wake a child up after a certain amount of time, or we push bedtime back to accommodate a nap a child may not really need anymore. For most preschools, nap time is when teachers get their break, so if you are seeing bedtime struggles and your child is still napping at school, you may need to discuss with the teacher the option of quiet time instead of actually sleeping for your child.
Whatever the situation is at your school, be aware of how long your child is napping for, and the time they wake up so you can set them up for a successful bedtime.
If during the summer you got a little lax on bedtimes, now is the time to reel it back in. Being around a bunch of new kids, and new materials can be extra tiring. When you pick them up for school, plan your schedule so that their bedtime allows for 12 hours of sleep (11 at the very least). Like I said above, in order to choose an appropriate bedtime, you need to know what happened during the nap.
In our case, that will mean bringing my 3 year old’s bedtime strictly to 7pm. She won’t nap even if they have her lay in a cot and she will be extra tired from the stimulation.
Our 16 month old will be adapting to a new nap situation, which may mean really terrible naps at first, so I will be adjusting his bedtime as well. This might mean bedtime as early as 6pm if he has a bad nap at school. During his first week I am lucky to have the flexibility to pick him up before his school nap so that he gets to know the environment before being asked to nap there. I will bring him home and hope that he has a good nap at home even though it will be an hour later than his usual time. I can’t really predict what will happen until we start living it so all I can do is go with the flow and adjust the schedule accordingly to avoid him being overtired.
Remember overtired kids do not thrive, are grumpy, and more emotional since they have a harder time self regulating. Honestly, overtired adults are the same.
If you need help pinpointing the right school sleep schedule for your kids, shoot me a message, I am happy to help!