I’m a nationally published sleep expert, journalist, and the mom of three young kids. I’ve been helping tired families sleep since 2007 (more about me here). Subscribe to The Well Rested Family for fresh news and tips on keeping your bunch happy and healthy. Thanks for stopping by!


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Entries in nap (2)


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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Is sleep a struggle? Have a sleep question for me? Submit it here. Ask Malia questions and answers are posted on Fridays.


Ask Malia: Big-Kid Milestones are Wrecking Sleep

Hi Malia,

We moved my 3-year-old to a big-girl-bed a couple months ago, around the time her baby sister was born. It went great. Then, last week when she turned 3, we took away pacifier. Though she knew this was coming and we talked about it for months, it hasn't gone well. She comes into our room 3-6 times per night wanting to be tucked in and get one more song. She willingly goes back to bed, but comes out again and again. Is this likely just a transition issue? When she adjusts to not having the pacifier, will it go away? How long do we keep forcing her to go back to her room?



Dear Theresa,

Congratulations on the new addition to your family—and congrats on your older daughter’s milestones! It sounds like there’s a lot to celebrate at your house. Now for the bad news: Too much change, all at once, can throw off a child’s sleep. As you probably know, your daughter’s world is kind of topsy-turvy right now. She’s only a few months into the big-kid-kid bed transition, recently paci-free, and just celebrated a birthday, all on top of becoming a big sister.

It's normal to deal with regression in these circumstances. And it’s normal for a child with a new sibling to want more attention from mom and dad. Unfortunately, sometimes this manifests in the middle of the night. So you are going to need to be patient with her. I always advise parents to deal with one issue at a time, but you have multiple things going on here. You can't go back and give her the pacifier or put her back into a crib (nor would you want to) so you're just going to have to deal with it all at once.

Here is my advice:

  1. With such broken nighttime sleep, she’s at risk for becoming severely overtired. To prevent this, maintain a consistent nap schedule (but don’t let her nap longer than 1.5 hours) and an age-appropriate bedtime.  Try to have her in bed by 8 pm.
  2. Remain very consistent in taking her back to her room each time she wakes up during the night.

When you take her back to her room, STAY WITH HER UNTIL SHE IS DEEP ASLEEP. I recognize that this is the last thing you want to do. But unless you do this, two things will happen. 1) She will pop out of her room again and again, becoming more awake and less likely to go back to sleep each time, and 2) You and your spouse will get zero sleep because she’ll be up and down for hours.

Stay in her room until she is deep asleep. If she protests and wants to get out of her room, tell her “It’s time for sleep.” Deal with any requests (glass of water, etc.) with minimal interaction and only in her room.

To answer your question of "how long do we keep forcing her to go back to her room"—as many times as you need to. Your willpower has got to be stronger than hers. Don’t allow her to get up and stay up. Being up at 4:30 am is not appropriate for a child. If she does wake up that early, stay in a darkened room to protect her circadian rhythms from disruption (too much light or stimulation early in the morning will program her brain to continue the early wakings—the last thing you want).

If you need to lie in her bed with her, rock her, or rub her back to get her to sleep, so be it. It is much easier to wean her off these behaviors later, than it is to deal with a circadian cycle that’s completely out of whack from being up all night.

I’m sure you’re ready for some good news now, so here it is: As the transitions in your home smooth out, her sleep will smooth out too. Keep being a fabulous mom to your two lucky kids, and good luck!


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