Daycare Naps: Are Difficulties at Childcare Causing Early Rising?

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  • February 19, 2013

If you would rather read than watch my above video then here is the transcript of this week’s toddler sleep problem video:

Hi, Kim West, the Sleep Lady, and today I’m going to answer Dana’s question. Dana emailed in with this email:

“Hi, I have a 16-month-old son who’s been having sleep issues a lot lately. Ever since he transitioned to one nap because he moved up to the toddler room at daycare, he naps about an hour-and-a-half to two hours starting at 11:30 am. He goes to bed between 6:00 and 6:30 pm but he’s been waking up at 6:00 and today it was 4:00.

I let him cry and fuss until 6:00 am but it’s disruptive on my sleep, my husband and my 10-year-old stepdaughter to have my son crying for two hours non-stop. When I do go get him, he wants to drink milk and he has a dirty diaper; however, even if I just went in there to feed and change him, he stays awake. He did it the other day after waking at 4:00 am being given milk and being changed.

The past weekend, I put him to bed at five one night and he woke up at 1:30 to have milk and then woke up at 5:00am. I cannot do the bedtime any earlier because I work full-time and I don’t even get home until about 5:30. I tried a later bed time the other night which is when he woke up at 4, and he wouldn’t go back to sleep even after being fed and changed. He is not well rested and he’s cranky and clingy in the mornings when he wakes between 4 and 5.

I feel that having only one nap has really messed him up but I can’t do anything about that either: that’s how the daycare structures it for this age group and I’m at of my wit’s end.”

Every Child is Different

Dana, thank you for writing. You know, this is one of the most common questions I receive about toddler sleep problems. Many parents struggle with their child’s naps at daycare. I’m not exactly sure why childcare centers move babies to one nap so early. I have some idea that it has to do with regulations. They go by age, so all one-year-olds go into the toddler room and you get transitioned to one nap. Really it shouldn’t be by age—the average age to transition to one nap is between 15 and 18 months of age.

Every child is a bit different. I would encourage you to talk to them and tell them what kind of problems you’re having. You might say, “My son seems very overtired and doesn’t seem ready for one nap. Is there any way that he could go back to the previous room just for the morning nap or just for the two naps and spend the rest of the day in the toddler room?” Even if it’s every other day, that would help. Its worth asking. I usually find that good childcare providers should work with you. Every child is different and you want to find out what they’re capable of changing.

How Can You Work Around the Daycare Nap Schedule?

If, let’s say, you can’t change daycare, you don’t want to, or they won’t budge and you work full time, then I would see if there’s any way that they could push the nap to 12 noon. Consider copying the section of my book about the causes of early rising and a typical schedule for a toddler this age. With that early of a nap I bet you, you’re not the only parent having this problem. Here is another article where I answer a mom’s similar question.

If at all possible, it would really help if you or your husband could pick him up a little bit earlier at least a couple of days a week for the next couple of months. This would be in hopes that he could take a tiny little car nap so he could make it to bedtime at 7 pm. This may help him catch up a bit on his sleep deprivation. It’s not ideal but it definitely helps if you try to fill the sleep tank as best you can. I don’t think the long term solution is to put him to bed at 5:30 pm. If he sleeps from 5:30 pm to 5:30 am, it’s conceivable that he would wake fully rested.

Other Sleep-Related Strategies

On the weekends when you are home with him I would give him 2 naps a day with a 7 pm bedtime.

A couple of other points: it wasn’t clear to me whether he’s having milk at bedtime and whether it is in a bottle or cup. Ideally you do not want him to have milk right before bed. If he does have milk, you should brush his teeth, read books and then put him into bed awake. It’s really important because if he doesn’t know how to put himself to sleep at bedtime awake, he won’t know how to do it at 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning as he’s been showing you (even when you change his diaper and give him some milk). Of course, you don’t want him sleeping with milk on his teeth which can definitely cause cavities in the teeth he probably has by now at 16 months old. Read this article if you need tips on weaning him from the milk bottle.

One final tip: make sure he goes down awake at bedtime. Mastering putting himself to sleep at bedtime from a wakeful state can help with the early rising. Focus on awake at bedtime during the week and on the weekends. Again, during the weekends when he’s with you, go back to two naps a day. It’s not ideal but it can help fill his sleep tank a little bit. You’ll probably have better nights on Monday and Tuesday and then from Wednesday on it may start to dissipate as he becomes more sleep deprived during the week.

I hope that helps, Dana.

