Dear daycare, please don’t pat my little one to sleep!

Working mum, Fiona’s 14 month-old son is just about to start daycare one day a week.

He’s also just transitioned to one sleep in the afternoon.

This would not normally be a problem but when Fiona went to check out the daycare centre, she was told her son would be sleeping on a mat on the floor, instead of a cot.

And, that the carers would be patting her little one to sleep. Immediately two alarm bells went off for Fiona:

  1. Normally, her son sleeps in a cot at home
  2. He’s never been patted to sleep before

“What can I do about these things?” she asked mothercraft nurse Chris Minogue on Feed Play Love‘s Helpline.

Listen to Chris Minogue’s advice on Helpline:

Don’t be shy about talking to your daycare

“Sounds like you need to have a good chat to the educators. Start by asking them to take your son into the nursery and into a cot for his sleeps. Otherwise he will end up standing and walking around,” says Chris.

“As this is his first time at daycare, he will also need the comfort and the familiarity of the bars on the cot that tell him: ‘This is normal, this is what I do to go to sleep’.”


Read more about daycare: 


‘Please don’t pat our child to sleep’

For some families, patting children to sleep is normal practice but given Fiona had worked so hard to get her son into a great sleep routine where he self-settles, Chris thinks it is important that she pushes to continue the same routine at daycare. 

“Even if the carers sit beside him and pat him once a week, that could ruin all the hard work you’ve done,” says Chris.

“Have a chat with them and make it clear that is not what you want and show them your own system. Usually they are very keen to work with the routine that works for the family.”

Easing into daycare life 

Even though Fiona’s son is only attending daycare once a week, Chris says it’s important to ease him into the routine gently.

“If you can, stagger the start and finish times for your son over the first three weeks at daycare,” says Chris.

“On the first week don’t make it a whole day, drop him normal time in the morning but try and pick him up around lunchtime so he can have his sleep at home. The next week, stretch it out till about 3pm, and by the third week he will be ready to do a full day.”

Juggling your after-work routine 

Once the daycare days are set in motion, you can get a bit stuck with the change of pace at home. 

Working parents can struggle with getting used to watching the clock at work, racing to pick up and then get overwhelmed with how much there is to do at home every night. 

Chris is a passionate advocate for distilling your after-work routine down to the very basics. 

“What your child needs the most after daycare is your undivided attention. So the best thing you can do is switch off your phone before you walk in to pick them up and not turn it back on until they go to bed, “says Chris. 

“Also spend the first 20 minutes playing when you get home. Drop everything and just sit on the floor and play, or even just pop them in the bath and read them a story. It’s a great way for you both to reconnect after a long day.”

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