Is napping on the go good for your baby?

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There's something about the movement of a vehicle or stroller that gets babies to sleep almost immediately . But what are the effects of letting your little one nap while on the move?

No one else understands the real value of sleep, or the true meaning of the words “sleep deprivation” like the parents of a baby.

Because of this, many mums and dads look to various (sometimes rather innovative) methods to get their little ones to sleep.

A favourite way of getting babies to sleep has to be letting them nap on the go. There’s just something about the movement of a vehicle or a stroller that soothes little ones and has them asleep in no time.

But is this popular method of getting babies to sleep really good for them? Apparently not, according to sleep experts.

Adds to baby’s sleep deficit

Sleep experts at The Baby Sleep Site say that while it’s okay for the occasional nap on the go to happen, you should try to not let it become a habit.

One reason for this is because your baby might start to depend on the movement of the car or stroller to fall asleep and rely less and less on his own ability to asleep by himself.

Also, naps on the go are not as restorative as regular nap-times in a crib or cot. What this means is that if your little one sleeps on the go often, his sleep deficit will grow to the point where he easily gets overtired and cranky.

Furthermore, he may not get a full sleep cycle — infant sleep cycles are around 50 minutes long, and toddlers’ are about 60. Dr Wendy Hall, a sleep researcher, says that getting up before a sleep cycle is complete can result in fussiness and tantrums.

According to Dr. Shelly Weiss, a neurologist and also a sleep expert, naps on the go should not be allowed (or at least minimised) in babies over the age of 6 months.

This is because a baby’s sleep cycle, after 6 months, is more in rhythm with the 24-hour clock, and any daytime naps will have an impact on how long he sleeps through the night. 

“Children who can self-soothe for daytime sleep are more likely to sleep through the night,” says Weiss. “When they nap in the car or stroller, they’re not self-soothing, because they’re being rocked or moved as they fall asleep.”

Car naps in particular can be a problem and many babies wake up the moment the car stops.

But having pointed out all these reasons why sleep on the go may not be too good for your baby, many parents have no other option, especially if they also have older children who need to be taken to and picked up from school.

Sometimes it’s impossible to organise baby’s nap time at home around such schedules.

What to keep in mind if naps on the go can’t be avoided

  • If your little one is going to nap in the car or stroller, try to make the sleeping environment as dark and quiet as you can.
  • Watch out for warning signs that your baby isn’t getting enough sleep. Tantrums late in the day, short naps and trouble falling asleep at night due to overtiredness may all be signs that you might need to cut out the naps on the go and transition to naps in a cot or crib.

Do keep in mind that there’s nothing to say that the sleep quality of a nap on the go is any less than that of a nap in a crib. So if you just can’t avoid it, try to time it so that your little one is at least able to get a full sleep cycle while on the move.

Does your little one nap on the go? Share your thought on this article in a comment below. 

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