How to Handle Early Bedtime Due to Short Daycare Naps

4-16 months

Jun 24, 2020

If you have found yourself so frustrated and heartbroken, that short naps at daycare, means a super early bedtime at home, I want talk to you today. Today I’m sharing strategies and maybe some glimmers of hope that we could maybe get past a 6 p.m. bedtime after a daycare day.

This is video 3 in a series of our Daycare Week! On the first day we walked through how to talk with teachers about sleep, and yesterday I shared three strategies to help short naps. Make sure you subscribe so you won’t miss a single video this week for daycare week or beyond because I am always going to be here as your sleep companion. I wanna make sure that you always feel equipped and ready for what’s next.

The Awkward Timing

After a day full of short daycare naps…what do we do at 5PM? Do we choose an early bedtime? Do we do another nap?

What we do!? And how are we going to deal with the lamenting that happens when we’ve got to do an early bedtime because it was such an awful nap day…but you have been away from your kiddo all day!

I get it, my clients get it.  Let’s get started with the strategies that I have taught my clients over the years to help.

The Bolt Family

A few years ago, I went into a family’s home with their super precious six-month old. We were getting her on a new nap schedule. She was in daycare, and we got started on night one, she did great, but inevitably, it was the daycare naps that kind of caused some kinks. During the day she would only nap 20, 30 minutes at a time, twice a day.

So instead of getting the 3 hours of daytime sleep a  for a six-month old needs, she was maybe getting one hour. Which led to a very overtired and cranky baby!

This hard working family, this corporate mom, this hard working dad, it was so difficult to have to tell them, I’m sorry but your baby has to go to bed early.

She needed to get up at 6 a.m. to get going to daycare, she barely had any sleep all day.

The best thing for her was an early bedtime.

An Early Bedtime Might Be Best If…

So let me just tell you, the hardest thing for me over the years has been telling a hardworking family that if you have a baby who is not napping a lot at daycare, the best thing for them is to go to bed early.

Your child (0-5 yo) needs 11 to 12 hours of nighttime sleep, all night long. (Get your child’s schedule here)

So if you have to get your baby up in the 5AM or 6AM hour, you need to track back 11 hours and that’s the latest they need to get going to bed.

I know that you want to spend a little bit more time with your baby, but let me just tell you that they need that sleep. It’s precious to them and important to their growth and development.

Plus, might I point out that you’re not actually enjoying that evening time. I know you may, but your baby is cranky, fussy, and overtired. You’ll spend that “precious time” with them simply avoiding an all out meltdown.

Getting your child to bed early to ensure the 11 hour minimum of night sleep will mean a happy, healthy and well rested baby in the morning!

Most of all, if they are pushed beyond their awake windows you may actually be inviting night wakings!

Building A Car Nap Into The Schedule

If your baby has to get up at 6AM the latest they can go to bed is 7PM.

With the Bolt family, their six-month old barely getting any daytime sleep we used a little car nap to push her to bedtime. Because she only had one hour of total daytime sleep at daycare, they had about a 20-minute drive from daycare to home, and this was around 5PM.

So we allowed the baby to doze and to fall asleep on that 15, 20-minute ride home, and then once they got home, woke her up and picked her up, and got her out of the car.

You might be tempted to be like, “Oh! Maybe I can transfer her from the car to the crib, and then maybe we can have like an eight o’clock bedtime.”

The problem is after four months old, babies really can’t be transferred. Have you noticed that? They kind of lose the ability to go from car seat to crib.

By six months old it’s just a little bit of a cat-nap on the way home. Now we’re going to get you up, we’re home, it’s like 5:15, 5:20PM. We’ll play, offer some solids, maybe go outside and then at 6PM boom, it’s time to get ready for bed.

If your family doesn’t arrive home until 5:30-6PM this car nap is going to be the best solution.

I know I talk about nap schedules being super important, but I have been known to tell babies who are 9 months old to have a third nap, because they just don’t get home until 6 or 6:30 but they have to get up at 5AM, and it’s impossible to get them like right down to bed.

If we can use a car nap as a third nap option this will offer just a little power nap to push them just a touch.

You’re welcome to try this!

Warning: I can’t guarantee that it’s going to 100% work.

In sleep there’s not a lot of black + white strategies. There’s LOTS of gray area that you’ll need to see what actually fits for your child.

So it may or may not work for your kid. But if you can offer this little bit of a car nap from daycare to home, it could cause a little bit of a push and you don’t have to rush as soon as you get home to get them to bed.

If you can use that, that can be super helpful for you and your baby so you can maybe have a little bit of a breathing space once you get home.

Silver Linings Of Early Bedtime

So you know me! If you do have to use an early bedtime (which is usually going to be your best friend, if you are a daycare family), just know that I want you to find the silver lining in this.

Maybe you get to have a date night in. Or maybe you can use this opportunity to have one person watch the monitor and you get to go have a girls night out or something like that.

Use it as a way that gives you that freedom that you’ve missed for quite a while, since becoming a parent basically.

And I want you know that offering that early bedtime, it may be a phase, it may not be forever.

It’s Not Forever

Just like the Bolt Family, that baby is now 2.5 years old. They’re not doing a 6 p.m. bedtime anymore for her!

I’m not saying you have to wait two years either. This early bedtime was actually in place for about 6-7 months. By the time she got to the 12-month mark and she went to a one-nap schedule, she slept better and fuller and longer at daycare and they didn’t have to rush home and get her to bed right away.

So as much as I like I hate this, I hate the saying, “it’s just a phase”…this is just a phase.

This early bedtime may be a phase for a little while and it’s really what’s most beneficial and most helpful to your baby.

I hope this gives you some insight and maybe some like less guilty feelings about doing an early bedtime because it’s what’s best for your baby, and maybe even your mental health.

I’m really thankful that you guys have been here for this daycare week and tomorrow, I am going to walk through your top questions when it comes to daycare, I’ve polled on Instagram, and I’ve got your questions ready and I’m gonna answer them right here on our YouTube channel, so make sure you subscribe! Don’t miss tomorrow’s video. Sweet dreams, see you tomorrow.

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