When Daycare’s Sleep Schedule Doesn’t Match Your Child’s Sleep Schedule

Help your child transition to a new routine with these strategies.

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

From day one, you’ve been doing everything in your power to help your baby develop healthy sleep habits. So what do you do when you find out she isn’t getting the amount of sleep she needs while in childcare? It’s a common problem: Some babies nap at home but struggle with the stimulation of a group care environment; some toddlers have to adapt to a one-nap-a-day schedule when they’re accustomed to two. Luckily, there are ways to help daycare’s schedule and your child’s normal routine get in sync. These strategies will set everyone up for success.

Work Together
Some organizations will follow a little one’s cues, and allow your child to nap when it feels needed. Other daycares have established nap times, and it can be hard to settle down at a time that a child is not used to. You can help your child feel more comfortable by doing whatever possible to mimic her home sleep environment and routine, such as packing her lovey (or a duplicate one) and asking the teachers to follow a similar wind-down routine.

If your child is returning home tired every day, ask the daycare staff or teacher about the napping environment. Do they have a darkened room? Are cribs for sleeping babies in the same room as babies who are awake and playing? Dark and quiet is best; if the room is lacking in these options, talk to the program director about what you might be able to do to make the environment more sleep-friendly—for example, a white noise machine or curtains.

Ease the Transition
While babies typically transition from two naps to one sometime in the second year, you may find your child being pushed to a single nap as soon as at 12 months in a group care setting. Talk to the caregivers about any concerns. Perhaps there is a way your 1-year-old could delay her move to the “big kid” room by a month, for example. Or she could try a trial period of following the older group’s sleep schedule for several weeks to see how he adapts, before re-assessing. At home, you can work with your child to get in sync with the new routine. Practice following the same schedule as the daycare plan on weekends or days when your child stays home.

Fill the Gap
If there is very little flexibility in the daycare’s nap schedule, it will be up to you to be sure your child makes up for lost sleep in other ways. Do your part to help smooth the process by scaling back on evening activities and seeing to it that your little one gets to bed early. After all, if she isn’t getting the sleep she needs during the day, you can still help her get a healthy daily amount by compensating for it at night. Stick as closely to the weekday routine on weekends as possible, although it is OK if it varies a little.

In time, you may find that your infant gets used to dozing off—and staying asleep—in noisier environments, or that a toddler’s body clock adjusts to a single-nap schedule. If it’s still not working after several weeks, reach out to the caregivers again to discuss an alternate plan. In the worst-case scenario, you may need to find a different daycare solution, but most often, facilities understand a parent’s concern and do their best to accommodate. Rest assured, you are far from the first parent to have these conversations.