Some babies have an easy time when they start going to day care and nap easily within the structure and routine of day care and do not mind the busyness of the environment. While other babies find the noises, lights and presence of other babies distracting and will have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep for the length of a normal at-home nap. This can lead to lots of worries for parents and lots of effort to prevent overtiredness in their babies.
Daycares have many regulations in regards to what they can, and can’t, do when putting babies down to nap. This can mean that some of the things a parent would do at naptime; a day care can’t and vice versa. Some of the regulations, for example, in New York include, always putting a baby on their back to sleep (in line with normal safe sleep practices), babies must not be left in a crib for more than 30 minutes and if babies are not interested in sleeping they must be taken out for quiet play, and each baby must be 2 feet apart from the next. Some day cares can also have other rules like needing to have the room lit enough to see babies faces as well or not being able to let a baby cry.
Given the many rules; this can lead to some difficulty setting the scene for your baby to sleep as they would if they were at home in their dark, quiet crib. Sometimes even the day care’s scheduled timing of naps can be different from your at home schedule which can lead to difficulties for babies to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Here I’m going to give some pointers on how you can handle sleep for your baby if they struggle with day care naps:
- New York day care centers are required to provide parents with written information on where their child sleeps, what the sleep surface is and how naps will be supervised. Use this as a jumping of point to discuss your child’s unique sleep needs and see what accommodations can be made for them.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of sunlight in the AM to help with their circadian rhythm. Light helps regulate your baby’s internal clock. If you can’t do this, ask the day care if they make this part of their morning routine.
- If your child is on two naps a day still but day care only does one you have 2 options: (1) If your child is ready, or close to ready, you can gradually drop the nap and move nap time to be inline with the day care, to prevent overtiredness when they go to one nap at day care. (2) If they still really need two naps but can’t at day care, make sure you institute early bed time on day care days but keep two naps on non-day care day.
- Ask for daily communication on when and how long your baby slept each day so you can adjust bedtime accordingly.
- Tell the day care your baby’s naptime routine and ask if they can follow that at nap times, or
- Educate yourself on what your day care does around naptime, so you can be consistent at home too.
- Bring familiar objects from home e.g. bedding, sleep sacks and pacifiers.
- If you have a particularly sensitive sleeper ask if you can pick the crib your baby uses and choose the one in the quietest and darkest corner of the room.
- Ask if day care can bring your baby into the room a few minutes before the other babies to increase the chance of falling asleep because there is less stimulation.
- Ask if you can bring in some things from home to darken your baby’s crib. If day care doesn’t have a sound machine, ask to bring one in.
- Ask day care not to play music when the babies are asleep. The day care may not realize that music is not good for sleep. It keeps the brain active and doesn’t allow for deep restorative sleep.
- Check to make sure that day care is using an appropriate nap schedule. If they are not napping babies in line with their biological rhythms this could be contributing to sleeping difficulties.
I hope these ideas help you tackle day care naps, to give your baby the best rest possible. If you feel like your baby’s sleep is being impacting by day care please feel free to reach out and we can problem solve how to keep your baby as well rested as possible together. Little Big Dreamers is also always available to do workshops and seminars and would be more than happy to do one at any day care who wants one. Have you had a chance to join my free community where parents come together to discuss child sleep issues? Join here!