Baby Sleep Problem: My Baby Won’t Nap at Daycare!

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  • February 22, 2011

Luckily my 8 month old daughter is sleeping through the night now. I am a working mom and not at home with my baby during the week to nap coach her. She is at a larger daycare center and basically  when she’s tired, they put her down, when she’s hungry they feed her. So I never really know what I’m going to get when I pick her up. My baby won’t nap at daycare because there are always baby’s crying, people talking, kids all over the place etc. She is very distracted and only takes cat naps, never for more than 30 minutes at a time. I had them move her crib away from the center of the action, but it hasn’t helped. She has been there for 4 months and I would hate to change her to another place. I really like where she is, just not the baby sleep problem. What advice can you give to working mom’s on the nap subject?  Amy

First of all, I am so happy to hear that your baby is sleeping thru the night! Even though your baby won’t nap well at daycare! I address this very common conundrum more fully in my book in both the age related chapter and in the Routine Buster chapter. Often I have parents working on both night and naps at the same time, but for your situation I would recommend the following tips:


Share with your caregiver a typical schedule for a 6-8 month old


Share with them all you have accomplished with her night sleep and how she naps well on the weekends according to this schedule (hopefully that is true). Talk to them about meshing their nap schedule with your child’s sleep windows. Share your knowledge of sleep science and the importance of good, restorative naps!

daycare7:00 to 7:30 a.m. Wake-up. Upon waking, nurse or bottlefeed and give solids.

9:00 or 9:30 a.m. Morning nap, one and a half to two hours. Upon waking, nurse or bottlefeed and give solids.

12:30 or 1:00 p.m. Afternoon nap, one and a half to two hours. Upon waking, nurse or bottlefeed.

3:30–4:00 p.m. (depending on previous naptime).

Optional third nap, about forty-five minutes to an hour.

5:00 or 5:30 p.m. Nurse or bottlefeed and give solids.

6:00–6:30 p.m. Start bath and bedtime preparations, which may include an additional bottle or nursing.

7:00–7:30 p.m. Bedtime


If your caregiver puts your baby down asleep or very drowsy for naps, ask the caregiver to focus on “filling the sleep tank” as best she can using whatever sleep crutch she’s always used before


In other words, have her at least make sure that your child meets the age-appropriate amount of daytime sleep no matter what it takes. If, for example, she generally rocks your baby to sleep, then have her continue to do this when putting your baby down for naps. Tell her to rock her back to sleep if she wakes before 45 minutes so that she’s not having disaster naps all day long. As long as you don’t rock her to sleep during the day or night, this can work. If your caregiver is putting your baby down awake for the nap but then she wakes after 30minutes, ask them if they can go to her and reassure her back to sleep.


Work on naps on the weekend


If you are putting her down asleep for naps then work on putting her down awake and nap coach as outlined in “The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight”.  When you’re fairly confident that your child has learned to get herself to sleep, talk to your caregiver again. Explain what your baby has accomplished, and ask her to work with you by putting your baby down awake for naps within the appropriate nap windows and reassuring her when she wakes from too short of a nap. 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.


A few additional tips:


• Perhaps your provider would be willing to put her down in the sleep area a few minutes before she brings in the rest of the babies.

• Bring in a sound screen or white noise maker and ask if they can use that over by the cribs where the babies are sleeping.

• When you pick up your daughter always ask for a nap report- what time did she sleep and for how long. If the sleep tank is low then let your baby take a snooze in the car ride home to help her make it to bedtime not too overtired.

I have had a few cases where the parents changed daycare providers because it was not a good match for their baby’s temperament and sleep needs or the daycare center was not willing to make sleep a priority but that’s a worst case scenario!

Sweet dreams,

Kim West

Was this article helpful to you? Please tell us by commenting below! For more baby, toddler, and family sleep tips and tricks, please subscribe to The Sleep Lady’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and YouTube channel! If you are looking for more sleep content, please check out Get Sleep Now-an exclusive members-only area designed to provide in-depth help and support during your sleep coaching experience.

photo credit: USAG-Humphreys 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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  • LittleU says:

    Schedules work.  They are tough, but they work.  <a href=””>Little U Daycare</a>

  • LittleU says:

    Schedules work.  They are tough, but they work.

  • LittleU says:

    Schedules work.  They are tough, but they work.

  • Lilacs says:

    I just pulled my 13 month old from a daycare where she loved it but couldn’t sleep. It was perfect but she had a pack n play in the same room with olde children running around and it was beside a tv. There was also a 10 month old in another pack and play. It broke my heart because my baby loved her caregiver and other kids. Great care, socialization but no real sleep. I couldn’t get he caregiver to move her to a room so I decided she was too young to be so sleep deprived. It was throwing off her whole week and she was in 2 days. I question my decision but felt sleep was more important that high stimulation at her age.

  • […] Not all naps are created equal. If you’ve been reading my books or this blog, I’m sure that you’ve heard me mention disaster naps. A ‘disaster nap’ is just my way of referring to any nap that is shorter than 45 minutes. These types of naps do not encompass a full sleep cycle, and babies often wake up cranky and still tired, rather than refreshed. These types of naps tend to occur when windows of wakefulness have been exceeded, or when babies are put on a schedule that is outside of their home schedule, which sometimes occurs at daycare. […]

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