Daycare and Naps: How to Encourage Great Daytime Sleep

Gosh! If this COVID tragedy has taught us anything, it is that our daycare providers (and teachers) need a raise!

As a pediatric sleep consultant and mom who works outside of the home (all moms are ‘working’ moms!), I know just how important it is to have your kiddo following an age-appropriate nap schedule. But what happens when they head to daycare? Here are a few tips to help your munchkin get the rest they need while out of your care.

Find the perfect provider for your family

When searching for a daycare, make sure you ask upfront about sleep. Do they follow a set schedule? Will they follow your schedule? What is the sleep environment look like? Are the lights on/off? Where do babies sleep — in cribs or on mats? At what age does a child move to a toddler room? Do they require nap transitions at a certain age or when the child drops a nap naturally? Can you bring in a white noise machine? Can your child use a sleep sack? Do you get a log (or access to an app) where daily sleep is tracked?

Make sure you feel comfortable being honest with both the director and the room teacher(s). Partner with them, but be sure to set your expectations, too! Remember, you are paying for this service, and you’re the one who is up all night if you have got an overtired (or not tired!) kiddo!

Follow an age-appropriate schedule at home

Make sure bedtime is appropriate during the week (bedtime can be fluid based on the quality of naps) and that you follow a nap schedule over the weekend. You may actually find your little one takes longer naps on the weekends — they need it! Let them recoup and recover from all of that fun they had at school.

Provide a copy of your preferred nap schedule

Our kids are resilient and follow cues from their friends ... but if the daily schedule isn’t working for you, bring in a hard copy of your schedule. Most teachers will truly do their best to follow. However, they have a lot of little bodies to keep alive so bring up any concerns with the daycare director. 

Know that FOMO is real

Have a child who refuses to nap at school? Takes forever to fall asleep? Or only takes short naps? Fear of missing out, or FOMO, and being distracted/awoken by other classmates is a tough battle to tackle. If this is the case for your child, talk to the teacher. Is there anything that can be done to separate pack n’ plays or rearrange the room? Some classrooms may be able to use a bookcase as a partition, shut the lights off, use a white noise machine, etc. If you feel the room teacher is not being as responsive as you would like, discuss it with the daycare director. 

Be aware of the two-to-one nap transition

The average age for a toddler to make the transition to one nap is around 15 months. That means, unfortunately, some kiddos who graduate to a big boy/girl room at age 1 are pushed onto a one nap schedule before they are naturally ready. If this is the case with your center, talk to your teacher (see a theme here?). Is there a transition room that allows for two naps while being developmentally appropriate for a young toddler? If not, make sure you offer as much rest as possible at home. That might mean temporarily offering super early bedtimes and maintaining a two nap schedule on the weekends. For more on how to navigate dropping a nap, read our blog about nap transitions here!

If you find that your child is lacking sleep (or getting too much) while out of your care, speak up! Make a plan and adjust what you can control. Like everything with babies/toddlers, it's often just a season that you'll be through before you know it.

Samantha Foster

Samantha is a certified pediatric sleep consultant with Expect to Sleep Again and mom of two girls. She serves exhausted families and overtired children by delivering education on the importance of sleep. She is passionate about helping families teach their baby or toddler how to get the rest they so desperately need by using gentile and effective approaches that are tailored to the exact needs of the family. She believes that each family dynamic is different and each individual child brings their own considerations. That’s why she works collaboratively with each family to create a plan that is unique to your own situation. She will act as your educator, motivator, and support system as you navigate toward a restful night's sleep. Follow Samantha on Instagram here!

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