While naps can be challenging for any baby, they can be particularly challenging for babies who are in daycare. If your baby is about to start daycare, or is already in daycare but is struggling with sleep, you probably have some questions. Primarily, “Will my baby ever sleep well at daycare?”.
If I could give you a definitive answer, I would! The truth is that I don’t know. Baby sleep at daycare can be hard. Many babies do become great daycare nappers. Some never nap well at daycare. So, what should you do if your little one is struggling with naps at daycare?
Baby Sleep at Daycare
First, focus on what you CAN control. You can’t control so much about their sleep at daycare, but you can control much more at home.
- Make sure your baby’s room is super sleep friendly: dark (very dark) and with white noise.
- Offer an early bedtime if your baby isn’t napping well and is tired when you get home. Why? Nighttime sleep is more restorative than naps. It is better to put your baby to bed early (as early as 6:00 even) and get a full night’s sleep than to do a late nap and then do a late bedtime.
- Aim for at least one good nap at home each weekend day. You don’t have to stay home all weekend, but aim for at least one of each day’s naps to be at home in their crib.
Early bedtimes and limited weekend activities aren’t fun, but the trade off is having a well-rested child. Children who don’t nap well at daycare are prone to become overtired. This means they are likely to have multiple night wakings or to wake for the day before 6:00 am. To combat overtiredness, it is important to get them into bed early and to maximize daytime sleep on the weekends.
So for a child who takes 2-3 naps, aim to be home in either the morning or afternoon and do your activities the other half of the day. For children who take only 1 nap, aim to be home in the afternoon. Of course this isn’t always possible, but if you can swing it you will find it worth making the effort.
Remember, the average amount of nighttime sleep that babies and toddlers need is 11-12 hours. Because most naturally wake between 6:00 am and 7:00 am, most babies do best with a bedtime between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm.
Often if a baby has not napped well during the day, they will quickly be lulled to sleep in the car on the way home. If you have a short drive and can safely keep your child awake, this is ideal. Why? Nighttime sleep is more restorative than daytime sleep. If your baby does doze off on the way home, don’t stress. Enjoy the awake time with your little one before bedtime!
Teachers Are On Your Team
Talk to your baby’s daycare teachers and see what the room conditions are during nap time. Most likely, the room is still fairly well lit and there is not any white noise. Regulations vary by state but while many teachers know that many babies nap better in dark rooms and with white noise, it is against state regulations in many places.
Why? Because the teachers are responsible for the entire room of babies and per regulations usually need to be able to glance at them from across the room and know that they are okay. They also need to be able to hear them, thus why no white noise. Many daycares are also unable to swaddle babies per regulations.
It never hurts to ask if you can provide the same sleep sack your baby uses at home or if the daycare can use white noise. But if they say no, don’t be discouraged. The brain operates differently for daytime sleep than it does for nighttime sleep. It is okay for your baby to have one sleep environment at home and another at daycare.
If you are sleep training at home, share what you are doing with your baby’s teacher. Ask if they are able to do the same thing during naps. They may say no, but you won’t know unless you ask.
Also, if your baby is under 6 months and is napping on a wake time based schedule at home, share that with your babies teachers. It can be helpful for them to know when you have found it easiest to put your baby down for a nap. Most daycares follow a baby’s individual schedule and do not have a set nap schedule until children reach the toddler room.
Remember, your child’s teacher wants to see your baby thrive at daycare.
Baby Sleep At Daycare Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint
If what you are doing at home is working, don’t feel like you need to change it up to match daycare. It can take several weeks or even a few months, but many babies do adjust and eventually nap really well at daycare. These babies become champion nappers who can sleep through anything!
Even if your baby never becomes a great daycare napper, don’t stress. As your baby grows, their daytime sleep needs will slowly decrease. This means that those rough naps won’t have as big of an impact. You will also figure out your sleep rhythm at home. Many babies who do not nap well at daycare are still great night sleepers. It is absolutely possible!