Have you ever been driving home for your baby’s nap and they fall asleep in the car?! One of the questions I get asked ALL the time as a pediatric sleep consultant is this: What do I do when my baby falls asleep in the car?
Today I’ll walk through what exactly to do if that happens. I also talk about it on the Little Z’s Sleep Podcast! Listen to that episode here!
Before we get to the directions, I want to encourage you to grab a free schedule for your baby here! Because heading home for naptime is great, but what if you don’t KNOW your baby’s naptime schedule? Get a free schedule here!
FIRST THINGS FIRST: WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?
Let’s talk about drowsiness.
Drowsiness is the first stage of sleep. It actually is sleep. If you’ve ever heard “drowsy but awake” and been confused, you can read about that here.
Drowsiness can actually re-energize your baby for up to an HOUR!
Has this ever happened to you? You’re out running errands, or dropping the kids off, or maybe you’re even coming home from something fun and even if you’ve given yourself enough time to get home from nap (so you think!), baby gets drowsy in the car.
This is the kicker – Even a MINUTE of drowsiness can cause your baby to think they’ve already gotten sleep and they don’t need sleep anymore!
3 SOLUTIONS TO FALLING ASLEEP IN THE CAR
Strategy #1: Keep them awake!
If you are within 15 minutes from your house, but you know your baby is starting to doze off, I want you to do literally ANYTHING you can do to keep them away. (Safely!)
Give them a snack, roll the windows down, sing, have a sibling help, etc. As long as you can drive safely, see if you can keep baby awake because THEN you can get home and put baby down for nap when you get home.
Strategy #2: Let them doze + bump the nap
If you cannot keep your baby awake in the car and you are driving home (you’re more than 15 minutes away), your best option is to get home and bump nap.
Let them doze off. Let them fall asleep for a few minutes and start nap a little later.
If this is a long 30 minutes or so, that’s their nap. But if it’s shorter, you’ll fight an uphill battle if you try to get them down right away, so instead of just fighting them, put them down in their play space, let them do their thing, if it’s time to do a feed, feed them, and keep them awake.
And then WATCH them for sleepy cues.
(OMG! Becca Campbell is watching for sleepy cues?! I know, I know! But this is one of those exceptions where I’ll tell you to do this.)
If they rub their eyes, rub their face, yawn, lay down… whisk them away to their naptime routine, take them to their room, and put them down for a nap.
Their nap may not be as long as it normally would, but that’s okay! It’ll just be an off day.
The only cut-off would be if it’s in the afternoon because you need to honor that bedtime. So if it’s cutting into their 3-3.5 hour wake time before bed, cut that nap off early!
Strategy #3: Let them nap in the car!
Don’t stress about it, don’t worry, let them just nap in the car.
Maybe you just keep driving and you keep a podcast on, maybe you’re just quiet, maybe you drive through Starbucks. Whatever works.
I know for me I had to keep moving, so if you have to keep moving to keep the baby sleeping and your baby can just sleep in their seat (with you in the car), then do what you need to do!
It’s not ideal for them to sleep in their carseat, but 30-45 minutes with them safe and with the temperature controlled is okay. These naps are not as restorative and not the best quality sleep as it would be in their bed, but it’ll be okay for them to make it to their next nap (if they’re taking a couple naps a day).
If your child ends up sleeping in the car for that nap and it’s their only nap for the day, then early bedtime is the way to go! (Early bedtimes are my go-to solution, if you haven’t noticed!)
YOU CAN GET BACK ON TRACK AND KEEP SLEEP A THING!
I know it’s not ideal to have your baby nap in the car, but hopefully these 3 options will help you approach this SOS situation when your baby falls asleep in the car!
And remember… if naps are NEVER a thing and neither is nighttime sleep, or you’re kind of banking on them sleeping in the car, we can get you even better results!
We can match you with the sleep training program that is best for your family!
All you have to do is click here and answer a few quick questions about your family’s sleep situation so that we can match you to the Little Z’s Sleep Training Program to make (and keep!) sleep a thing… for years to come.
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