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How to Handle Daycare Naps

Daycare naps can be extremely tricky, frustrating and discouraging. I've had perfectly sleep trained clients refuse every single daycare nap, and others take better naps at daycare than they do at home. It's a struggle that just about every parent with a child in daycare will experience at some point. So how do we address it? The good news is, there are things we can do at home to counter missed and refused naps at daycare.

Why are daycare naps so hard?

Daycares are regulated by state laws that determine where, how and (often times) when your infant or toddler can sleep. We want our daycares to be regulated, but when it comes to sleep, those regulations can cause some serious challenges. Let's break it down by age range.

Infant rooms (0-12 months)

You've heard me talk about how the room has to be dark and you must have white noise. Well guess what? Most infant nap rooms at daycares follow neither of these recommendations. And that's OKAY! The key is to find a daycare that doesn't insist on every baby being on the same schedule. Your 4 months old should never be on the same sleep schedule as a 10 month old. If your daycare doesn't follow age appropriate nap recommendations or schedules, you may want to consider finding another daycare.

Toddler rooms (12+ months)

The challenge with most daycares is that as soon as your child hits 12 months old, they're switched to the toddler room, which usually means out of a pack n play and onto a floor mat or cot. And what often times comes with this is a child who doesn't nap. At 12 months old, most toddlers are not developmentally able to understand the concept of staying on a floor mat or cot and sleeping. They still need those boundaries the pack n play or crib provides. This is why we don't transition out of a crib at home until closer to three years old.

Additionally, at 12 months old, most daycares will transition your toddler to one nap a day. This is WAY TOO EARLY! Most toddlers are not ready to transition to one nap a day until 15-18 months. This forced transition will likely result in a very over tired child.

What can you do?

If you're anything like me, the thought of not having control or input in my child's naps gives me major anxiety. But sometimes that's life, especially when daycare is involved.

The important thing is that you can make up for crummy daycare sleep by making adjustments at home.

  • On days when your child doesn't get the minimum amount of required daily sleep, move bedtime up by however much sleep was missed. So if your child is 9 months old and needs minimum 2 hours of daytime sleep, but only gets 30 minutes at daycare, you would move bedtime 1.5 hours earlier. I always recommend a 7 PM bedtime, so in this case you'd move bedtime to 5:30 PM if at all possible. If not, do your best.

  • Focus on what you CAN control. You can control giving baby an early bedtime and ensuring baby gets the required amount of sleep on non-daycare days. So on weekends, or any days baby isn't in daycare, be sure they are getting the age appropriate NUMBER of naps (even if daycare pushed them to one, you would still offer two), and keep them on an age appropriate schedule.

  • Is daycare open to suggestions? If so, request that they follow your schedule, bring white noise (if they allow it), and ask if baby can stay in a pack n play (even if you have to provide it). Depending on the daycare and size, you may have some flexibility.

  • Anticipate an adjustment period. Know that baby will likely not sleep great at first, and expect to make changes at home as needed. Amazingly, baby can usually tell the difference between naps at daycare and naps at home, and will often times continue to sleep great at home even when daycare is a struggle.

How I can help

My goal is to provide SIMPLE, data-driven, step-by-step sleep programs for the tired parent who's ready to SLEEP AGAIN! Whether you have a brand-new baby, a 3-year-old who's never slept through the night, or you just need some help making a schedule change. I have a program just for you! 


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