Babies can really struggle to nap as well at daycare as they do at home. If yours is, here is one area to troubleshoot…
Parents frequently come to me with a baby who has recently entered daycare and is struggling to nap well or at all. While there is a temporary disruption of sleep when acclimating to the daycare environment, persistent nap struggles can very often be traced to long wakeful windows and a hormone process that is working against your tired baby.
Every baby has an ideal wakeful window which refers to the period of time he or she can comfortably spend awake before growing overtired. Once the ideal window of wakefulness has been exceeded, the body responds by switching into overdrive, making it harder for baby to fall and stay asleep. The most common challenge I see in a daycare scenario is baby spending too long awake between sleep attempts. Being mindful of the window, troubleshooting ways to meet it, and communicating baby’s needs to the staff can help get naps on track.
For example, let’s say your 6 month old wakes each morning at 7 am and, when at home, successfully naps 2 hours later at 9am. On a daycare day however, you drop her off at 8:30, they give her a bottle at 10/10:30 and then try to put her down for that first nap. By that time, she has been awake 3 or more hours, rather than her typical 2 hours and overtiredness may cause her to fight the nap or take a very short one. Or perhaps they attempt a nap as soon as all the babies are welcomed and settled into the room around 9 or 9:30. If baby needed to be asleep at 9 and the attempt begins after 9, the result will likely be the same.
How can you solve this common struggle? First determine at home what your baby’s ideal wakeful window is and be sure to communicate that to the daycare staff. Knowing what they are aiming for is at least half the battle. Let them know that baby may need to nap before the next bottle and that is okay. She can take a decent length nap and eat upon waking. Holding off on a nap to get the next bottle in can stretch baby past her comfort zone or sweet spot and result in that second wind. Next consider whether there are ways you can help the staff meet your baby’s window. Can you drop off earlier, so she can settle in and wind down sooner? Can you offer a catnap at home and drop off later, so you are handing over a baby who has some time to settle in before needing a nap? Can you linger at drop off and get baby down for that first nap yourself if the staff are too tied up with all the other babies?
The first window of the day tends to set the tone for the day. So, finding ways to shrink that first window of wakefulness is one key to a successful day of sleep.