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Ask Malia: Baby Won't Nap At Daycare

My 6-month-old son slept well until he started daycare two months ago. He goes to an in-home daycare with about six other kids, and he’s there all day four days a week. The problem is that the daycare provider says she can’t get him to nap. She says he’ll zonk out in the swing for about 20 minutes in the late morning, but then it’s anybody’s guess whether he’ll sleep the rest of the day. The daycare provider says she can sometimes rock him to sleep in the afternoon, but he won’t stay asleep once she puts him down. By the time we pick him up at 4:30 he’s a mess, and he’s started waking up screaming at night (something he never did before). Please help us get our good sleeper back.



Hi Jason,

As you’re learning firsthand, quality naps are essential to healthy nighttime rest. Many parents complain that their children don’t nap at daycare, and this sets them up for a cranky evening and poor sleep at night.

If your child is having trouble napping at daycare (or taking short, forty-five-minute naps), look at the following common daycare nap-disruptors:

Napping too late

Many young babies who still take multiple naps are ready for their first morning nap within two hours of getting up. This means your child is probably ready for his first nap soon after arriving at daycare. If he’s being kept awake too long before that first nap, overtiredness will make sleep difficult.

Poor sleep environment

If your daycare provider is having trouble getting your child to nap, examine the sleeping space. Sleep environment—a sleeping space that’s dark, quiet, cool, and comfortable—is just as important at naptime as it is at bedtime. Is the space where your child naps at daycare quiet, dim, and calm, or loud and bright? Is the bed comfortable? Some kids will nap without problems in noisy, bright environments, but most need a quieter, darker space.

Lack of sleep associations

Sleep cues to the rescue! (See Ready, Set, Sleep for more information about sleep cues.) The sleep cues that help your child fall asleep at bedtime can also be used at naptime. They’re particularly helpful in situations where your child is sleeping away from home, because they create a soothing sense of familiarity that helps your child feel safe and relaxed. Your child’s sleep cues—swaddling wrap, sleep sack, blanket, or special stuffed animal—should accompany him to daycare for naps.

At the end of the day (especially at the end of the day) childcare exists to help your life run more smoothly. A daycare that leaves you with nighttime problems may not be the best fit for your family. Childcare workers are extremely busy, and some may not be willing or able to take the time or make the changes necessary to accommodate a child who needs a little more soothing at naptime. If your daycare provider isn’t able to prioritize your child’s naps, consider finding a different daycare. Naps are important to your child’s growth and development, and vital to his healthy nighttime rest. You wouldn’t allow a daycare provider to feed your child unhealthy junk food all day, so don’t allow a “junk” nap schedule either.

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