A Guide to Getting Baby To Nap at Daycare

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  • September 01, 2008

Baby SleepIn my work with parents, I constantly stress the need to be consistent. But consistency isn’t always possible if babysitters, nannies, child care centers or grandmas are also involved with your child’s sleep. To the extent possible, work with these other caretakers to develop consistent or at least not wildly incompatible, sleep rules and schedules. Explain my system – and why good sleep is good for your child.  But if your otherwise warm, loving and reliable nanny can’t handle any aspect of sleep coaching, particularly nap training, which can be hard, do your best to work around her and improvise where you have to. For instance, focus on nights and weekend naps if you can’t get the sitter to do weekday naps. Ditto for childcare centers, which may or may not have the flexibility to work with you. Quality childcare is too hard to find to risk losing it. If your mom or mother-in-law is helping with childcare but not on the same page as you with sleep, perhaps you could gently tell her what a great job she did but your child needs a slightly different approach.

Childcare centers often have their own approaches to naps, and they aren’t always particularly flexible. Their approach might work for many children, or for the center’s overall harmony, but it isn’t necessarily the right sleep setting for your particular child, even if the overall care is excellent. For instance, many childcare centers will not allow a baby to cry  in the crib at nap time for fear of waking all those other babies. So the caretakers often rock or hold the babies to sleep. You should work on nighttime sleep and weekend naps, and when you are fairly confident of your child’s ability to get herself to sleep, talk to the childcare provider. Explain what you have accomplished and ask them to work with you on getting her down drowsy but awake. It may be easier if you give them some times for naps, pecific tools, or suggestions. Perhaps they can put your child in the sleep room or nap area a few minutes before they bring in other  babies, to give her a chance to get used to falling asleep on her own there without disturbing the other children. Maybe they can just rock or hold her for a shorter period of time and then pat and “sh sh” her to sleep, instead of rocking her until she’s totally out. Talk to them about meshing their nap schedule with your child’s sleep windows. Share your knowledge of sleep science to see if you can get them to work with you. Talk to them about keeping a special lovey, blanket or pillow at childcare or preschool.

Some childcare centers transfer babies on their first birthdays to a new care group where all children nap at daycare once a day. Unfortunately, this is premature. Most babies don’t transition from two naps to one until about fifteen to eighteen months. Talk to the childcare center about leaving your one year old in the baby room for a few more months until he’s ready to give up his morning nap. In toddler classrooms, children usually nap on cots (not cribs) in a darkened room with lots of other children. If it works, leave it alone. You can work on bedtime and weekend naps and many children can separate what happens at childcare from home patterns. With a three-and-a-half or four-year-old, your challenge might be convincing the childcare staff that he no longer needs to nap, that he stays up way too late at home at night if he sleeps for two hours each afternoon. Most childcare providers give sleep reports. If yours doesn’t, ask them to fill you in.

Here’s to sweet nap dreams!

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photo credit: treehouse1977 via photopin cc

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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2 Comments

  • HP87 says:

    http://www.appletreenc.com is a day center center in Raleigh that I send my kids to and they are great at making them take naps.

  • LisaMcCultySchwieterman says:

    My pediatrician is saying my 2.5 year old doesn’t need a nap anymore and daycare won’t accommodate due to other children’s need to sleep and lack of an environment that is staffed to support toddlers who don’t need a nap. Pedia says its more important for him to get consecutive hours of sleep at night. When napping he sleeps horribly at night. What do I do?