6 Tips for Navigating Baby Sleep at Daycare

daycare daytime sleep nap schedule naps Oct 19, 2022
6 Tips for Navigating Baby Sleep at Daycare

When it comes to your baby’s sleep at daycare, I know how confusing and frustrating a topic it can be! Mastering sleep at home is one thing, and mastering sleep at daycare is another. 

If your baby is struggling with sleep, either at home or in daycare, check out my baby sleep guides for some extra guidance and support. No matter what stage your baby is in, I have a guide to help you rock baby sleep. 

Oftentimes, the sleep environment at daycare is different from your baby’s sleep at home. There may not be black-out curtains, or a sound machine, since caregivers will be checking on multiple children regularly and be easily alerted if something is wrong. 

Ask your daycare if you’re able to provide a portable sound machine for your baby, or if they allow a customized routine for your little one before they go down for a nap. Every daycare is different and while some may meet these requests, others may not. If they don’t, that’s okay! 

The best thing you can do for your little one (and yourself) is to focus on what you can control. In this situation, what you CAN control is your baby’s sleep in your own home. If this looks different from your baby’s sleep at daycare, try not to stress about it. It is still possible for your baby to become a sound sleeper and sleep well at home, even if naps at daycare aren’t going as you hoped. And remember, many babies who don’t attend daycare STILL struggle with short naps! So, you’re certainly not alone with this common issue. 

Tips for Baby Sleep at Daycare⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

1. Schedules:

Babies thrive on routine. When we stick to their age-appropriate wake windows and follow an eat-play-sleep daily flow as consistently as possible, their sleep habits and overall well-being can benefit.

A few weeks before your little one starts daycare, try to get them to wake up and go to bed around the same time each day to work on a consistent and predictable routine for them. Then, if possible, touch base with your baby’s daycare about your current schedule to see how close they can come to it, or if you’ll need to make any adjustments in your at-home routine. 

Want an easy-to-save on your phone digital chart of all wake windows, nap transitions, and sleep needs by age? CLICK HERE to download my Free Sleep Tips for ages 0-3 years old!

2. Associations:

If your baby has any associations that they use for sleep that you know will help them with falling asleep and staying asleep, talk to your daycare to see whether you’re allowed to use them there! This could be a portable sound machine, a sleep sack, a lovey (if age-appropriate), a pacifier, etc. 

And, if your child has learned how to fall asleep independently at home, talk to the daycare about ensuring that they will do the same and not introduce any unnecessary sleep associations while putting your baby down for a nap.

3. Flexibility:

It’s important to know going into daycare that your baby’s sleep schedule may (and probably will be) different than at home. Many daycares require babies to all be on the same schedule at a certain age, and this may mean that they only take 1 nap at daycare, but you have them on a 2-nap schedule at home. If this is the case, that’s okay! Stick to YOUR schedule at home. With consistency, your baby will learn (and get used to) their two different schedules.

4. Afternoon Catnaps:

Since sleep at daycare doesn’t always go as planned, your little one may be showing some tired cues and need a car ride catnap on the way home. If your baby does fall asleep on the way home, try to keep the nap to less than 30 minutes so that bedtime doesn’t become a battle and night sleep isn’t thrown off too much. 

However, if your child CAN make it home without a catnap, and bedtime can be moved earlier (no earlier than 6 pm), then that is what I recommend! 

5. Focus on Nights:

If daycare naps aren’t going well, don’t panic. Remember that night sleep is more restorative than naps, so try to focus your efforts there instead! Work with your little one on forming independent sleep skills and putting them down for sleep awake, so that they can learn to sleep well at home, regardless of how they sleep at daycare. 

6. Over/Under-Tired

Without stressing over the exact number, ask your daycare about how your little one napped every day, so you can keep an eye on the amount of sleep they are getting. This will help you know how to better handle your baby’s night sleep at home. 

If your baby barely slept at daycare, consider moving bedtime earlier. Or, if that’s not possible on any given day, you can offer them a short afternoon catnap, if needed. 

Just as important as making sure your baby isn’t overtired, you’ll want to make sure that your baby isn’t sleeping TOO much at daycare; and as a result, is under-tired at bedtime. This can lead to split nights since your baby will not have had time to build enough sleep pressure for a longer stretch of night sleep. 

If your little one is experiencing split nights, check out this blog for 3 easy ways to fix them!

Sleep at daycare can be an adjustment for your baby, but if it’s not going well, here are a few select times that I would encourage you to take a look at whether you may need to move daycare providers:

  • Your child’s health or safety is at risk in any way.
  • The daycare is unwilling to comply with a request of yours that you deem essential (i.e. your child sleeps in a crib and they only have floor mats).
  • Your child isn’t thriving because of the sleep environment (isn’t adjusting after some time, or the daycare refuses to offer 2 naps when your child really needs it).
  • You just simply feel it’s not the right fit for your little one.

Remember, you are your child’s best advocate and it’s always the right thing to follow that parent gut of yours! If you feel your child would thrive in a different environment, make it happen. You’ve got this. 

If you find yourself still struggling with your little one’s sleep, please know that you are not alone and that I am here to help. Download one of my comprehensive sleep guides! They’re broken up by age and provide step-by-step instructions on how to help your baby sleep longer and better over time.

Need help transforming your child's sleep? Check out my sleep offerings for children 0-3 years old!


Want to receive updates from Baby Sleep Dr. straight to your email?

Join my mailing list to receive the latest news, blogs, and updates! Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

I hate SPAM. Your information, for any reason, will never be shared with a third party.