How to deal with unexpected car naps?
Car naps can be a blessing in the early days when your baby takes a great nap in the car while you run errands, but what about the dreaded car nap that happens on your way home, racing the clock to get home for your baby's nap.
We've all been there, winding the windows down, singing, passing snacks, asking older siblings to keep the baby awake, but sometimes despite our best efforts they nod off...
They fall asleep for 10-20 minutes and then it feels like the entire day is thrown off!
What to do when the car nap hits?
Is the nap lost forever?
Think about your baby's sleep drive (need to sleep) as a rising wave. As that day goes on, that wave builds and builds; the little sleep they have in the car is not enough to completely topple the wave, but it does take the top off it, so it's not quite ready to crash into a nap when you get home.
What is my go to rule for this situation?
In a nut shell, if they only slept for 5-10 minutes, they'll likely take their nap but 20-30 minutes later than usual. Due to this late start, you might find a small top up feed is needed.
If they nap in the car for 15-20 minutes, you'll find their nap won't start for a good 45 minutes +.
Alternatively, if you feel they got into quite a deep sleep in the car and didn't wake as soon as you got home, try bringing them straight inside to their sleep space, a little top-up feed or straight to bed, and that deep sleep doze might be enough that they actually just finish their nap in their cot.
Now the next question you're going to ask, is how to get things back on track because these late naps will throw your routine off for the day right?
If it's the morning nap, which is pushed late due to a checky car nap prior, then just start your lunch nap a little later, too, and you are back on track by the end of the lunch nap. (no need to let it run late).
If it's the lunch nap that is knocked on, simply wake your baby at the normal end of nap time, or if they're only on 2 naps, you can let it run up to 30 minutes late with no big consequence to your evening routine.
And finally, if you have a big toddler who once they nap in the car there is just no more sleep that day, simply bring bedtime earlier to help them cope with no day sleep, and get back on track the next day.
If you need more help with your baby's naps, try the 7 days to longer naps system.
Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education. Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you.