Dr. Sarah Mitchell
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Getting Ready for Daycare at 12 Months

Are you getting ready to send your baby to daycare at 12 months of age and wondering how you will ever make it happen?!

Similar to sleep training, the anxiety leading up to daycare drop off is actually WORSE than the actual drop off.

I do remember shedding a tear or two on drop off, but once the first one was over, it was so much better.  

Day 2, there may even have been a little skip in my step as I went back to work ready to engage in adult conversation and feeling confident with my care arrangement.

On the plus side, is there anything better than arriving for pick up and having your little one running towards you with a huge smile on your face yelling “mommy”?

Getting ready for daycare at 12 months


One thing you may need to prepare for is the change in breastfeeding schedule if you are so engaged.  here are many options here as you could continue to pump during the day and send two bottles of breast milk the following day for the mid morning and mid afternoon feed when you aren’t present.

Let us assume you are breastfeeding 4 times per day – morning, mid-morning, mid afternoon and bedtime. If you decide the time is right to wean, you can start by eliminating the mid-afternoon feed which generally falls after the afternoon nap.

Instead of nursing at this point, you would offer a sippy cup, not a bottle,  of approximately 4 -5 oz of homo milk.  Sippy cups are recommended rather than a bottle after 6 months. A toddler needs 2 cups (16 oz) of homo milk per day. Some kids will need their milk warmed, while others are not so fussy.  Give your body a couple of days to adjust to this decrease.  A couple of days later, eliminate the mid-morning feed.  Many Moms continue to breastfeed in the morning and at night for some time.  Its up to you.


I had an amazing daycare and a strong knowledge of sleep when my son started daycare at 11 months, yet like most parents, I still worried about his sleep daycare.  Its one of those pre-programmed Mom characteristics that we can’t avoid.  The good news is that kids at this age are much more resilient than they were a few months ago and they will adapt.

At 12 months, your child technically still needs two naps.  A shorter morning nap of 45 min to 1 hour, and a longer afternoon nap of  45 min – 2 hr, for a total of  1.5 – 3 hours of daily nap.  These napping times are in addition to the 11-12 hours of uninterrupted over night sleep.

Most daycares will manipulate the sleep times a little to suit their needs since they usually have a variety of age groups to accommodate.  It would be tough for the providers to wait past 9 or 10 am for a 12 month old to wake up from a nap while the 3 year olds were bouncing off the walls dying to go outside.

It is not uncommon for daycares to tackle the morning nap in one of these ways:

1.  They skip the morning nap.  This is not ideal as your child will be exhausted by the 1 pm put down.  This can put them in an overtired cycle where they start waking up more frequently at night, or have trouble settling at bedtime.  Sleep begets sleep and if they aren’t getting enough nap time, it can affect night time.

2.  They bump morning nap up a little early to say 8:15 -9:15 so they can get the children up and go outside or start their programming by 9:30 am.

3.  They have the children nap around 9:00 am while in the stroller, rather than in a crib, on the way to the morning program.  Usually 30 – 45 minutes.

As for the naps, we all agonize over the sleep at daycare at the beginning but they will adapt.  At the beginning, your child may need a little help, often by means of an earlier bedtime.

For the working parent, evenings are a rush of daycare pick, eating dinner and getting your little one ready for bed.

Sometimes this can mean a 7:00 or even 6:30 pm bedtime for your little one.  Often parents are hesitant to push for the early bedtime because they think it means their toddler will wake up earlier.  In the early stage of daycare, an early bedtime is your friend.  If your toddler gets overtired, either by not having a morning nap, or not napping enough in total during the day, your child may start waking up extra early in the morning.  Having an earlier bedtime will help bridge that overtiredness and is your first strategy against early wake ups.

Most daycares have a set afternoon nap time for all the children at 12:30 or 1 pm.  Many centers will wake children at 3 pm to get them up for their afternoon snack, playtime and then pick up.  Since the activities are done as a group, this 2 hours tends to accommodate the needs of the older children who nap less.  When your child moves to 1 nap, it is very common to get a 3 hour monster nap out of them.  Again you may have to accommodate by offering an earlier bedtime.

The most important thing to remember is that sleep begets sleep.  The more well rested your child, the easier it will be for that child to fall asleep and to stay asleep.  It is a journey and its never perfect but we all do the best we can and they will survive!

Did you find my information helpful?  You can join my FREE Helping Babies Sleep Facebook Group where you can post sleep questions and hear from myself and other Moms.  Feel free to offer your support as well.

If you want to improve things quickly and are interested in personalized sleep help, I offer free 15 minute calls to discuss your situation and how I can help.   Contact Me!

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