Have you ever fallen asleep on a long car ride or even on a plane? I’m sure you have (especially if you are sleep deprived in any way, shape or form!) and let me ask how did you feel when you woke up? Did you feel energetic and refreshed? I'm guessing not. Why you ask? Isn’t sleep, the same no matter where it occurs? Not exactly.
The same holds true for your baby. The best sleep for him occurs in his crib just like for you it is in your bed. All that considered though, we and our babies can fall asleep on the go.
There can be a few reasons car rides invite sleep for your little one. Your baby is cozy and snuggled in his car seat. The bumps in the road provide motion to sleep and the hum of the highway can mimic white noise.
So the unwanted car sleep is bound to happen. You know the scenario. It’s not time for your baby’s afternoon nap yet, and you don’t get 5 minutes down the road and baby falls asleep in his carseat. You think to yourself oh this is going to throw the schedule off for the rest of the day! And as a bonus you just know your baby is going to wake up miserable from this less than optimal respite.
What’s a mom to do?
First, prevention, if possible, is key. Try not to hop in that minivan one hour before nap time.
Next, if baby is giving you signs of sleepy there are five tricks to try to keep him awake until his scheduled nap in his crib.
-Retrieve the pacifier if he has one.
-Don’t give Mr. Sleep Lovey in the carseat. Leave him at home in the crib where he lives.
-Open the windows- fresh, cool air can help.
-For older babies and toddlers, offer a tablet game to keep him stimulated and awake.
-If another adult is traveling with you, have them sit next to baby to engage him and keep him awake.
If you are not successful in keeping baby awake, use these strategies to mitigate the remainder of the day.
Let’s say it is after lunch and you head out on your Target run, baby in tow and low and behold baby snoozes in the car. What now?
Well, if said “unscheduled sleep” lasts 1 to 15 minutes, then move his scheduled nap back one hour. In other words, increase his awake time. Even a short sleep of 5 minutes can energize a child enough to affect their next scheduled nap (or bedtime). So for example, if his afternoon nap is scheduled for 2:30 pm, then push it back to 3:30 pm.
Now, if baby sleeps longer than 15 minutes then call that his nap and allow him to finish that nap either in his carseat or transfer him to his crib. (Keep in mind that babies younger than 5 months old are easier to transfer to the crib to finish their nap.) You can always move the next nap or bedtime earlier by 30-60 minutes if the car nap was short, meaning less than 1 hour in length.
It is inevitable, napping on the go does happen. Keeping these strategies in mind to work through it though will result in a more well rested, refreshed and happy baby!