So it’s the night before your first day back at work. You are feeling a bit anxious about the big return but at least you are organised…well sort of. The mental prep that happens the night before goes something like this. Baby in bed asleep – whoo hoo, so far, so good. Work clothes out – check. Lunch packed for tomorrow – check. Daycare bag packed – check. Emergency baby wipes in handbag (to take care of any of those little stray fingerprints on your work clothes tomorrow) – check. Time for bed to get a good night’s sleep – let’s do it!
Two and a half hour later you wake up to your baby crying. Oh no, there goes the ‘good night’s sleep’. Looks like there will be lots of coffee needed to get though your first day. Sound familiar?
Transitioning back to work after parental leave can sometimes be overwhelming. There are so many thoughts racing through your mind like, ‘How will I cope with working all day and having to look after a little one?’ ‘How can I ensure that their sleep needs are met and aren’t affected by these new changes?’
As a Baby Sleep Consultant, I have been asked these questions many times and have seen first-hand what works. Let me share my top 4 proven sleep tips to help make your transition back to work seamless for you and your baby.
1. Establishing a daily schedule at least a week or two before you go back to work
If you haven’t already established a daily rhythm and nap/feed schedule, you can look to implement this gradually around a week or two before you go back to work. This is a fantastic way to re-adjust to a new work routine. Setting a wake-up time and bedtime (which is age appropriate) that supports your work schedule is important. That means waking your baby up at the time you would need to get up to go to work each day.
2. Ensuring Bedtime isn’t too late
Bedtime is such an important part of the baby-sleep puzzle. Too late a bedtime can lead to your baby being overtired and result in multiple wake-ups overnight. However, this can be tricky to juggle with work schedules that involve long hours and late finishes. Most workplaces are usually flexible with adjusting start and finish times. Don’t be afraid to discuss options with your employer. Your baby’s sleep is important and getting them to bed on time means you will be better rested for work the following day. You can always look to alternate finish times with your partner, to guarantee your baby is getting a good night’s and you have peace of mind.
An ideal bedtime for a 12- 18 month-year-old is around 6.30PM and we would aim for a 7PM bedtime as the baby moves towards the 18 month mark. Anything later and your baby will be overtired. Babies around this age require around 12 hours of sleep overnight to ensure optimal mental and physical development. Don’t fall into the trap of equating an early bedtime with an unnecessarily early-morning wake-up. An over-tired baby that is put to bed late, is much more likely to wake during the night or early hours of the morning.
3. Settling in with their new caregiver
Settling into daycare and having a new caregiver can be a bit of an adjustment for you and your baby. Your baby will be meeting new people and experiencing new things, all of which can be exciting and a little overwhelming. It can take time to adjust and their sleep may also be affected. You might see more wakes up or uncontrollable crying overnight. This is only natural and will ease as they get become accustomed to the new daily schedule.
Chatting with your baby’s caregiver regarding their daytime sleep and nap schedule is a great way to ensure that they are getting the correct amount of sleep. The adjustment to a new environment can cause interrupted and restless daytime naps and leads to overtiredness, which may be causing their overnight wake ups. If they are struggling with their daytime naps you can look to offer an early bedtime to ensure that they aren’t too overtired. This may take some trial and error but it’s important to keep communicating with your caregiver to ensure your baby’s needs are being met.
As there are lots of changes going on it’s also great to think about what toys/items you can bring with you to their daycare to make your baby feel more secure and comfortable, especially at nap times. Chatting with their caregiver can really ease your worries.
Here’s some suggestions:
- A schedule for your baby’s sleep and feeding that can be adjusted with daycare
- Extra pacifiers/ dummies.
- A favourite comforter/ lovey
- A shusher. These are great way to lull a baby to sleep and to cut out any background noise.
- White noise up to 12 months is a fantastic way to help your baby to sleep. After 12 months the noise becomes ineffective.
- Favourite songs to help them to sleep.
4. Wind down routine
As your baby adjusts to their new daily schedule they may need some time when they arrive home to have a good wind down routine. Having a consistent bedtime routine and familiar bedtime cues are important e.g. quiet time, a warm bath, turning the lights down low, or reading a book are all fantastic ways to signal bedtime is coming. Also a chance for some cuddles and one on one time with your little one to help them to calm down and get them drowsy and ready for sleep.
While going back to work after being with your baby 24/7 is an adjustment, it’s an important step in both your life and your baby’s. These tips will help you make the transition a little less stressful and as smooth as possible.
Aprilla Quayle is a certified baby and infant sleep consultant for Bubba Bedtime who has worked with families in Australia and abroad to give their children the gift of sleep.