How Daycare Impacts Your Baby’s Sleep Schedule and Habits

When it comes to daycare, many parents have no shortage of questions, ranging from “What’s the staff to child ratio at this facility” to “How on earth am I going to beat traffic and manage a 5:30 p.m. pick-up time?!” But here’s one question you may not have thought to ask yourself: “How is daycare going to affect my child’s sleep?”

Some Babies Sleep Better at Daycare Than They Do At Home

Most daycares operate on a schedule for all children, including infants. If you haven’t adopted a schedule at home, you may find that your baby responds so well to this kind of consistent routine that he’s sleeping far better at daycare than he does at home! For instance, babies who struggle with naps at home may nap like a dream while at daycare. If this is true for you, and if you want your little one to sleep as well at home as he does at daycare, consider asking the daycare to write out their schedule and then try to duplicate it at home as much as you can.

Your baby may also sleep better at daycare because she knows it’s expected of her. Children are experts at knowing how to “read” adults. If your child has learned that her daycare caregiver won’t rock/sing/nurse her to sleep, then she’s much more likely to sleep without fuss when she’s at daycare. But at home, it’s a different story! If your child knows that you’ll spend hours rocking her to sleep, then she’ll likely require you to do it. If you suspect this is the case, consider weaning your child off her sleep associations at home (especially since you know she can sleep without them at daycare!).

Some Babies Sleep Worse at Daycare Than They Do At Home

Other babies fall into this category. This is especially true for babies who have highly-structured nap schedules and routines at home. It can be difficult for these little ones to adjust to a different schedule at daycare. For example, if your child is used to napping at a certain time each day, or if he’s used to napping in a certain way (with the shades drawn, with a certain CD playing, etc.), it can be very difficult for him to nap at daycare when that same environment isn’t provided. What’s more, daycare is usually a more stimulating place than home — there’s lots of noise, lots of toys, lots to see and do. This extra stimulation can make it hard for a baby to wind down enough to take a nap.

If this is the case, consider writing out your child’s daily routine and asking your daycare providers to follow it as best they can. You may also want to consider sending familiar items from home that will help reproduce your child’s napping environment. These might include sheets and bedding, a “lovey”, a lullaby CD, etc. A good daycare will be willing to work with you and will attempt to accommodate your child’s needs.


Your Baby’s Temperament Matters

If you’re struggling with daycare-related sleep challenges, it’s important to remember that your baby’s unique personality and temperament play a big part. Some babies are great at quickly adapting to new settings, new people, and new schedules. Highly adaptable babies will likely have no problem adjusting to different settings and sleep schedules, and for those babies, daycare may not present any real sleep challenges.

Other babies, however, are much slower to adapt. Slow-to-adapt babies have a much harder time dealing with change, and they tend to need lots of consistency. If your baby is slow to adapt, then it may be hard for him to transition easily between the setting and schedule at daycare and the setting and schedule at home. If this is the case for you, do the best you can to make the transition between home and daycare smooth and easy, and work to build in as much consistency as you can at home.

When Should You Make A Change?

If your child’s getting less sleep in daycare than you’d like, monitor her for a few weeks. If she seems to be coping well, then make the best of it. If you feel that your baby’s lack of sleep is affecting her health and well-being, however, consider making a change. For example, an in-home daycare with fewer children might be a good choice. Or hiring a private nanny might be an option, especially if you only need care a few days a week, or for a few hours each day. And there are ways to offset the cost of a private nanny. The practice of “nanny sharing” allows families to split the use of the same nanny and share the cost. If you do opt for a nanny, make sure to talk with the prospective nanny about following your schedule!

Daycare is a reality for children of working parents. For some, it may not affect sleep much (or it may even improve it!). For others, however, daycare will negatively impact sleep. If that’s the case for your child, educate yourself about healthy sleep habits, do everything you can to implement them at home, and then do what you can to make sure your daycare provider is implementing them, too.

Daycare can affect your baby’s sleeping habits and schedule, but you can help! 

