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As a parent, one of the most challenging aspects of sending your baby to daycare is ensuring they’re sleeping enough. Sleep is crucial for a child’s development, and disruptions to their sleep routine can lead to crankiness and other not-so-fun problems. And if you worked hard getting your little one to sleep well, the last thing you want is for all that work to go down the drain with the transition to daycare.
If you find that your baby isn’t sleeping well at daycare, you’re not alone. Many parents face this common dilemma. In this blog post, we’ll explore why babies may have trouble sleeping in daycare. I’ll also provide practical tips and strategies to help your little one rest better while away from home.
Understanding why your baby is not sleeping at daycare
Here’s a list of the most common challenges for babies and young children to take restful naps at daycare.
1) It’s a new environment.
Daycare centers are brand-new spaces for babies and young children, filled with unfamiliar faces and surroundings. It can take a while for them to adapt to their new surroundings and routines. Until then, the newness of being in daycare can make it difficult for your child to settle down and feel comfortable enough to take restorative naps.
2) It’s noisy and distracting.
Daycare settings are often noisy and busy environments with a lot of stimulation. This creates TONS of fun and enjoyment for your little one. That being said, if there isn’t a separate napping room, his FOMO could kick in HARD. This is because the noise and distraction makes napping especially challenging if your little one is due to nap when other children are awake and playing in the same room.
3) Daycare has a different schedule.
Daycares often have set schedules for the day, including a nap schedule. These nap times may not align with your baby’s natural sleep patterns, which can lead to poor naps.
4) Separation Anxiety
If your little one is new to a daycare setting and isn’t used to being separated from his parents for longer periods, it’s VERY normal for them to experience separation anxiety. Until your little one adjusts to being away from mom, it’s common for his naps to suffer.
What to look out for when researching daycare options
My top recommendations
If you are in the midst of exploring child care choices, I recommend researching how each daycare provider approaches sleep. This research can often prevent many of these daycare sleep challenges.
Specifically, if you have an infant under 18 months of age, always research the following:
- Whether the daycare will respect your baby’s sleep schedule or if he’ll be placed onto their set nap routine.
- If they have a separate sleep room for infants, or whether the babies sleep in a room with other children playing.
- Whether the daycare welcomes open communication between staff and parents about your little one’s sleep needs.
The risk with 1 nap daycare schedules for infants
If you are weighing different daycare options, REALLY try to avoid enrolling your infant in a program that will force them onto a 1 nap schedule before they’re ready.
Anecdotally, I have heard about many daycare centers transitioning babies as young as 11-12 months onto a 1 nap schedule. This is a problem!
The vast majority of babies are not ready to drop their morning nap until the 15-18 month age range. Prematurely moving a baby to a 1 nap schedule before they’re ready can cause your baby to become overtired. This can result in all sorts of sleep issues, including unnecessary night wakings.
Avoid daycares without separate sleep rooms for infants- if you can
I would also lean towards choosing a daycare provider that has a separate room for the babies to sleep in. Expecting your baby to nap well in a brightly lit, noisy room while other children are playing is a tall order, at best.
Don’t kill me…
Look, I’m WELL aware that finding adequate childcare is easier said than done. And I’m equally aware that daycare spots are limited. I don’t want these recommendations to come across as ignorant. All I’m advising is for you to take these recommendations into consideration when exploring daycare options- especially if having a great sleeper is important to you!
Tips to help your baby with sleeping better at daycare
Alright, so your little one is starting daycare soon and you want the transition to go as smoothly as possible. Here are my top tips to ensure this happens:
1) Teach your little one to sleep well at home
One of the best steps you can take to set your baby up for success for sleeping amazingly at daycare is to convert them into a champion sleeper at home, if you haven’t already done so.
If your little one is already an excellent sleeper and napper, it’ll be easier for him to adapt to daycare and take longer naps there. Otherwise, he’s likely to MAJORLY struggle with his naps at daycare considering the extra challenges with napping well there.
If great sleep is not happening consistently for your little one, there’s no better time than the present to change that and introduce healthy sleep habits-today!
**If you’re feeling ready to get yourself an amazing sleeper, sign up to watch my free sleep masterclass below!**
2) Communicate openly with daycare staff if your baby isn’t sleeping well
I can’t tell you how often I’ll hear parents tell me “The problem is that my baby is in daycare, so I have NO control over how or when she naps. I can’t control what the daycare workers do!”
The reality is that this worry is only a half-truth. Obviously, the daycare staff are the ones physically taking care of your child. But your childcare provider is almost always going to WANT to hear from you and receive feedback about your child’s sleep schedule.
For example, if your baby woke up for the day earlier than usual, let the daycare teachers know. They’ll be happy to put your baby down for a nap earlier.
After all, this insight makes THEIR life easier as much as it benefits you and your child! Taking care of a happy, well-rested baby is MUCH easier than taking care of a tired, cranky baby.
So if your little one is on a nap schedule at home that works beautifully, this schedule will likely transfer over well to daycare…as long as your childcare provider knows about it!
3) Send familiar comfort items for your little one to nap with
Send familiar comfort items, such as a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or pacifier to daycare. These items can provide comfort and make your baby feel more secure, making it much easier to take long naps.
For example, when Eliana (my middle child) started at a home daycare at 12 months-old, she was used to sleeping in a sleep sack and with a white noise machine and blackout curtains. She also had a favourite blankie she slept with. To ensure she napped well at daycare, I purchased an additional sleep sack, baby blanket and white noise machine. These items always stayed at Eliana’s daycare so I didn’t have to bring them back and forth from home.
If your baby has a comfort item they enjoy sleeping with at home, definitely purchase a second one for daycare. I don’t recommend bringing that item back and forth from daycare because there’s a good chance it’ll eventually get lost.
4) Implement an earlier bedtime or a later cat nap on short nap days
Even if your little one is normally a solid napper, it’s very normal for him to take short naps at daycare during the early stages of this transition. Until their naps improve, implementing a very early bedtime for your little one is the best means of damage control. Otherwise, your little one could become VERY overtired. And overtiredness can cause bedtime battles, night wakings, and early rising.
Alternatively, you could offer your little one a short cat nap at home after picking him up from daycare. This is a better alternative if your little one is so exhausted because he didn’t nap at all or only catnapped…and he won’t make it to bedtime without collapsing.
5) Offer an ideal nap schedule on the weekends
If your little one is not napping so well on daycare’s schedule, allow her to catch up on sleep by napping her on her preferred schedule over the weekend. Don’t worry about keeping her schedule consistent 7 days a week. It’s more important for your baby to be napping well some days, as opposed to NONE of the time!
**By the way, if you’re sick and tired of your little one’s short, inconsistent naps, click here to grab a copy of my free nap guide. This guide has my top 5 tips to lengthen your little one’s catnaps!**
6) Be patient
Remember that it takes time for your baby to adjust and start sleeping well at daycare. This is normal! Be patient and give your little one the time he needs to get used to sleeping in a new environment. These crappy naps won’t last forever.
A quick word about my FREE Facebook Community Group
Come join my FREE Facebook community group where you can get your sleep questions answered by experts, get access to free sleep tips and regular Q&As, and where you can connect with other sleep-loving parents of little ones! Can’t wait to personally connect with you there 🙂
The transition to daycare is an exciting one, especially since daycare is so awesome! All 3 of my kids were in full-time daycare at some point and had an amazing experience. I’m a big fan!
That being said, it’s perfectly normal for your baby to not be sleeping well at daycare at the beginning. With patience, communication, and a few scheduling adjustments, you can always help your little one adapt to this new routine and get the sleep they need.