NAPPING ON THE GO: YES, YOU CAN DO IT, AND HERE’S HOW!
Want to know something, which I hope won’t be a secret after you read this? It’s okay to leave your house when you have a baby … I promise!
No, you don’t need to be home for every single nap, every single day. You can go to the parent and baby class, you can schedule that appointment you have been putting off for weeks, and YES, you can meet your friend for a delicious coffee and some much-needed adult conversation!
Now, I’m not going to tell you that a nap in the car or stroller will be the same as a nap at home because, sadly, it won’t be. Naps on the go are less restorative for our children, which means they likely won’t sleep as long, and even if they do, they likely won’t be as rested as they are after a nap in their crib. But what I want you to keep in mind is that ALL WILL BE OKAY!
I am a huge fan of the 80/20 rule when it comes to baby sleep. In the context of naps, think of it as 80% of naps are at home in your child’s sleeping space, and 20% can be on the go.
Keeping this plan in mind will allow you to prioritize your baby’s restorative sleep while also making time for the things that bring you joy outside the house. The idea here is that as long as the majority of your baby’s naps are at home, all will be fine!
So now that I have convinced you to leave your house (yes, I see you already putting your shoes on!), here is how you can increase the chances your child will nap on the go:
TIMING CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE
Following age-appropriate wake windows can help ensure that your child has enough sleep pressure for a nice, long nap! This holds true whether they are napping at home in their crib or if you are out for a walk along the lake. A baby who is not yet ready for a nap will struggle to fall asleep or will only have a short nap. The best way to help your child fall asleep in the car or stroller is to time the on-the-go situation for the end of your child’s wake window.
If you are unable to make it to and from an appointment in time for your child to nap at home, your best bet is going to be having a nap in transit. It will often be better to let your child have a nap in the car instead of trying to rush home for the end of the wake window. This is because babies love to fall asleep as we turn onto our streets! Transferring a sleeping baby for a nap rarely works, and at that point, they may no longer have enough sleep pressure to fall back to sleep. In cases like this, I suggest you go with the flow and make the best out of the car nap.
WHITE NOISE IS YOUR FRIEND
I like to think of white noise as magical sleep music for babies! For newborns, white noise mimics what they heard in the womb, creating a sense of calm and security. As babies become accustomed to falling asleep with white noise, it starts to act as a signal for sleep and helps your child relax. Once your child has fallen asleep, white noise helps to block out external noise. This can be very helpful when napping on the go as there can be many sounds outside that risk waking your baby.
Numerous portable sound machines are available that you can bring along for a nap in the stroller or a drive. And if you don’t have one, you can find white noise music to play off your phone or in your car's speakers. Turn the white noise on at the beginning of the drive or walk and continue playing it until your child wakes.
DARKNESS FOR THE WIN
Just like at home, a dark and cool room is going to promote sleep for your little one. A great way to increase the likelihood your child will nap on the go and extend that nap for as long as possible is to create as much darkness as you can. Of course, you likely won’t be able to recreate the cave-like environment they have at home, but any reduction in light can help!
Portable black-out shades with suction cups can help block out sunlight coming in from your back-seat car windows. You can also purchase sunshades for your stroller when going for a stroller nap. Remember never to place a blanket or shade not designed as a sunshade over your child’s stroller when outside as it can quickly overheat your child.
IF YOU’RE MOVING…KEEP GOING!
You made it your destination now what? Ideally, you aim for your child to sleep for one full sleep cycle, around 30-40 minutes. It is unlikely a baby will connect a second sleep cycle when napping on the go, but it can happen!
If you have arrived at home, consider continuing to drive around so long as it is safe to do so. And if you are on your way to an appointment, drive for as long as you can before heading to the parking lot. This is because babies who fall asleep while the car is moving will likely wake up shortly after the motion stops. Think of the extra drive as the perfect opportunity to drive-thru your favorite coffee spot and grab a hot (yes, you heard me, hot!) coffee!
The same goes for stroller walks; if your child is still sleeping and you have the time, I suggest you keep moving to get that sleep cycle. This can mean a little more quiet time for you outside and a longer nap for your baby. If you struggle to pass the time, call a friend to catch up or listen to some music on your headphones.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, DON’T STRESS!
As parents, we can quickly become overwhelmed by our baby’s naps – we worry they aren’t getting enough day sleep and that it is going to impact their night. Remember that we cannot force our children to sleep; our job is to provide them with the best opportunity to sleep, and the rest is up to them! So, whether your little one sleeps for 10 minutes or an hour when napping on the go, it will all be okay. You can always make up for a short nap by slightly shortening the next wake window when you get home and allowing your child to sleep longer than usual if needed.
Jessica is a certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and the founder of Imagine Sleep Consulting. She has forever cherished sleep and that first sip of hot coffee in the morning. As you can imagine, both of these became distant memories when her first child was born. Learning how to build healthy sleep foundations and becoming a better-rested family sparked her passion for all things baby sleep. Now as a rested mom of two, she helps families rediscover the joy and benefits of sleep (just as she did!) using responsive and emotionally-supportive sleep solutions.Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.