Sending your baby to daycare for the first time can be nerve-wracking for a lot of reasons.
One of the biggest is that you’ve spent months developing your sleep routine at home. Will it all go up in flames once you start daycare?
A lot of parents find themselves wondering if daycares use sleep sacks or swaddles, if they need to send one (and if so, which kind) and tons of other things about sleep and naps at daycare.
So let’s learn about it!
Most daycares do use sleep sacks. Some will provide them on-site and others will ask you to send one. Rules and specifications vary, but typically your daycare will ask for an armless sleep sack and will transition away from the sack entirely once your baby leaves the infant room — around a year old or so.
Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know about sleep sacks and daycare naps.
What Are Sleep Sacks, and When Do You Start Using Them?
Sleep sacks are alternatives to swaddles; they are sometimes called baby sleeping bags or wearable blankets.
Their primary purpose is to provide your child with a safe and comfortable blanket for bedtime or nap-time.
Loose blankets are incredibly unsafe, which is why the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) strongly advises against them, and advocates for parents to specifically use sleep sacks if needed.
(Learn more about the difference between swaddles and sleep sacks here.)
Sleep sacks may have arms, or not. And they may be tight around the legs, or loose. They come in all different shapes and sizes!
Sleep sacks are safe so long as they are correctly fitted to your child, used as directed, and used for an appropriate temperature.
Typically, by the time your baby is ready to go to daycare, they’ll have transitioned away from a swaddle and into using a sleep sack for sleeping and nap-time.
So the question is — will daycare provide a sleep sack, use the one you send, or neither?
What Kind of Sleep Sack Should You Send To Daycare?
When your baby first enters daycare, they’ll usually be allowed to use a sleep sack during nap-time. Your daycare provider might use their own sleep sacks, but it’s more likely that you’ll need to provide one.
Ideally, you’ll find a duplicate of the sleep sack your child uses at home to send to daycare.
If you can wash the sleep sack with your laundry, so it smells like home, or better yet, keep it near your body for a day, so it smells like you, that can be comforting for your baby.
With that said, here are five considerations you should keep in mind for a new sleep sack for daycare.
Check the age range of the sleep sack
Some sleep sacks are only intended for the first four months of life, while others are designed only for late babyhood and early toddlerhood, and others cover the newborn stage all the way into toddlerhood.
If you have a duplicate sleep sack at home, you can periodically check the fit and buy a bigger size when needed.
It’s a good idea to err on the side of a larger sleep sack so your child can grow into it, but be careful not to go too big.
It’s important that the sleep sack isn’t too tight or too loose — both can be dangerous or uncomfortable for baby.
In any case, by the time your baby is a year old or so, he or she will move from the infant room to a young toddler room at daycare. He’ll sleep on a cot instead of in a crib, and likely won’t use a sleep sack at all — even if you’re still using one at home.
Choose a high-quality material
Polyester and fleece can be dangerous or even deadly; they are known to make babies overheat.
Cotton is one of the better choices as it is breathable, natural, and comes in organic options.
Bamboo and hemp are equally good options.
Wool is also natural and makes for a surprisingly good choice, though it’s likely too heavy-duty for an indoor preschool setting.
Make sure you enjoy the style of the sleep sack
Zip-up sleep sacks are almost always preferable to buttons, but check with your daycare to see what they preer.
Almost all parents and daycare providers agree that sleep sacks that you can open from the top and bottom are the better choice, as they make diaper changes significantly easier.
You’ll also want a sleep sack that can be washed in the washing machine and dried within a clothes dryer.
It is much easier to combat spit-up, sweat, and blowouts when daycare sends home a soiled sleep sack!
Most daycares require armless sacks
Check with your daycare provider about their exact specifications and what they do and don’t allow.
But in general, most daycares require that sleep sacks be armless for safety reasons.
This can be a tricky transition for a baby that’s used to a swaddle or a sleep sack that keeps their arms in tight, so start working on it as soon as possible!
Ideally, you’ll start teaching baby to sleep arms-free as soon as he or she is out of the swaddle.
How Does Naptime Work for Daycare Babies?
Almost all states mandate that daycares provide all children with the space and opportunity to nap or rest without disturbances or distractions.
Every state and every daycare is different, so be sure to specifically ask your daycare provider what the policies are and how they handle nap-time for the most clarity.
With that said, here are some standard daycare nap-time rules that good providers will follow:
Safe Sleep Practice Guidelines Are Always Followed
Your daycare center should be aware of the American Academy of Pediatricians’ safe sleep policies. T
hey should know to place your baby on their back, on a firm surface, in a clean, clutter-free crib that is also free of loose blankets, pillows, bumpers, toys, curtains, etc.
The sheet should be tight-fitting, and the crib should be AAP-approved.
Naps Are Granted Based on Individual’s Needs
Care providers should listen to your advice and carefully watch your child for cues that they are ready for rest.
Once they spot a few of the signs, such as eye rubbing, fussiness, slow blinks, sucking on fingers, or nodding, they should whisk your child away for a nap.
Providers Should Cater to Each Child’s Needs
Your infant’s teacher should ask you how you typically put your child to sleep and follow that practice.
They should be willing to rock, walk, hold, pacify, or sing to your child to help them fall asleep.
Providers Should Respond to Cries, Promptly
A baby who is left to cry without being picked up or comforted may experience trauma — so don’t expect daycare to practice “cry it out.”
While it is inconvenient for providers to respond to every cry, it is necessary.
Make sure you choose a daycare that has a healthy teacher-to-infant ratio.
Children Should Be Allowed to Rest As Needed
If a baby sleeps past their usual time, they should not be woken up.
Babies go through leaps of growth, and these growth periods require extra time to sleep.
For those babies who can’t sleep, they should be given the freedom to quietly play or rest without being forced or pressured to sleep.
Where Do Babies Sleep at Daycare?
Most daycare centers strongly enforce the use of cribs for infants and young toddlers and cots for older toddlers and young children.
Even if your baby falls asleep somewhere else (yes, it happens!), they will be carefully placed in their own private, designated crib.
Safe sleep recommendations are always followed.
Almost all daycare centers implement see-through cribs for additional safety.
Some even offer live webcams so you can check in on your baby when they are sleeping.
Can Daycare Providers Swaddle Your Baby?
While the AAP allows parents to swaddle their infants and believes that swaddling is safe and comforting to the child (especially for the first couple of months of life), swaddles are not permitted for licensed childcare providers.
Most daycares will not swaddle your baby and instead will ask that you send a sleep sack for nap-time.
Most daycares use sleep sacks for babies until they move from the crib to a cot for naps. They may provide a sack or ask you to send one from home.
Choose your baby’s sleep sack carefully and occasionally check it to ensure a comfortable and safe fit. Your sweet baby will thank you for those oh-so-cozy daycare naps!
For more, don’t miss:
- Do daycares provide food and formula?
- What time do most daycares open and close?
- What are the best daycares?
Hope this helps!