Kids & Company Blog

Back to Work: Sleep and Routine

We asked moms and dads what they want to know about returning to work after a leave with little ones and they delivered! We broke all the questions we received into themes and have addressed them in this 11-part blog series on Back to Work in partnership with Mama Coach.

Part 3/11: Sleep and establishing good routines

Themes: How will they nap in a different space? How will we manage moving from two naps to one? What can I expect with their home sleeping? What tips are there to get them to sleep better at night since our mornings begin earlier? How can I reduce tantrums at bedtime to ensure easier mornings? We are dealing with night terrors with an infant – any suggestions? How will our routine be impacted? What if I have a variable routine with shift work? Do I need to follow daycare routines?

Kate Macdonald, RN & Mama Coach: Sleep is a huge component of transitioning back to work. Your baby will adjust, but it will take a few weeks. For some babies, it can take a full month to fully adjust to their new routine. Think of it like time change or dropping a nap – you are going to have to adjust their sleep schedule for a few weeks until they acclimatize to their new routine. On days your child is in daycare, you may have to put them to bed about 30 minutes earlier than you normally would. They will soon adjust, and bedtime will return to its usual time. Naps often take time to adjust at daycare and may be shorter than they normally are at home. Things that can help with nap transition at daycare are: taking their lovie, sleep sack and/or blanket with them to sleep with. These familiar items will help your baby feel safe and secure during their nap. Often when you go back to work your baby is still napping twice a day and the daycare naps only once a day. This is a huge stress on parents! I would chat with your child care provider and discuss your concerns and how your child’s night sleep is. Often your child care will make the transition for you and you will just have to adjust their bedtime earlier by 30mins-45mins for a few weeks until they get use to one nap a day and then you will be able to slowly adjust their bedtime to their normal time. You may have a new ”normal” bedtime when you return back to work as you will have to wake your baby earlier to get out the door in time for work. Think 12 hour day 12 hour night. If you have to wake your child at 6:30am, I would have them in bed by 6:30pm (ideally). Bedtime routine should be the same every night, that way your little one knows what comes next. This will help your bedtimes go smoother and become easier. Timing is key for any child and sleep!! Finding the balance after work of spending time together, dinner and bedtime routine will help make your transition back to work easier.

Kids & Company: Child care providers often lay out daily routines that incorporate best practices in terms of sleeping, eating, development and unstructured play. But be assured: these routines are flexible and we respect you as the expert on your child; following the routines for the children in our room makes for a positive experience all around. We may ask for ‘a day in the life’ from you so that we can best replicate it, and that includes respecting a morning nap for infants and toddlers that need it. However, you will find that naturally your child may shift their routines, and there will be an adjustment period where they may not nap or sleep as well as before. Mama Coach is right: this adjustment will pass! Usually sometime between a week to a month, a child will settle in and establish the sleep patterns they need. In that period, work closely with your child care partner to share information on their sleep patterns and milestones or other factors that may be impacting their sleep.

Two things you may want to know – under Alberta licensing, child care providers cannot attempt to wake children beyond turning on lights and starting new activities with the group, and we also do not leave a child in a crib or cot for more than 20 minutes if they are not sleeping (but we can redirect to a quiet activity and then try again shortly).

Someone commented about variable routines – this is okay, to some degree we all have days that are different because of weekends and so on. If your schedule varies and wake-up time and morning routines are different, it is likely easiest to try to follow the wake-up time that is earliest and you’ll simply find you have lots of extra time (hooray!) on the later days. Signaling each night to your child what needs to happen the next day is great! Perhaps you could have a visual chart that shows what the next day will entail and each night he could move the icon or picture of himself to the correct place – talking about what to expect will help him learn the different routines and feel more in control.


Check out all the topics:
Part 1: Transition
Part 2: Illness
Part 3: Sleep and routine
Part 4: Adjusting
Part 5: Eating
Part 6: Friends and bullies
Part 7: Multiple children
Part 8: Guilt
Part 9: Timing
Part 10: Separation anxiety
Part 11: Weaning

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About Mama Coach

The Mama Coach is a team of Registered Nurses who are committed to making motherhood easier. As Registered Nurses, we have the skills and the training to give your family the quality care that you deserve. We are all Mamas too. We have been in your shoes and want to share our knowledge and want to make you feel incredibly supported. Our programs are based on science + empathy and support. We are Registered Nurses, infant and child sleep coaches, lactation counsellors, Prenatal Educators as well as CPR instructors. All packages include lactation counselling and intensive support. We offer a variety of services to help families transition into parenting which include: In home/group prenatal classes, Postpartum visits, Healthy beginnings to help support you and your newborn, sleep coaching from 3 months and up, allergy navigation and CPR.


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