Video filmed by In Focus Studios

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6 Comments

  • sylpadil says:

    Hi Sleep Lady.  Our son is 4 months old.  We have been working on “sleep shaping” this past month and things have been going well–he went from not sleeping nearly enough i.e. 8 hours of nighttime sleep and several 20 minute cat naps during the day, to sleeping much better over the past month (to bed at 7pm and 2 naps a day).  He still isn’t super regular with naps–he sleeps anywhere from 45 min to 3 hours at his 9am nap; afternoon naps are more challenging–he sleeps anywhere from not at all to 2 hours.  And here’s a new development that we’re struggling with:  He had gotten to sleeping at night from 7pm to 7am, waking at about 1am to eat, then again at about 4:30am, once again to eat (I think…or is it for comfort?).  This was working great for me–especially because previously, he had been waking every 3 hours throughout the night…I felt I was at least getting one decent stretch of sleep (I would go to bed about 8:30 in order to get a 5 hour stretch before 1am).  Not as wonderful as sleeping through the night, but such an improvement that we are very happy with his progress!!  But just recently, maybe the past week and a half, he started waking every 3 hours again, starting with around 10pm forward.  Why is this happening, and what can we do to get him back on track?  We tried the “dream feed” at 10:30pm, only to find he would still wake again at 1:30am.  He has made excellent progress as far as going down awake and putting himself to sleep.  We went from only doing the “awake-but-drowsy” thing only once a day (other times I would nurse him down), to now he goes down awake-but-drowsy at bedtime and most naps–we are so proud of him, especially because he is so young :)!  We have heard that the age between 4 months and 6 months can be an upheaval due to “wonder weeks,” when babies’ senses become more accute, so their sleep routine suffers–do we need to expect these frequent nighttime awakenings until he reaches 6 months of age?  I am also unsure about whether his nighttime wakenings are due to hunger or not.  I hesitate to withhold feeding, first because he seems hungry, and second because he is a thin, active baby who does not gain weight quickly or easily.  Many friends tell us that their children’s sleep patterns didn’t become regular until about 1 year old.  Do we need to just be flexible, meet his feeding/waking needs until he’s older?  Or should we do something to “shape” this behavior?  Thanks so much for your help.  Sylvia

    • Breanna Gunn says:

      4 months is very young, and it’s also fairly common for babies to experience a sleep regression at this age. Be sure to check with your doctor about his nighttime feeding needs, because he may be genuinely hungry, or experiencing a growth spurt. Good luck!

  • britraebasham says:

    Daycare is ruining my girls!!!!
     
    Our provider swears that she tries to get my 15th month old twin girls to take two naps but they scream and wake the other babies up.  I have been noticing that they sleep from 10:30am-12:30pm or maybe 12:30pm-3:30pm during the day.  My husband and I both work full time.  I take the girls and he picks them up.  His commute home can take anywhere from 30-60 mins depending on traffic.  He usually gets home around 6pm and I get home around 6:30pm.  If the girls don’t take a great nap during the day then 98% of the time they fall asleep in the car for 20-50 minutes.  When they get home they want to go straight to bed, and some times won’t eat dinner.  They would rather go to bed with nothing to eat or they’ll scream throughout dinner.  I have tried and tried to convince day care that they need two naps but she just won’t do it since they cry.  I told her to let them cry for a bit but she won’t.
     
    When we are at home I really have no issues with them taking two naps.  Gracie will still wake up at 5:30am faithfully.  My question is really three parts:
     
    1.  Since Gracie is getting adequate sleep on the weekends and still waking up at 5:30am, should I just chalk this off as an early riser or try moving her bed time up to 6:30pm?
     
    2. If we put them in the bed at 7pm, what time should they be asleep by?  I have noticed that some times my girls don’t actually fall asleep until 7:45pm-8pm.
     
    3.  If they girls fall asleep in the car during their trip home, should we just make them a bottle and put them to bed?  Or should we wake them up, try to feed and then put them to bed?
     
    Thank you.

    • Breanna Gunn says:

      Great questions! First, I think you need to read this article on early rising to help you with Gracie. You may need to revert back to the Shuffle for a bit to help encourage them to fall asleep, reinforcing that bedtime is for sleeping. I would see if you can keep them awake in the car, maybe sing songs, or ask them engaging questions for the trip home. Good luck!

  • breefawn says:

    britraebasham Great questions! First, I think you need to read this article about early rising: http://www.sleeplady.com/baby-sleep/rise-shine-the-early-waking-toddler. It will help you with Gracie. You may need to revert back to the Shuffle for a bit to help encourage them to fall asleep, reinforcing that bedtime is for sleeping. I would see if you can keep them awake in the car, maybe sing songs, or ask them engaging questions for the trip home. Good luck!

  • breefawn says:

    sylpadil 4 months is very young, and it’s also fairly common for babies to experience a sleep regression at this age. Be sure to check with your doctor about his nighttime feeding needs, because he may be genuinely hungry, or experiencing a growth spurt. Good luck!