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59 thoughts on “How Daycare Impacts Your Baby’s Sleep Schedule and Habits”

  1. Hi! My son started daycare at 7.5 months. Prior to daycare, he napped and slept well. Once he started daycare, he hasn’t been sleeping much at all (catnaps during the day). At home, we used to be able to put him down in his crib, and he’d toss and turn and maybe cry for a maximum of five minutes before falling asleep. Now, he wants to be held and rocked, and he cries so much more and longer.

    I’m not really sure what to do. Is this because of daycare? Is it an eight-month sleep regression? I’m a bit discouraged because I feel like all our gentle sleep training efforts went down the drain… 🙁 any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi @Elizabeth, I’m so sorry to hear that your son has been struggling with sleep since joining the daycare. Have you spoken to his teachers to see what their routine is for naps and if they let him settle at all on his own? Perhaps it would be worth a conversation to see if you all can get on the same page, I’m sure they want him to sleep better too! 🙂 Here is a link to download a free guide with tips for naps to give you some ideas if you’re not sure where to start:
      And you are right, there is also a regression that happens around this age (most commonly at 9 months if you plan to search more on this later but it would be the same one) so if it’s that hopefully with some consistency things will smooth out in a few weeks. Hang in there! I know setbacks like these can be really discouraging. It takes time for babies to adjust to a new change like daycare, so hang in there, he’s not ruined. If you need more help, let us know. We have lots of options where we can work through this with you (while working with his class’ schedule) in a personalized consulting package which you can read more about here:
      I hope this helps!

  2. My daughter just turned 1 and moved to the 1year-old room at daycare. They have a scheduled nap time from 12-2. My daughter only goes part time and doesn’t wake up in the morning until 9:30, so she usually doesn’t take a nap until 1 or 2. If she doesn’t sleep during the scheduled nap time, they will not let her sleep and then they complain that she is crabby when we come to pick her up. My boyfriend works until late every night, and it just doesn’t work with our schedule for him to get up with her any earlier than that. She naps very consistently at home and the only time she is ever crabby is when she is tired.

    • @Anna – Thank you for reading and for sharing with us. Daycare schedules can seriously present issues with home napping schedules – we, unfortunately, see it all the time. Please keep trying to work with your care provider on creative solutions for your daughter to get the sleep she needs! Hang in there, and good luck!

  3. Our daughter is 2.5 and has just recently started going to a daycare (rather than going to my mother’s house who has watched her since 4 months old). Before daycare we’ve had no issues with her sleeping through the night from 6:30/7 to the same time in the morning, and taking a 1.5-2 hour nap during the day. However, now at daycare she is not taking a nap and I feel it is having a real impact on her. When we get home everything is a battle, and screaming and crying which is VERY unlike her. I realize that it could just be an age-related development, but I also feel that the lack of sleep is really what is getting to her. She has also started waking up earlier and earlier (now around 5:30am). I’m not sure how to help her sleep at daycare. I’ve talked to them multiple times to try and help them get her to sleep, I’ve brought in our shusher noise machine that we use at home even and asked them to read a book before nap like we do at home. I know it’s important for her to have the social interaction with the other children but I have to wonder at what cost? My sanity? Hers (when she’s crying one minute and laughing the next)? Do we keep trying, or do we give up and hope to find something else? Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

    • Hi Brittney,
      Thank you for your comment – I’m so sorry to hear how your family’s sleep has degraded since starting daycare! It can take a good month for a toddler to get used to a new sleep environment like daycare, especially since the caretakers, routine, and other children are all new to her. If you have the option, maybe a half-day program would be a better fit, or having her at home some days with a nap and some days at care with no nap. Our sleep consultants do work with families with this issue all the time too, so especially if your daycare is responsive to your suggestions fo her sleep, a consultant may be able to help with the routine or any scheduling issues that are making naps hard for your daughter.
      I hope this helps – best of luck!

  4. I have a 6 month old son who started daycare at 3 months. During the weekday he sleeps from 7- 5:30, but is extremely fussy Saturday night into Sunday. He wakes up every hour crying and nothing that we do seems to work. As soon as I pick him up he immediately stops. We’ve tried letting him cry a bit, but that has not worked. We’ve run out of ideas.

