A question I received the other day came from a parent concerned about the nap struggles that her son was experiencing at daycare. She wrote, "My 9 month old does not take good naps at the babysitter's three times a week and is super crabby by the time six o'clock rolls around. Should I just put him down early or should I wait for his normal bedtime?"
That's a great question Mama, and it's one that I hear numerous times while working with families whose littles attend daycare during the week. I've got three tips to help navigate that challenge.
Tip number one would be to first find out why he's not sleeping well at daycare. I find that a lot of people just bury their head in the sand around daycare and hope for the best. What I tell everyone to do when you're interviewing is find out what do they do around naptime.
Are things scheduled? Do they have a quiet place to sleep? Or is it just, "Oh, if they fall asleep in the stroller, fine," and just going like that? You really need to investigate a little bit, ask questions, and find out if the situation is conducive to what you've created at home.
The second tip would be to find out how they actually get your baby to fall asleep. Some daycares are great and they'll do whatever you tell them to do which, as long as it works for their system, and keeps things simple for your baby. You're the boss here. You are the parent. You are paying the bill. They should be able to do what you want them to do.
If you come in really clear and say, "Listen, I put this baby down, awake, and he falls asleep on his own. All he needs is a quiet environment and a crib of his own and he'll do great," why wouldn't they want that? That makes their job that much easier.
But some daycares, for whatever reason, have certain policies in place where they don't do that. They wrap the babies or they stroller ride them until they fall asleep and then transfer them. If that's the case, then a tough conversation should be had with your provider. Not only are some of those behaviors unsafe, but also, it can be a huge part of why your child is struggling to sleep at daycare.
You need to find out what's going on to getting your baby to sleep in the first place. If it's the total opposite of what you've worked really hard to create, you may need to consider providing some education about what you're doing, and if things don't get resolved, consider looking for a different daycare. This might seem a bit extreme, but if your child is constantly getting their sleep shorted at daycare, which turns your child into a crabby and fussy baby every evening when you get home, then why are you paying so much money to end up dealing with a tired baby all of the time? Invest your money into a daycare that will work with you to help your child sleep well.
Tip number three around this is, for some babies, they just don't sleep as well when they're out or at daycare or whatever the situation is. None of us do, really. We all sleep better in our own beds, so that makes sense to many of us.
If you find that they do what you ask and they try really hard and he doesn't quite sleep as well, if he's grumpy by six o'clock, then absolutely put him down early. I always say there is no reason why you need to live with a grumpy, tired child to hang on to some magical bedtime that you've created in your mind. Six o'clock, you can have him, do the routine. Get him down through 6:30, and that would be fine.
Because he's not going to daycare every day, then on the days he's home with you and sleeping great, it's no problem to hang on to your normal bedtime. We do want the body clock to get in line with a consistent bedtime; but there is wiggle room around that. It's not set in stone and when your child has independent sleep skills, it can be much easier to navigate those times when bedtime has to be adjusted due to a tough nap day.
If you are struggling with naps or find yourself always having to move bedtime up early due to poor naps and need help breaking that cycle, sign up for a call with me and learn how I can help you overcome the poor nap cycle and help your little sleep better during the day hours.
I am a Pediatric Sleep Consultant who works with families to help them resolve their littles' sleep issues. As a mom of two littles herself, Katie has walked in the shoes of her clients and is passionate about helping them re-discover peaceful sleeps in their own homes.