Going Back to Work – Napping at Daycare – EP 13

December 6, 2016 |  by  |  Podcast, working parents

For parents, going back to work presents the challenge of finding great daycare. Which seems like an enormous hurdle until you start daycare, at which point you realize the real challenge of daycare is getting your child to actually nap there. Napping at daycare (or not napping) is the bane of almost every working parent. Because it combines the not insubstantial challenge of fostering good naps with the bonus challenge of getting them to nap in a stimulating environment on a schedule that may or may not suit.

It’s the baby nap challenge edition.

Crap Naps at Daycare

The most common issue with napping at daycare is that daycare naps are often short or nonexistent.

See this highly scientific chart I just made up? But let’s be real, most kids don’t nap well at daycare. There are a few who take huuuuge naps at daycare but refuse to nap longer than 30 minutes when they’re home with you. But that’s the minority. Far more common is a child in a brightly lit room filled with toys and playmates saying, “I’m sorry, you expect me to sleep here?!?”

Napping at Daycare

And this is the primary issue that Elisabeth and Emily delve into in this podcast, answering questions like:

  • How do seasoned pros handle daycare drop off?
  • Should you train your baby to get used to sleeping in a bright light/noise environment prior to daycare?
  • Should you push for “catchup up” naps in the late afternoon or early evening?
  • Can you push bedtime earlier on crap naps day?
  • Do you have a Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) Baby?
  • What you can control and what you can’t?

If you have any thoughts or questions on going back to work feel free to share them here or email us at


  1. Thank you so much for the tremendous work you do. As a new mom, your podcast and website have been indispensable. You offer so much great information organized in a way I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. I was so grateful to find your work and have highly recommended it to many of my friends!

    In addition to being a new mom, I work in the field of early childhood research and policy. I have a small request I hope you’ll consider regarding the latest 2 episodes of the podcast. I love to use the term “child care” (or “early care and education”) instead of “day care”. As a great early childhood advocate once said, “We’re not caring for days!”

    Child care programs and their staff are tremendously important partners for parents in supporting healthy sleep, development, and learning. However, the field suffers from underpaid, under-recognized, under-educated, and under-resourced early childhood professionals. Partly at the root of this is the view that teachers and caregivers are no more than babysitters, only there to keep children safe and fed (and napping!) while parents work. I think the term “day care” inadvertently reinforces this perspective instead of recognizing the incredibly complex set of knowledge and skills involved in supporting children’s health (including sleep!), development, and learning.

    Given your broad reach through your website and podcast, I’d love your help in trying in small ways to change the perceptions of the field of child care. I think language is a powerful tool, and shifting thinking even a little bit can help big ideas gain traction and eventually lead to policy shifts that support families like affordable high-quality early care and education, parental leave, and other family-first policies.

    Thank you so much for considering this request and thank you again for the fabulous work you do on behalf of children and families!

    • Yes! Exactly this! As a fellow Early Childhood Educator, I agree 100%!

    • I hear you guys – I do! But sadly us bloggers are beholden to Google – so 98% of the time I’m hamstrung by the terms with higher search volume (yes I always check ahead of time) because if I don’t use terms people are searching for, Google does not shower me with beneficence. SEO is what I’m talking about here.

      This is also why I use the detestable term CIO even though I. HATE. IT.

      So I fully agree with everything you are saying and love the term child care as well! And I do want to support policy change like paid parental leave, etc. But sadly I and everybody else who lives under the Rule of Google, is stuck optimizing content for high search volume terms. Because otherwise it’s a tree falling in the forest when nobody is around to hear it ūüėõ

    • Hi there,
      I would have thought that “daycare” would be interpreted as “care provided during the day.” Similarly, a “night nurse” is not nursing nights.
      Out next episode will address a lot more the positive aspects of childcare, but I am afraid since the term is so mainstream that we will find it quite difficult to avoid using “daycare.” apologies in advance — no offense is intended!

  2. Great podcast! I don’t have experience with daycare yet, but this is great info for the future if we do need to use daycare in the future.

    Just an idea for a possible topic- how to handle older sibling’s naps/bedtime/schedules when a new baby arrives?

  3. First of all, so glad I found your site. I have a 4 month old who gets up every hour to two hours and fights going to sleep with a passion. Needless to say I’m at the end of my rope with no sleep. I found he actually naps pretty well at daycare once he settled in and it led to better naps at home. Nighttime sleep is a nightmare. I’ve had a routine since he was 8 weeks old – snuggapuppy, diaper change, pajamas then read a book which he enjoys. Then as soon as I swaddle him he starts screaming and won’t calm down He prefers to fall asleep right after feeding on the bottle too, so every time I set him down drowsy he screams more. Funny thing is he likes being swaddled and has been since birth and it helps him sleep a little longer. It’s like everything is going well in his bedtime routine and once I swaddle him he loses it. At daycare they don’t seem to have the same problem since they swaddle him there too. It takes me an hour to get him to sleep each time he wakes up. I’ve scoured the internet looking for a solution to my problem and so far,no luck. I desperately need a good nights sleep as a working mom and so does he since I can tell he wants to go to sleep but doesn’t know how. I know I need to set him down drowsy but he just cries. Pretty much the only sure way to get him to sleep is lots of bouncing and rocking and nursing on his bottle. Which he then doesn’t always stay asleep once he’s put down. Any insight you can provide would be SO appreciated. Thank you!

    • so i think you need to peruse through the main PLS site archives. look into SLIP — Sleep Learning Independence Program. until your baby learns to fall asleep on his own at night, he’ll continue waking up through the night. he’s become habituated to the 1-hr routine that you’ve followed because it works, but ultimately you want a plan that includes him falling asleep independently and in less time than that. make sure you’re following a good daytime routine, have appropriate wake time before bed, and start putting him down awake and letting him get himself to sleep. he’s 5 mos now … you can probably ditch the swaddle when you start sleep training.

  4. If my child falls into the category of “naps great at daycare but barely at home” is this a good podcast for me too, or is it really only for people in the opposite situation? If it’s not for me, can you point to some resources on this site that are? Thanks!

    • we do touch on this as well as a bunch of other topics, like handling pickup/dropoff. if baby naps better at daycare than home, ask your providers what they are doing and try to mimic it.

      • Unfortunately my baby falls into the same category of “naps great at daycare, but crappy at home.” We do the 3+ hour wake times like at daycare, but get a completely different result. He sleeps in a PNP in a bright room and doesn’t seem to mind at all. At home he’s in his crib, dark room with a white noise. Whyyyyyy?!?!?!

        • probably because daycare is hustle bustle and exhausting! maybe when he’s home you need to make him run around for 3 hrs and then put him down.

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