    • Hi @Anisa – Thank you for writing to us! I am sorry to hear about the sleep struggles that you are having with your 6 month old! You are not alone!! It is quite common to sleep differently on daycare days and at home days! Perhaps there are schedule issues, or just differences for his weekday and weekend schedules that are causing him to be overtired and it shows up on the weekend? YOu may want to take a look at his schedule for both weekdays and weekends. : )
      If you would like one on one help getting to the bottom of this, and a Personalized Sleep Plan to get you through this, please do contact us, or check out our offerings here:
      Good luck Anisa and hang in there!

  5. My 11 month old has been in daycare since she was about 3 months old. She used to sleep there very well until they stopped allowing her to sleep in a swing. I know the swing isn’t the best place for her to sleep but we did have a doctors note, she had reflux and couldn’t sleep laying flat.

    Well the reflux has cleared up and they said since she was rather big she was no longer permitted to use the swing and they now put her in a crib to sleep.

    She sleeps in her crib at home all through the night (10-11hours). she also takes naps in her crib at home usually one in the morning for about 45mins-1hour and one in the afternoon for about 2hours. sometimes she fights sleep but usually if we just lay her down a few times she gives in to sleep and is fine from there.

    Since switching to the crib at daycare she will only sleep 20 to 30 mins and that’s just once. they stopped trying to lay her down a second time. She’s usually pretty exhausted when I pick her up and falls asleep in the car. I let her sleep for about 30 mins but I pick her up at 420 so I don’t want her to sleep past 5pm. She also goes to bed at 7 usually.

    As of this week she starts daycare full time, up until now she has only gone 3 days a week. I am worried this is going to negatively affect her!

    daycare wont let her have her little blanky (really its a burp cloth) that she sleeps with at home. Her room at home is also somewhat dark for naps and we have a fan going for some noise. But she has been able to take long naps for us in her car seat in the stroller while we are out and about in the daytime.

    I’m not sure what to do about her lack of sleep at daycare. I know she gets distracted easily and wants to see what the other kids are doing all the time. So its likely the noise for the other kids is waking her up or keeping her awake. The daycare teachers have stopped even attempting to lay her down for a second nap though and often wait until she is really cranky and exhausted before putting her down now.

    • Hi @Andrea, thanks for writing. I am so sorry to hear your daughter has been struggling between home sleep and daycare sleep. This is super common. Hopefully as she transitions to full time at daycare it will be better for her since most of her days will be consistent (besides the weekend). I would try to stick on the weekends to the schedule she does at school (in hopes her naps lengthen out) as well as have a discussion with her teachers that now that she will be in there full time, that you will need them to offer her that second nap. I hope that things smooth out for her as things change – any kind of transition can be hard on babies, and I’m sure her teachers understand that, so hopefully they will be patient with her as well as she adjusts. Hang in there!

  6. Hello! My daughter is starting daycare next week at 10.5 months old and I’m so nervous about this! They have scheduled naptime from 12:15-3, but my daughter’s first nap is at 10-11:30 and her second nap is 2:30-4. When I asked them about my daughters schedule they said she would be too stimulated to take the nap. Is there a way I can adjust my daughters schedule this week to be more in line with the daycare nap schedule?

    Also, my daughter sleeps in her own room and she does fantastic. When we room share she just doesn’t sleep (we were just on vacation together and it did not work). Do babies adapt to sharing a room during nap time?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Hi @Joanne, thank you for writing to us! I understand how you may be nervous about this, and know you are not alone in this transition. 🙂 It will likely be an adjustment for your daughter as any big change is, but she will make it through and I would guess the daycare workers are use to helping babies go through similar transitions. For your situation you may need more one on one help to figure this out, but to be honest I don’t know how much could be changed before she starts next week. If you find the transition for her to one nap is affecting her nights and your time with her when she’s not at daycare, let us know because we would love to help. Our team of sleep consultants can help put together a schedule and give you tips on how to help ease her through this transition and work with the daycare’s schedule as well. You can view our options for one-on-one help here:
      I hope this helps and everything goes well next week!

