Navigating Naps and Daycares

Whether your “daycare” is a school-type center or a family member’s home, it’s not uncommon for your child’s sleep to be impacted once they begin attending daycare. And while there isn’t much we can do when it comes to daycare policies, there are steps we can take to improve the quality of our child’s sleep, both at daycare and at home.

Today, I’m going to address how to navigate in-home daycares — whether that’s a family member’s house or a mom in your neighborhood. In-home daycares usually offer more flexibility when it comes to naptime. Since they typically have fewer children at a time, they may be able to follow your child’s schedule a bit more closely.

And that leads me to the first tip:

Talk to the daycare owner about your child’s schedule.

If your child is rocking naps at home, you’ll want to offer the same schedule at daycare. Talk to the daycare about your child’s schedule and compare it to their typical schedule — what time they eat snacks, lunch, and nap.

Some daycares follow the child’s lead when it comes to naps which I completely understand. It would be nearly impossible to lay multiple small children down for a nap when they all have varying wake windows (the amount of time they can handle being awake in any one stretch).

However, relying on a child’s sleepy cues is unreliable for many reasons. Chances are, if your child’s daycare follows their lead, your child will be overtired, may take shorter naps, or may not nap at all, turning bedtime into a battlefield.

So the first thing you should do is talk to the daycare. If your child does well with a 1 p.m. nap, let them know and ask if they could stick to that schedule.

They may agree, they may not. But this is the first step to take.

Assess (and improve) the nap space.

If your child is sleeping in the living room at their daycare, see if they have curtains hanging in the windows. Even though this isn’t your house, we want the environment to be set up for a great sleep. And if light is pouring through the windows, your child is less likely to get good, restorative sleep.

You’ll also want to ask about sound machines. With multiple children crying, laughing, and playing — even if they’re in a different room — your child may have a case of FOMO (fear of missing out) at naptime and want to stay awake with their friends. Having a sound machine can help drown out the surrounding noise and optimize the room for sleep.

Also be mindful of the temperature. While you may not want to hound the homeowner on what temperature their thermostat is set to, paying attention to the temperature and whether there are fans can help determine how you dress them for the day. Remember, an ideal temperature for naps is 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Most homeowners are more understanding and willing to work with you on issues like these since they are simple and will likely improve your child’s nap. The hardest part? Just speaking to them and advocating for your child.

Just go with it.

It’s possible that your child may not nap well regardless of the amount of time you’ve invested preparing them and the environment at their new daycare. That’s okay.

The best thing you can do is focus on the time they’re with you — in the evenings and weekends. Making sure they get good naps in during the weekends and putting them to bed at an appropriate time will help compensate for the lack of sleep they get at daycare.

And if your child’s sleep isn’t impacted, but you know they’re getting less sleep in at daycare, there’s no need to stress too much about whether the daycare is following your schedule. Just roll with it.

In Summary

Different daycare settings pose different challenges when it comes to naps. When working with an in-home daycare, you typically have a closer relationship with the person caring for your child and can make a few requests when it comes to your child’s nap.

  • First, ask the daycare owner to follow your child’s current nap schedule. If your child is rocking it with a 1 p.m. nap, ask them to put your child down at 1 p.m. Walk them through the nap routine you typically follow so they can implement it at their home.

  • Assess the nap room and advocate for your child. Make sure the room is dark, cool, and has a sound machine. If it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to ask! You can even offer to pay for curtains or a sound machine if you feel that would get the job done. You don’t have to shell out a fortune — Amazon and Walmart have options that will work great.

  • When all else fails, just go with it. Focus on your child’s naps when they’re with you in the evenings or weekends. You may not be able to control when the daycare puts your child down for a nap, but you can control when YOU do. So stick with your child’s schedule the best you can when you’re in charge.

I hope these tips help you as you navigate naps and daycare. And if your child attends a daycare center, stay tuned for more tips in the coming weeks!

Message me on Instagram: What tips have worked great for your child at an in-home daycare?

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I’m Katie

certified pediatric sleep consultant

Fueled by equal parts caffeine and passion, I spend my days helping exhausted mamas get their babies the sleep they need. 

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