Naps on the go can be your best friend, or the ‘danger nap’ can be your enemy! Here we look at napping on the go.
Shorter version of this blog was published on the Ergobaby UK (& Europe) website, 29th June 2022.
Do you know the feeling? You’re turning into the road to your house in the pram or car and poof, your child has fallen asleep. As we all know, this has been a nerve-racking experience for one parent or another.
But what about napping on the go? Do these power naps ruin your little ones sleep routine? Or can you actually use them in a positive way?
“As I’m a sleep consultant, most people probably expect me to stick to traditional sleep rules and say that your children should only sleep at home, in a darkened room, preferably with white noise. But hey, I’m also a mum of two active children and I aspire to a life outside my own four walls. That’s why I’m one thing above all: a realist. And if we’re being honest, you have to be when you decide to have two kids under two!”
When a nap on the road makes sense
Naps can happen on the go for a variety of reasons.
Your little one may not be settling, you may be in the car, out for a walk, have your hands full or just working with your daily schedule!
If you baby wear, many parents find their baby sleeps well when contact napping with movement. Carriers bring closeness, comfort and security to small babies. In addition, naps in slings and baby carriers are almost unavoidable!
Naps on the go can also be a great solution if your night together has been more than a little exhausting, your energy levels are low and a walk in the fresh air is good for everyone.
For example, Charlie, my second born, spent a lot of time in his carrier from the start. This was a huge relief for both of us as it wasn’t easy to deal with his awful reflux. It gave him the opportunity to sleep as needed, knowing that I was always there.
His reflux also bothered him less when he slept in an upright position and I was especially happy to have my hands free when I had my toddler in tow.
With the really little ones, naps on the go are often spontaneous – especially for newborns who might only have 30 to 45 minutes wake windows! If you baby wear, you can also offer your child another place to sleep at home. And in the meantime, you can tick other items off your (probably long) to-do list.
Can nap time on the road be a problem?
Basically no – unless it’s a problem for you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Our parenting experiences are always different. One child might take all their naps on the go, while another is so overstimulated by the outside world that they stay overtired and would really benefit from sleeping in a quiet, dark room.
As someone who spends my life working with parents who teeter on the edge of desperation, I come across many different survival strategies.
That is why I can only advise you: Do what works best for you and your family. This is real life.
In fact, I regularly encourage parents to let their children sleep on the go. In the few months of a baby’s life, the unpredictability of feeding, playing and sleeping routines can be overwhelming.
Many parents then say they feel “trapped” when they spend extended periods of time in the house. In addition, mothers with baby blues or postpartum depression also benefit from some fresh air and exercise, which act like natural medicine for our souls.
They won’t fall asleep. When isn’t it a great idea?
There is an exception though: some children go through a transition period as they get older (often around the 7-9 month mark).
During this time, things that used to come naturally (like napping in the pram) suddenly don’t work anymore. As your baby gets older and more alert, they enjoy the stimuli of life and may worry about missing out on something.
During a walk, there may be a lot of stimulation, so it may take longer for your baby to sleep. You may notice that your baby only lingers in the lighter stages of sleep, perhaps waking up grumpy or not appearing fully rested. One sign of this is that they wakes up immediately when the pram or car stops.
Baby sleep: Making the most of a nap on the go
- Consider using a snooze shade, white noise (on an app) and bringing their favourite sleep items such as sleep sack or comforter. If they see more sleepy cues they may be more likely to sleep.
- Try to time the long car trips with the long lunchtime nap where possible, the sleep pressure will be greatest, more likely to connect sleep cycles on the go and they’ll be less likely to wake when you stop at traffic lights!
- If it doesn’t go to plan, you may just want to consider moving their next nap time slightly earlier.
Moving on from naps on the go or contact napping
As mentioned above, sometimes naps on the go stop working, or they’re not practical for other reasons and moving towards a long lunch nap at home in the cot would be preferable.
Here’s some steps to take:
1. Start small. Pick one nap. Perhaps the first nap of the day and try to settle in their bed or room for this one.
2. Use the same settling strategy for naps as they’re used to at bedtime. This will feel familiar. Be very hands on if you need to, you can always gradually do less each day, working towards independent sleep slowly at a pace that suits you.
3. Think of it as an opportunity to practice. Dust yourself off if it doesn’t go to plan and try again the next day. The more opportunities we have to practice the more natural it will feel for us.
4. Build up. It would be very common to see some short naps as your baby gets used to moving away from motion based naps and their own crib. Don’t worry, with a bit of practice and patience they’ll get uses to connecting their sleep cycle and take a longer afternoon nap.
5. Factor in some extra settling time. You may want to consider an earlier nap time to help manage that transition between daytime and them being able to settle and fall asleep if you’re changing the sleep environment they’ve been used to.
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