Sleep Training and Daycare


By Jolandi Becker – MD of Good Night

Daycare is a reality for children of working parents.  For some it might not affect sleep much and for others it might even improve it!  For others, however, daycare will negatively impact sleep.  If that’s the case for your child, do everything you can to implement healthy sleep habits at home and then do what you can to make sure your daycare provider is implementing them, too.  Consistency is key on all levels!

Monkey see, monkey do:

Some children who struggle with naps at home may nap like a dream at daycare.  Due to the fact that there are more children to care for, most daycares operate on a schedule for all children.  If you want your baby to sleep as well as at daycare, consider asking the daycare to write out their schedule and then try to duplicate it at home as much as you can – this will assist with being consistent.

Monkey see, monkey DON’T do:

Unfortunately not all babies fall into the prior group.  This is especially true if your baby has a very specific routine and environment at home.  For example if your baby is used to napping with the curtains drawn or with white noise playing, it can be very difficult for him to nap at daycare when that same routine or environment is not provided.  To make matters worse, daycare is often a lot more stimulating with lots of toys and noise and this can make it very difficult for your baby to wind down enough to take a nap.

So what to do now? 

  • Consider writing out your child’s daily routine or just give them a copy of your sleep plan and asking the daycare to follow it as best they can.  Give them the awake times and remember to tell them every day when the first nap should be.  Also remember to write down what your normal nap wind down routine is.
  • It is also a good idea if they write down what happened during the day so you can monitor your baby’s sleep. 
  • Ask if it is at least possible for your baby to have a quiet area where they can sleep alone.  If it is not at all possible, they should at least provide your baby with a cot that is assigned to your baby only.  Perhaps they can put your baby in the sleep room or nap area a few minutes before they bring in other babies, to give him a chance to get used to falling asleep on his own without disturbing or being disturbed by the other babies.
  • It is also a great idea to send your baby’s ‘lovey or taglet’ with to daycare and maybe trying to recreate at least the cot environment (this might include bedding and sleeping bag). 
  • Often the daycare will not want babies to cry too much during nap time in the fear that they will wake the other babies.  This results in babies using dummies, being rocked to sleep and being fed to sleep.  It is your responsibility to educate the daycare and make sure that they look for opportunities to put your baby down awake and make sure they understand not to feed your baby to sleep.  Perhaps ask a child minder if they can rather sit with your baby and comfort rather than to rock them to sleep for their day nap.
  • You may even consider sending a white noise machine with to the daycare if your baby is struggling with the noise levels.

It takes time:

Yes some babies will adapt relatively easy but some might not.  The slow to adapt babies will have a much more difficult time dealing with change and they tend to need lots of consistency.  Do give it some time and do not expect everything to go smoothly the first week.  There will be a learning curve in the beginning. Your baby will take a week or two to adjust to the new environment, routine and people. Consistency and offering him a nap before he gets overtired will be the key to a successful daycare napping experience! Know that the daycare may not do everything 100% but you just work at building as much consistency as you can at home.  For instance, focus on nights and weekend naps if you can’t get the daycare to do it exactly right.  The process might be slower but you will get there!

A good daycare will be willing to work with you and will attempt to accommodate your baby’s needs.  After all baby sleeping better will benefit everyone involved!