Let's Solve Daycare Naps!
Last week we covered short naps, and I’m all about creating a better environment at home and getting better naps when your child is at home. But what about the daycare naps? What about naps at a sitter’s house or somewhere else? There might be a difference. What I find with my clients is that when I hear that the child is in daycare a few days a week, or five days a week, we have to set different expectations. And you know what? It’s okay. When a family approaches me to work one on one and they tell me that their child is in daycare, then I’m actually going to create a little bit of a different schedule for the days that they are in daycare versus when they are at home.
As example, for a child who is 9 months old, I will give this schedule:
7AM: WAKE FOR THE DAY
9:30AM: NAP 1
6:30PM: BEDTIME ROUTINE
7:00PM: IN CRIB
Now, on the weekends, we’re hoping they will get the full 3 hours of totally daytime sleep. But, when Monday-Friday rolls around and we are looking to shift our schedule a little bit. Because while baby might be going to bed at 7 PM, they may need to get up at 6:30 AM when Monday rolls around.
So what we look at is waking baby up at 6:30, going in the room, picking them up, starting our day, moving on, and then once we get to daycare, we are asking the teachers to please implement this same nap schedule as we have at home.
TIP: This is the number one thing I ask all my daycare families! Tell the teachers what you want!
Tell whoever is watching your child, what you would like for them to do. As new parents, I think that we just assume they’re teaching at the daycare, so they know what to do! Right? Not quite… After working with many daycares and many mother’s day out programs and lots of little half day preschool programs, that’s not really the case.
They definitely understand baby’s needs and how to help them, but they may not understand what an appropriate schedule for your baby may be. YOU (the parent!) are your child’s advocate!! When it’s time to go back to school on Monday, please tell those teachers what you’d like for them to do. This communication is especially important if you’re working through a transition such as:
—Going back to work from Maternity Leave
—Working on sleep training
—Dropping a nap and implementing a new schedule
The daycare teachers should be willing to help you make that transition, but be your child’s advocate!! Be the parent who overcommunimates!! It’s worth it!
After we’ve told the teachers, “Hey, these are the times we’d like to aim for”, I kind of want to back off and see what’s going to happen. Your child is going to act differently at daycare than they do at home. Most of the time I find that babies under twelve months old are taking very short naps at daycare. Why? Because of the environment! It’s bright, it’s loud, it’s not the same environment we have worked hard to create at home. Short naps are the nature of infants at daycare!
The way we combat that, is allowing the child to take a little cat nap on the ride home at the end of the day.
For example, I have a mom currently in Baby Sleep E-Coaching™ program who told me that her 6-month-old always takes a third little cat nap at 4:30PM on the way home. She wanted to know if that was completely going to hinder the fact that I’m asking for a 2-Nap schedule at this age?
No, it’s really not!! Because daycare naps are going to be short, it is totally fine for your little one to take a little power nap (about 15-20 minutes) on the way home from daycare so that they can make it to bedtime. If not, we may have to rush the baby off to bedtime early because of the short naps. (A baby who has had short naps all day will need an earlier bedtime to help avoid total overtirednesss come bedtime!)
TOOLS TO BRING FOR DAYCARE NAPS:
Daycare naps don’t have to be a total lost cause! There are a few things we can ask the Daycare to implement in hopes of creating a better nap. After all, I’ve seen 60 minute nappers in the daycare cribs with my clients!! It’s rare, but it can happen! Try asking if you can bring these things:
Sleep Sack for baby to sleep in: If you’re using one at home, keep an extra sleep sack in their backpack! It’s a great cue when baby hears the “ziiiipppp” - you can bet baby will show the sleepy cues!!
White Noise Machine: I know that sounds a little crazy and maybe like Type A, but some daycares will let you bring white noise machines and set it up right next to your baby’s crib! This addition might help your baby snooze through the other baby noises in the room! THIS travel white noise is a great option!
Naptime Routine: No this isn’t a physical tool, but it’s a great cue where we can USE these above tools! A nap time routine is simple and can take 2-5 minutes. Ask the daycare teachers to change baby’s diaper, put the sleep sack on, turn the sound on, and say goodnight while laying into the crib.
Sign: This is extreme, but when I ask my clients to get rid of the pacifier 100% I’ve had several come back and say they picked baby up at daycare…and they were sleeping with a pacifier!!! After Mom clearly told them not to do this anymore!! So, yes, I’ve had a couple of parents print out a “DO NOT GIVE _____ A PACIFIER” sign to put on their daycare crib, hahaha!! Hey, it works!
Remember- YOU are your child’s best advocate for better sleep!!!
Is your child over twelve months? Rejoice!! (Maybe…)
The reason I capped this above advice to 12 months is because typically I find these young toddlers are moving to the next room where 1 na is offered. And (HALLELUHIA!!) at this 1 nap classroom they tend to turn the lights off, play some music or white noise and everybody’s laying down on a nap time. Finally! We can get a good nap at daycare! At least longer than 45 minutes!
Now, please don’t go thinking, “Oh great! I’ll try that. I ‘ll get a nap mat and see if they just want to nap in the living room at home.” No, no, no! They will do this at daycare, but this isn’t something for the home! Don’t even try it! It can cause a lot of confusion come bedtime.
But I want you to know at daycare, they will lay down on a nap-mat, and that’s fine! No need to implement any type of white noise or anything like that because they’ve typically got this going anyways.
Is your child at a half-day program?
What about when your little one goes to a half-day program that ends at 12 or 12:30PM, right at the nap time?! How do we handle this?! (Honestly if your little one is under 3 years old and still napping, and their half-day program ends after 1PM…you may need to find a new place! You’ll be dealing with a very overtired kid!!)
Let’s work to adjust your child’s nap schedule so when you’re home a bit later for nap on school days, it won’t be a huge deal! Here’s an example:
M-W-F your child is at school from 8:30-12:30, gets home for nap at 12:50PM
Sat-Tu-Th-Sun your child doesn’t go to school and naps at 12:30PM
Having a 30 minute window between nap schedules isn’t a huge deal, which is why it’s okay to have a bit later nap time 3 days a week due to school.
**TIP: Offer your child a snack, a toy or turn music on to keep them wide awake in the car on the way home!
The car ride snooze struggle is real!! Even if your child gets 5-10 minute of sleep on the way home, you can almost guarantee NAP GAME OVER. Do your best to keep them awake on the ride back!!
Personally, when my youngest started a half-day preschool she had a hard time transitioning to this later nap a few days a week. But over time she got the hang of it, and I even got smart and brought her lunch in the car! So I would hand it to her and she would chow down the whole way home! That way all I had to do was pick her up, wipe her down, bring her upstairs, change into her PJs, put her down, say night night, and she went right to sleep! This plus our 7 minute commute was super helpful for us!
Whether your child is at daycare full-time or a half day program, I hope you feel more at peace or have some ideas on how to help improve your child’s naps! When your child knows how to sleep well, we want a predictable night (and day) of sleep!
If you have a little one who is in daycare whose naps are chronically short AND they wake up all night long, we can change that. We can make sleep a thing! Even with a child at daycare, sleep training is possible!
Baby Sleep E-Coaching (Ages 4-16 Months)
Toddler Sleep E-Coaching (Ages 17 Months up to 3 Years)
Our goal? When you can get home from a day of work and a day of short daycare naps, I want you to be able to say goodnight, give them a kiss, close the door, they peacefully go to sleep within ten minutes, and sleep all night long. And then have full sweet weekend naps!