Baby falling asleep in the car and then fighting naptime? Here’s how to avoid car napping that messes up the daily sleep schedule.
Oh, yes, the drama.
Naptime is approaching and you know baby will go to sleep. In their crib.
The trouble is baby isn’t in their crib. They’re in the car seat and, well, we know what happens with movement and bouncing and loud repetitive noises.
Oh it’s a bad situation. If baby falls asleep for even 15 minutes that can mean naptime is over, done with, no napping. Hold on tight until bedtime.
That said, we can avoid car napping with some clever tricks.
First, if possible, don’t do this.
If at all possible, don’t drive when baby is likely to fall asleep. If you have a daily routine or sleep schedule, then try to make any appointments or pickups and drop offs outside of naptimes.
- newborn sleep schedule
- 3 month old routine
- 5 month old routine
- 6 month old routine
- 7 month old routine
- 9 to 12 month old routine
- 1 year old sleep schedule
- 3 year old sleep schedule
Try and protect naptimes at home. The minivan is a sleep aid, ha, so try and keep baby out of it if you don’t want baby to sleep. Sometimes you can’t avoid this, though, so let’s move on.
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Sometimes, you can’t avoid driving when baby is tired, so do these.
When you have school drop off or pickup and can’t avoid a tired baby, try these things.
Adjust your sleep schedule so that car naps don’t mess it up.
For example, if you have to drop kids off at school or pick them up daily and baby always wants to fall asleep, adjust your nap schedule so that falling asleep works well.
- make sure other naps in the crib are long and let this nap count as a bridging nap (bridging the gap until the next big nap or bedtime).
- have baby nap most of the time at home and then get transferred to the car where they may continue napping or at least be lulled with the movement to prevent meltdowns.
- schedule a nap to where baby wakes up and is wide awake for the car rides.
Put a sibling near baby to play.
If you have older siblings in the car who can understand instructions, put them near baby and give them a job of entertaining baby while driving.
- sing to baby
- play peekaboo
- have a toy they give and take away, etc.
- read a book, etc.
If you are trying to get baby to make it to the house to nap in their own crib, don’t feed them right before getting into the car.
This goes without saying, but I wanted to say it because if you fill baby full of milk then put them in a rhythmic bumpy car… goodbye nap time.
Or, rather, hello short naptime and goodbye long crib naptime.
Give your baby something to chew on.
If you want baby to try and stay distracted and awake, give them something to chew on. If they’re slightly hungry that’ll help them feel a bit fidgety which will also keep them awake.
Of course, feed a starving baby, but I’m talking about when baby is a bit hungry and could stand to eat, but a 15 minute car ride would put baby to sleep.
Give something to chew on, a teething ring, or a toy baby loves to chew on.
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Turn the music up and try to interact with the baby as much as possible.
Of course, you’re in the front seat so you’re not going to be able to interact with baby since you can’t see baby’s face. But, try and touch baby’s hand, feet, wave your hand in front of their face if you’re at a stoplight, etc.
Just… well… try.
Pull over and wake baby up.
If it’s getting real dire and you’re not too far away from home… but know that a 10-minute car nap will screw up the whole afternoon… pull over and pull baby out of the car seat.
Let the sunshine and heat (or cold if it’s winter) try and wake baby up. Try tummy time or walking and bouncing, etc. It may make baby mad, to be honest, but it may also wake them up.
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Change the car seat location.
This is likely a one off solution, but change the side of the car seat in the vehicle if you are confident to do so safely. An older baby will think this is novel to be in a new spot.
Again, this won’t work every time likely but may be a one-time thing.
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Okay, baby fell asleep… NOW WHAT?
So, sometimes it happens and baby falls asleep. So here’s what you can do if that happens.
- Allow them to try and finish their nap in the car if you can do so safely.
- Crack windows for airflow, keep car on, stay close, and don’t interrupt the nap (it’ll likely only last one cycle, not the full nap)
- If you can sometimes transfer baby to their crib then make sure you put baby down feet first.