Daycare can be quite challenging, especially when it comes to naps. If your child attends daycare, then you know that daycare isn’t always an ideal sleep environment. Infants don’t usually nap at the same time, which can make it very hard for your baby to get a good nap in during the day at daycare. The lights stay on. As one baby goes down for a nap, another is probably waking up or fussing across the room. There’s a lot of stimulation that will make it difficult for most babies to truly nap well.
As they get older, and move to the toddler room, things get a little easier because there is a scheduled nap time. The sleep environment becomes a little more conducive to napping, as the room quiets down and the lights are lowered. But unless your toddler is a great napper, naptime may still be a challenge, leaving them overtired and in a sleep debt by the time you pick them up in the afternoon.
So how do you help your child get better naps at daycare, so they can get the sleep they need?
1. Advocate for Your Child
You know your child best. You are their sleep expert, so you know exactly what your child needs to make naptime easier. Don’t be afraid to talk to your daycare and let them know how they can help your child at naptime. Your daycare does have multiple children to take care of, so keep in mind that they may not be able to honor every naptime request. But the goal is to reach a happy medium, so your child’s needs are met to the best of their ability.
2. Ask For Ways to Improve Their Sleep Environment
Is there a way the daycare can make the room darker? Can your child nap in a crib in the corner of the room, away from any extra noise or movement? Is there a possibility of using a Pack N Play or a SlumberPod? Can they use a sound machine during your child’s naptime? The answers will depend on the daycare. An at-home daycare may have more flexibility, and be more capable of making modifications. The key is to make it easy for the daycare to say yes. Provide anything that is needed to make the modifications, whether it’s offering to purchase window coverings or sending your child with the sound machine they need to make naptime easier.
3. Make Sure They Are Napping On Schedule
While it may be difficult for the daycare to get this one right every single time, you want to emphasize the importance of following the right nap schedule for your child. Your child’s individual nap schedule will depend on where they are in their development. If your child is going down too late or too early, they’re going to have a hard time getting in quality naps. If your daycare has the flexibility to follow your child’s exact sleep schedule, provide one for them. This could be in the form of exact times or just following the ideal wake windows for your baby. If your daycare doesn’t have the flexibility to follow your child’s individual sleep schedule, you may need to consider adjusting your family’s schedule. We can’t always control what happens at daycare, but we can control what we do at home. Could you wake your child up earlier, so their first daycare nap falls at the right time according to their wake windows? Are you able to pick your child up early, before they go down for their last scheduled daycare nap, so they will be tired when they get home and go down for a nap at a more ideal time? Get creative, and again, work to find a happy medium so your child has the best chance at following a good nap schedule.
4. Try an Early Bedtime
Along with making small changes to your schedule to help your child nap at ideal times, you may also consider moving bedtime to an earlier time. If your child isn’t getting quality sleep during the day, they’re going to quickly become overtired before bedtime. It may feel like they are going to bed really early. But moving bedtime up can help your child sleep when their body is ready for sleep, rather than after they are overtired. And remember, this won’t be forever. They will only need an early bedtime until they are napping better at daycare, whether due to changes in the daycare environment or because they are aging out of needing as many naps.
5. Promote Independent Sleep Skills
Again, you can control what happens at home, but you won’t always be able to control what happens at daycare. This includes the methods daycare staff uses to help your child fall asleep. If your child is finally developing independent sleep skills at home, sleep props like rocking to sleep or feeding to sleep at daycare can harm their progress. Speak to the daycare staff and let them know what is and isn’t preferred to help your child fall asleep independently. Is it possible for the staff to give your child 5 to 10 minutes to settle themselves, rather than intervening immediately? Explain that if your child learns how to settle themselves will help them nap longer and go down for naps easier in the long run.
6. Ask the Daycare to Follow Eat, Play, Sleep
The ideal schedule for your baby is: eat, play, sleep. Your baby should feed, have awake time to play and practice new skills, then sleep to rest and regroup before the next eat, play, sleep cycle. Ask your daycare if it’s possible for them to feed your baby when they wake for a nap, rather than right before naptime. Feeding before naptime can cause your baby to develop an association between eating and sleeping, which makes it difficult for them to develop independent sleep skills and can throw off their whole schedule.
The bottom line is: Don’t be afraid to have a conversation and ask for your child’s needs.
While your daycare may not be able to accommodate every single request, simply having the conversations and advocating for your child can help them have more successful daycare naps. Remember to be kind, courteous, and flexible while still getting your point across. And know that this period of your child’s life is temporary. They will age out of it, and sleep will get easier.
But, in the meantime, if you know that your family needs more help with naptime than these tips can provide, let’s talk. Schedule a FREE Sleep Evaluation with me to learn how Sleep Training can help your family address your biggest sleep obstacles and start finally getting the sleep you need.