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  • Writer's pictureMary Cantwell

Navigating Daycare Sleep: Tips for Infants and Toddlers

Sending your little one to daycare can be both exciting and nerve-wracking, especially when it comes to managing their sleep schedule. While daycare provides a stimulating environment for children to learn and socialize, it can also present challenges when it comes to naptime.  We'll explore daycare sleep challenges, strategies for managing daycare sleep for both infants and toddlers and how to manage bedtime on short nap days to ensure they get the rest they need.

Daycare Sleep Challenges:

Daycare environments are bustling with activity, noise, and stimulation, which can make it difficult for children to settle down for naps. Additionally, daycares may have different nap schedules or routines than what your child is accustomed to at home. These factors can lead to disrupted sleep patterns and overtiredness in infants and toddlers.

Managing Daycare Sleep for Infants:

Communicate with the daycare provider: Before your child starts daycare, discuss their sleep preferences, routines, and any sleep associations they may have. Share tools that work well for your baby, such as a sleep sack, using a white noise machine or using a pacifier, to help daycare providers create a familiar sleep environment.

  • Framework a nap schedule: Work with the daycare to provide a loose nap schedule that aligns with your infant's natural sleep rhythms. Aim for times they typically nap at instead of exact wake window timing to prevent overtiredness and crankiness from possibly missing a nap and to make it easy for the daycare provider to maintain the nap timing.

  • Sleep Space Placement: Ask the daycare provider if they can place your child’s crib for naps the furthest away from the entry door of the room. This will provide a lower noise and light stimulating environment which can help sleep.

  • Provide Updates To A Dropped Nap: Nap transitions occur more often than not the first 18 months. Communicating an updated nap schedule to your daycare provider when your child has dropped a nap will help keep sleep on track.

recommended wake windows by age

Managing Daycare Sleep for Toddlers:

Settle into a new routine: Transitioning to daycare can be challenging for toddlers, especially when it comes to naptime. Work with the daycare provider to establish a nap schedule that aligns with your child's needs. Recommend giving them specific guidelines on timing which will help keep them rested and be able to fall asleep a bit easier.

  • Sleep space: Ask the daycare provider if they can put your child’s nap mat the furthest away from the teacher’s desk or the entry room to the door.  This will provide a low stimulation area from light and sound so it will be easier for your child to fall asleep.

  • Nap schedule: Work with the daycare to provide a nap schedule that aligns with your child’s nap at home or vice versa keep the timing close enough to each other for consistency. Daycare providers that have children aged 14 to15 months plus, typically have a nap at 12:00pm. Aim for that nap timing at home to provide consistency across their nap.

  • Comfort items: Consider sending a favorite blanket or stuffed animal from home to provide comfort during naptime.

  • Address any sleep associations: If your toddler relies on specific sleep associations, such as nursing or rocking, work with the daycare provider to gradually wean them off these habits. Encourage alternative comfort measures, such as a favorite blanket or cuddly toy, to help your child feel secure during naptime. In addition before starting daycare, if child is used to rocking or nursing to nap, we can start replacing that with patting so that it makes the transition easier

  • Be patient and consistent: Adjusting to daycare sleep may take time for toddlers, so be patient and consistent with your approach. Offer plenty of praise and encouragement for positive sleep behaviors and work together with the daycare provider to address any challenges that arise.

managing sleep at daycare

Managing bedtime during daycare days:

  • Adjust Bedtime: Daycare sleep can often be shorter than at home.  Recommend offering an earlier bedtime on daycare days to help keep your child from becoming overtired at bedtime which can make it harder to fall asleep or consolidate overnight sleep consistently.

  • Simple bedtime routine: Have a consistent and simple bedtime routine with your child nightly to help cue sleep and have a routine that is manageable at the end of a busy day.

  • Afternoon Protein Snack: Work with the daycare provider to see if they can provide a protein rich snack at the end of the day to help bridge the gap for a rushed dinner at home.

Managing daycare sleep for infants and toddlers requires communication, collaboration, and patience between parents and daycare providers. By collaborating with your daycare, establishing a consistent sleep routine, giving a framework for their day sleep, working on placement of sleep space, and addressing any sleep challenges that arise, you can help ensure that your child gets the rest they need to thrive at daycare and beyond. With time, communication and consistency, daycare sleep can become a positive and restful experience for both you and your little one.

If daycare sleep is still affecting night sleep and feel that we have tried all the things, let’s schedule a Discovery Call so we can bring rest to your family at daycare and home.



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