The day I returned to work after maternity leave was TOUGH to say the least. I remember waking up extra early to make sure I had everything I needed for my 12-week-old daughter’s first day of daycare. I felt like I was as prepared as I could have been.
Extra clothes, check. Diapers, check. Sleep sack, check!
The infant room had enough cribs for each baby to nap. There were quite a few tears on my part as I dropped her off (although she handled it like a champ). When I returned at the end of the day to pick her up, the providers gave me her daily food, diaper and nap log.
She had taken a few 20 minute naps and one 30 minute nap. As the days went on, the naps continued to be very short at daycare. It was a rare day that I’d see a nap reach an hour long
And this is something that is so common with babies at daycare. Daycare naps can be super super short. Is there anything you can do to help make daycare naps longer?
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How Long Should Naps Be at Daycare?
As a Pediatric Sleep Coach, I can tell you that the ideal length of a nap should be between an hour and a half to 2 hours long. This goes for both babies and toddlers. In a perfect world, each nap would last 1.5 – 2 hours, both at daycare and at home.
Daycare nap length depends on a variety of factors. If your infant is not sleeping at daycare it could be a result of:
- What the environment is like in the daycare room
- Whether or not the daycare is following your child’s proper awake windows, and
- If your baby knows how to fall asleep independently
Naps at Daycare & the Sleep Environment
The most common age group where I see short naps at daycare is in the infant room (babies under 1 year). One of the reasons babies in the infant room have short naps at daycare is because of the environment. Infants under a year old have vastly different schedules. A 3-month-old cannot handle the same amount of awake time as an 11-month-old.
Which means your baby might be going down for a nap just as another is waking up, being fed, or having a meltdown. Additionally, daycare naps may be shorter because of the noise level. Your daycare may be willing to play white noise while your child is sleeping. So it’s always worth asking to help mask the noises in the room.
Since your baby might be sleeping while others are awake, the room may be super bright as they’re trying to go down for their nap which can make it a little more challenging to fall asleep.
If you’re wondering where babies nap at daycare, most daycares will have roller cribs for babies to nap in. Although some daycares may have mobile cribs. Either way, there will be a safe place for your baby to comfortably nap at daycare.
To help create a sleep environment as similar as possible to their home sleep environment, you can bring the same sleep sack that your baby uses at home. My favorite sleep sack is the Snuggy Buddy because it has little lovies securely attached that your baby can hold onto while they self-soothe.
If your child has a favorite book, you can also bring that in for the daycare providers to read to your baby in the nap time routine. The book my kids both loved when they were young was Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You.
And if your child is over a year old, you’ll likely need to buy them a nap mat to sleep on. Most daycares will allow a child over a year to bring a stuffed animal from home as well, which can help comfort them.
Daycare Infant Nap Schedule
You’re probably wondering if there is anything you can do to help with daycare naps. And there is! The most important thing that you can do as a parent, is to communicate your baby’s schedule and awake windows with their daycare providers.
If your baby is awake for longer than they should be at their age, it’s going to make it much more challenging for them to fall asleep. And it’s also going to lead to short naps at daycare.
You’ll want to help your baby to avoid being overtired. This will ensure that your baby’s daycare naps are going to be as long as possible. If you’re not exactly sure how long your baby should be awake for or what their schedule should look like at their age, download my free Schedules by Age Guide below. You can this print off and bring to daycare.
Download Your Infant’s Nap Schedule by Age
By having an outline for what you’re expecting the providers to follow, you’ll be sure that everyone is on the same page.
Take a Look at How Your Baby Is Going Down for Daycare Naps
One thing I say to my clients every day is, “consistency is crucial for your baby to develop healthy sleep habits”. For great daycare sleep, you’ll want your baby to be falling asleep at daycare the same way they fall asleep at home.
For example, if your baby has the skills to fall asleep independently at home and you’re able to lay them down wide awake, leave the room, and know that they can fall asleep all on their own without any crying, you’ll want them being put down the same way for daycare naps.
If the daycare providers are rocking your baby to sleep, your baby will be very confused when they transition between sleep cycles and realize they’re not in the same place as when they fell asleep (in the daycare provider’s arms).
As a result, they will more fully wake up. And they may not be able to get into the next sleep cycle without help. Thus your 20-30 minute nap problem will develop.
Sleep Training & Daycare Sleep
Does your baby have the skills to fall asleep without assistance? If not, and you need help teaching your baby how to fall asleep independently so they can begin taking much longer naps, we’re here to help. My team and I work with families every day to create personalized sleep plans for each family we work with. Your plan allows you to teach your child great sleep habits so that they can begin:
- Falling asleep independently,
- Sleeping through the night, AND
- Taking long, wonderful naps during the day
Is it possible to sleep train if your child goes to daycare? Absolutely! I did sleep training with both of my children when they were in daycare. And about half the families I work with have a child in daycare. If your child is in daycare, part of your sleep support includes a Daycare Sleep Plan which you can print and bring with you to share with your child’s providers. This helps you feel confident knowing your baby’s sleep will be consistent between home and daycare.
What’s the Secret to Longer Daycare Naps?
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! Your baby thrives on routines and consistency. The best thing you can do as a parent is to help your baby’s caretakers at daycare learn how they can support your child’s sleep both in their own room and at their home away from home…at daycare!