Award-winning teacher talks naps, cribs, cuddles, and the importance of safe sleep

14849649639_d9104d16fa_zWendy Spriggs knows just about everything there is to know about getting babies to sleep: As a KinderCare infant teacher in Elk Grove, Calif., mother of three, (and 2012 Knowledge Universe Early Childhood Educator Award winner), she’s been calming, soothing, holding, and singing to babies in her infant classroom for years. The veteran teachers is also a passionate advocate for Safe Sleep for Babies.

“Parents of infants always want to know about sleep,” Spriggs says. “On tours, I always let parents know that we follow standards for Safe Sleep for Babies.”

The team at the KinderCare blog sat down and asked Spriggs about her experience teaching and what infant sleep questions parents ask the most.

What is it about this age group that you love so much?
Six weeks to age one is just amazing. I love holding them and cuddling them and seeing their smiling faces. Providing that comfort when parents are working — there’s nothing better.

A lot of parents must be curious about the cribs with see-through sides.
They definitely ask. Those cribs are wonderful, because we can watch the babies all the time while they are sleeping.

What’s the crib nametag for?
Each baby in our centers has his or her own crib with their name and picture on it. The name tag also notes whether a baby can roll over, which alerts staff about where children are in their physical development.

Why is that important?
The safest sleep position for babies is on their backs, but many babies can roll from their backs to their stomachs but haven’t developed the skills to roll to their backs again. That’s good information to call out, because when we see them roll over, we are able to quickly and gently reposition them on their backs for the rest of nap time. Once babies have mastered rolling both ways, they can sleep in whatever position they wish.

What else goes in a crib?
Nothing! No bibs, no soft toys, no blankets. Some parents are surprised by that, but it’s all for safety. We don’t want anything in a sleeping environment that could inadvertently block a child’s airways. We do allow pacifiers, but even then, if it falls out of a baby’s mouth, we take it out of the crib. You’ll notice that our mattresses are firm and our sheets are snug-fitting.

What do children wear to sleep in our classrooms?
We don’t change babies’ clothes at naptime, so we always tell parents to dress them in properly fitting clothes. Onesies are quite popular and convenient for diaper changes. Jeggings are very in for babies right now! They look super comfy. I wish I had a pair!

So how do you and your assistant teacher get eight babies to sleep anyway?
I think it’s important for parents to know that in our infant rooms, we don’t have a schedule for sleeping, but we do have a routine that works for each child. So in other words, our babies don’t all take naps at 11, because every child is different. Some only sleep for 30 minutes, and some may sleep for two hours. It’s about being tuned into each baby’s needs and providing individualized care.16152020906_26aaa4e049_z

What if families have a specific routine they want you to follow?
Sleep is a popular conversation topic with families of infants, and we always try to work with their wishes. The important thing is to keep the conversation open, since sleep patterns at home can sometimes change when a baby starts a new center. It often takes a teacher and a family working closely together to help babies make the transition.

How do you manage to get babies to sleep in the classroom? It can be hard to get one baby to sleep at home!
When we notice the tell-tale signs like eye-rubbing or crying, we begin the soothing and calming techniques that work best for each baby — because, again, every baby is different, and we have to respect that. Singing and music is incredible for babies. I’m actually a terrible singer, but they don’t seem to care! Babies love being nurtured and held and cuddled. I often sing to them and gently stroke their cheeks until their eyes slowly close.

Why are our infant rooms shoe-free?
Babies are on the floor all the time — and they put things in their mouths. Substance can be tracked in on the bottom of shoes, and many of those substances just aren’t good for infants. I have my own pair of slippers I only wear in the classroom. The wonderful thing is that parents are very supportive of the policy. We all want babies to have a healthy and strong start in life.

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