Naps On The Go
It’s inevitable that naps on the go will be necessary for a lot of reasons - and that’s not a bad thing! Sometimes it’s good for you and your little one to experience the world beyond the comforts of the crib. Sleep may not always be predictable, but there are things you can do to encourage baby naps to happen outside the nursery. Here are our top 10 ideas for how to prepare for naps on the go so your little one sleeps like a baby wherever they are.
Baby Naps at Different Stages
You want your little one’s rest to be as deep and restorative as possible. As long as they’re getting the total recommended hours of sleep per 24 hours for their age group, it’s okay for them to have a cat nap or skip a nap entirely from time to time. Whether it’s a doctor’s appointment, picking up an older sibling or going out to dinner with the whole family, find a balance between naps at home and naps on the go at every age.
- Newborn. For the first 8 weeks, it may seem like your baby naps constantly (because they do!). Newborns need to nap about 6 times per day so this is often the easiest age for them to nod off easily.
- Infant. From 2 to 12 months, your baby’s naps will drop from 5 to 2 per day as they gradually stay awake for longer and longer.
- Toddler. Your little one will drop down to one nap per day sometime between 12-18 months. That midday nap will be a much needed recharge for the next couple years.
Top 10 Ideas for Naps on the Go
Some little ones can sleep just about anywhere and others need more support to get some shut eye. Read on for our 10 best ideas for how to encourage your little to sleep while out and about.
- Follow age-appropriate wake windows. Wake windows tell you how long your little one can stay awake in between baby naps. If you need to make sure they’re tired enough before stroller naps or car naps, you can cap a nap or wake them up earlier that morning so the timing is just right. Schedule appointments and time outings so you’re ready to go 10 minutes before nap time.
- Bring a lovey, pacifier or swaddle. A lovey can help your little one get cozy - they’ll find comfort in the smell and familiarity of their favorite sleep support. Bring everything you need in a pouch or diaper bag to keep all your sleep aids sorted. If they use a pacifier or swaddle blanket, make sure you have a couple on hand to give you the best chance of them falling asleep on the move.
- Recreate the home sleep environment. Every baby has sleep associations like nursing, bouncing or lullabies. Mimic the sleep routine and environment they’re used to. If they usually sleep with blackout blinds, try picking up a shade or sleep cover for the stroller and car seat. If they’re going through a phase where contact naps are the only way they will sleep, use a baby wrap or carrier so you aren’t nap trapped all day.
- Use a sound machine. By drowning out noises that may rouse a baby during a light sleep cycle, a sound machine can help your little stay asleep longer. White noise, pink noise and brown noise all operate on different frequencies, and your little probably has a preference. Use sound machines during nap time at home before trying it in the car, stroller or at someone else’s house.
- Bring a portable crib for day trips and when traveling with baby. It really is fulfilling to have a whole day (or longer) together with family and friends. Bring your car seat or baby carrier for flights or plan a cycling day trip where your little naps in a bike trailer. For newborns, a moses basket or bassinet could be all you need while a pack and play or portable crib work best for toddlers.
- Optimize temperature. Get your little comfy by making sure they’re dressed in the ideal clothing for their surrounding temperature. For car naps or stroller naps, or in the baby carrier or pack and play. Change them into their pajamas or favorite sleep bag to signal that it’s nap time. Keep everything packed neatly in a pouch and always bring extra clothing to suit changing temperatures.
- Have the first nap at home. Try to always have your little one nap at home in the morning and schedule outings for later in the day. The first nap of the day is considered the most restorative for babies and toddlers. Knowing they’ve already gotten a recharge before you leave the house takes the pressure off naps on the go.
- Do a mini bedtime routine. Just like you prepare for naps at home with a shorter bedtime routine, try a mini version to give your little one a taste of what they know. Make sure they have a full tummy and fresh diaper, tuck them into the car seat, stroller or baby carrier and sing to them or read a bedtime story. Getting your little one as cozy as possible before you’re in motion will help lull them to sleep.
- Recline the stroller. Get your stroller as flat as you can (and if you have a newborn, use the bassinet attachment). Simply lying down can tell your little that it’s time to doze off and the movement will mirror rocking to sleep. Keep an eye on them during stroller naps so you know when the next wake window begins.
Tire them out before naptime. Try to keep your baby active and engaged right before you want them to sleep. It could be extra tummy time, practice climbing or running around outside. Plenty of stimulus means a better chance of fatigue at the right time so baby naps can happen wherever you go.
Naps on the go may not be perfect, but they’re part of life! Flexibility is key - some days you have to abandon baby naps if they just aren’t happening and other times sleep comes without much effort at all. We hope this guide inspires you to slip some naps on the go into your schedule so you can carry on with everyday life and savor new experiences with your little one!
Frequently Asked Questions
Wait until your baby is in a deep sleep cycle before you transfer them to the crib. Usually this takes about 15-20 minutes (if you lift their arm and it’s limp, they’re sound asleep). Move slowly and gently when you put them down and keep a hand on their tummy before letting go and leaving the room.
Once your baby is on 2 daily naps, some experts recommend trying the 2-3-4 approach for a nap schedule. Your baby will be awake for 2 hours before the first nap, 3 hours before the second and 4 hours before bedtime. This works by increasing the wake windows between nap time throughout the day as many little ones need the longest awake period before bedtime to build enough sleep pressure for overnight.
It is safe for your baby to sleep in their car seat for short periods of time while in motion. Make sure your car seat is installed properly, is rear facing and try sitting next to them during baby naps to keep a close eye. Follow safe sleep guidelines and move your little one when you arrive at your destination.