Now that you’ve talked to your child’s daycare provider and they have a better understanding of where you’re coming from, let’s work on lengthening those daycare naps!
Again, let me preface this...
These tips won’t work if your child isn’t already an independent sleeper at home. Some (probably most) daycare providers will cater to the desires of the child by holding them for naps, rocking them to sleep, or consistently replacing a pacifier. But, if that’s not your desire or that’s not an option at your chosen daycare - setting that foundation of independent sleep at home first is crucial. This can be done in conjunction with attending daycare, too.
If you need help in making that happen, let’s chat about how we can work together!
What to expect
It’s a common question among parents that if we’re going to get their child sleeping well at daycare in a not-so-ideal sleep environment, what’s the point in jumping through all the hoops at home?
Well… there are a few reasons:
Even if we’re able to help your child sleep long at daycare, it’s not going to be quite as restorative as it would be in an ideal environment.
We want to preserve sleep as best as possible so when there’s the opportunity to provide the best environment, let’s do it!
If your concern is they won’t be able to sleep in different sleep environments, let me reassure you that children can compartmentalize their sleep spaces, so to speak. It will take time to adapt (about a month), but they’ll start sleeping the best they can in each space with consistency and patience.
It’s also good to have an appropriate expectation of daycare naps - even with all the advice in play, there’s still a chance that their naps will be short. And that’s ok!
Remember, we cannot make our children sleep, we can only provide them with the best opportunities for it. Unfortunately at daycare, the best that can be done is not the absolute best for sleep - but your child will be ok and there are ways to help them “catch up” on that sleep. (We'll talk more about that in the next post.)
Let’s get into it!
3 ways to lengthen naps at daycare
1. Naptime routine
You can add this to the list of questions you ask the daycare teacher: “Can you do this quick, 2-5 minute routine before naptime with my child?” Your naptime routine should be short and easily done by others.
Sleep time routines are a great way to set up sleep and cue your child in on what’s ahead (“Oh, yea, sleep!”).
Having this familiarity can bring calm to your child and help them settle down to sleep. It's even more calming if you’re able to combine the routine with some of their familiar items from home (sleep sack, lovey, and/or sound machine).
To make it easy and convenient for the daycare, write out or print up the routine and place it with your child’s nap items for them to have on hand.
2. Implement “The Pause”
If your child has been sleep trained for naps at home, you know not to rush to get them up when they wake early. Ask your daycare provider to do the same.
If your child can get them back to sleep when they wake early from a nap at home, let the daycare know that your child is capable of that and ask them if they would let them be for a few minutes, so long as they’re not disturbing the other children. If your child wakes up crying or begins to cry, then it’s understandable that they would get them up so they don’t wake the other children!
3. Get an accurate picture of their day
Daycares typically track eating, sleeping, and activity, and it’s typically pretty general. Ask them to be as detailed as possible with tracking your child’s sleep so you can get a better gauge on how to go about the rest of your day. If they can note not only when they fell asleep and woke up, but also how long it took them to fall asleep, if they stirred during sleep, and if they woke up and fell back to sleep would be helpful!
Depending on the size of the daycare, tracking all those details may not be possible, and that’s ok! Getting an accurate read of when your child fell asleep and when they woke up is enough to get an idea of how to handle the rest of the day. The added information is more helpful in finding patterns to give you insight into whether anything needs to be tweaked.
Here's a link to grab the very log I use with my one-on-one families! When you print this out, you can jot down your child's naptime routine on the back. That'll make one less piece of paper get lost in the shuffle.
Getting the best [possible] sleep at daycare takes time, patience, and consistency for most children.
Their naps will look and be different while they’re there - and that’s ok!