  7. My 9 months old has been in daycare since he was 5 months old. Until 5 weeks ago, he was only there twice a week, so I wasn’t overly concerned about his nap schedule there being atypical since it was a completely different environment. Now, he’s there every day during the work week, but only take 2 20-30 minute naps a day, followed by a nap for over an hour when I pick him up at 4:15 and then he goes to bed around 6:30/7pm. The daycare will not allow loveys, he sleeps in a sleep sack from home and will not use a pacifier. He’s just SO tired when I pick him up at the end of the day ? Am I ruining his sleep cycles by having him in daycare?

    • @Cait – Thank you for stopping by our sleepy little village. Please don’t feel guilty or bad about your son’s sleep in daycare, though you’re understandably concerned. Many babies’ sleep changes when they start at daycare or start attending more frequently. Some are able to adjust after a few weeks while others may continue to have some issues. We frequently work with parents of babies in daycare and completely understand the reality of managing competing schedules and dealing with the fallout. We’ve found that many good daycares will usually be willing to work with you and attempt to accommodate your son’s sleep needs if you go in and talk with the manager and explain your concerns, which would be my first suggestion – find out what accommodations they ARE willing to make, even if they are temporary, to help your little guy sleep better. I remember when my son was entering preschool, they let me bring in his white noise machine to put near his little mat to help him sleep while he was there.

      The second suggestion would be that you give it some time (at least a few weeks) and, in the meantime, ensure he gets the sleep he needs at night and over the weekend while he adjusts to his new schedule. I hope this helps, Cait. Hang in there and stop in to see us again soon.

  8. My daughter is 6 months. For the last month or so, I’ve been working on letting her fall asleep on her own and letting her soothe herself back to sleep at night (if she cries, I do comfort her but she usually just coo’s). She has slept in her own crib since around 2 months (we do room share). My husband is a heavy sleeper and we didn’t feel comfortable co-sleeping.

    We struggle with napping. When she was a newborn, she would nap by nursing. Now she is either rocked, in her swing or by last resort, I will nurse her. Naps are a struggle for us, especially since I work full time and a routine is hard. She is usually ready for a another nap around 5:30-6pm. I think she feels like she’ll miss something by napping. She’s very curious.

    My daughter goes through periods where she’ll sleep a solid 7-7.5hrs a night for a few nights then she’ll be up every 3-4 hours and having a hard time going back to sleep on her own. I’m trying really hard, but failing, at moving away from nursing her to sleep or nursing her back to sleep at night. She will not take a pacifier either.

    Any advice for better naps and how to move away from sleep associations?

    • @Dani – Thank you for stopping by our sleepy little village and for commenting! I’m sorry to hear that your daughter is having trouble sleeping during the day but it sounds like she’s on the right track at night! We would love to help you through this. It sounds like you’re doing a great job working with your daughter’s sleep habits to ensure she gets the sleep she needs. The nurse-to-sleep association can certainly be a tough one to break as this one carries with it a special comforting association as well. As a starting point, you may want to read this series of articles for tips on how to teach her the skills that she needs to be able to learn how to sleep on her own. It will also give you an overview of sleep training techniques including no cry or limited cry techniques that may work better for you: Once you’ve read this, you can see what type of sleep coaching (if any) you would like to try.

      If you haven’t had a chance to download our free guide, 7 Common Napping Mistakes, it has several tips for improving naps as well – you can find it here:

      I hope you find this information helpful, Dani – hang in there, and please stop back in to “see” us again soon.

  9. I have a 14 month old daughter who started daycare at 12 months. Prior to starting daycare she slept 12 hours a night, and took two naps, for a total of 2-3 hours. At her daycare they only do one nap a day, and when she is overtired she babbles herself to sleep or cries a bit. Since there is other children in the room they began picking her up and rocking her in an attempt to have her fall asleep on them. (Since 5 months old she has fallen asleep independently). Fast forward two months later and she is no longer napping at daycare. Not even a minute. So far her routine at home doesn’t seem to be affected. She’s sleeping 12-14 hours a night and on weekends usually has two naps still, sometimes 1.

    Any advice how to help her nap at daycare? They won’t let her fuss since it’ll bother the other babies, but I’m thinking she’s way too over stimulated. There’s not a separate room to have her nap in either. Any suggestions are appreciated!


    • Same thing is happening here! I honestly don’t know what do do and my daughter is now having a hard time falling asleep whereas it only used to take her minutes

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