How to get your child to nap at home (just like they do at childcare!)

Editorial: Mum and toddler

Susie contacted the Kinderling Helpline in the hopes of tapping into the excellent nap habits her toddler daughter has when she visits her grandparents or goes to childcare.

A little fighter

Susie told Kinderling Helpline host Shevonne Hunt and mothercraft nurse Chris Minogue that sleep is a bit of a battlefield at her place. At daycare or her daughter’s grandparents, however, it’s a whole other story.

“She has always fought sleep and sleeps a little less than the recommended average. She’ll sleep from 8pm till 7am waking at least twice during the night. During the day she’s down to just one nap at around 12.30pm.”

“She goes to childcare three days a week and is with her grandparents one day a week. On those four days, she’ll happily sleep for one-and-a-half to two hours, but when she’s at home I can barely get 30 minutes out of her unless she’s sleeping on me.”


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Self-soothing rebel

Susie says she’s tried to encourage her 14-month-old daughter to sleep for longer at home, to no avail.

“She’s no good at self-settling but I do try and leave her for five minutes before going to get her. Sometimes I can resettle her – usually on the boob – but I am lucky to get her sleeping for another 30 minutes before she’s up again. How can I get her to have a proper nap at home when I know she can do it elsewhere?”

Listen to mothercraft expert Chris Minogue on the Kinderling Helpline:

Mixed messages?

Chris says that variances in behaviour between childcare and home are common – and are the result of different approaches to sleep and some ingrained long-term patterns.

“When we sit down and pull the behaviour apart … the parents subtly do something different. So usually with grandparents, they have an approach of ‘it’s time for sleep’ – because that’s how they brought their own children up. Same with daycare. You know pat, pat, pat. ‘I’ve got another child to go to.’

“What happens when they come home is that they get a different message, and that could be a long-term message. It’s always been there,” Chris explains.

Baby sleeping on back

Comfort waking

Chris also notes that kids might be more high maintenance at home, simply because parents (and kids) need extra security and comfort.

“It could also be the fact that for four days of the week you don’t see your child, and on the fifth day you want to give a lot more comfort.”

That said, Chris explained that it’s important to realise that aligning the home approach with the more nap-friendly daycare (or grandparent led) one truly is possible.

“Give it a chance,” Chris advised. “She is sleeping really well for them at night and she’s actually doing really well in timing. So I think all she’s doing is getting a different message from you than what happens with her grandparents and daycare.”

Mother with newborn baby sleeping

Ask questions and keep it consistent

“Even if she only did an hour and a half for you, she’d still be doing well,’ she said, noting that sometimes Susie will breastfeed her daughter back to sleep, and at other times not.

“She’s getting a slightly different message each time and she needs a consistent message in order to learn that that’s the expectation of the behaviour that you’re looking for from her.”

“Talk to your parents and the daycare, and ask them what they do and then set yourself aside a few days and be consistent with what the approach is, to put her to sleep and resettle her, and see if that starts to work. Because if she can do it for four days she can do it for seven.”

“It’s just a subtle change that you’re doing [at home] but you’re inadvertently giving her a mixed message and she’s just learned that that person over there will breastfeed me and that person over there will cuddle with and those people over there … they don’t. So I go to sleep.”

“Bring it into line and I’m sure she’ll be able to extend her sleep,” Chris summed-up. 


Do you have a question for Mothercraft nurse, Chris Minogue? Join Kinderling Conversation host and mum-of-two Shevonne Hunt for friendly advice, interviews and insightful tips every Monday at 12pm.

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