Jayne Havens is a certified sleep consultant and the founder of Snooze Fest by Jayne Havens and Center for Pediatric Sleep Management. As a leader in the industry, Jayne advocates for healthy sleep hygiene for children of all ages, and she is committed to supporting families at the highest level. Jayne launched her comprehensive sleep consultant certification course so she could train and mentor others to work in this emerging industry.
As a sleep consultant, one of the most common questions I get asked, is if it’s okay for babies and young children to nap in the car. Generally speaking, it is my preference for children to nap at home. Naps are more restful and restorative when they can happen without the motion, and without all the commotion going on around them. It’s also important for babies and toddlers to know the skill of putting themselves to sleep without the motion of the moving car. That being said, a car nap every once in a while isn’t going to ruin your child’s sleep. See below my general rules for car naps:
For younger babies still on three or more naps, try to have the first nap or even first two naps happen at home in a crib. Usually the first nap is the easiest for the baby to take, so use that to your advantage. If the first nap goes well, stay home for the second nap as well. Naps three and four are harder, so feel free to take a stroller walk if the weather is nice, or a little drive around town to keep the baby from becoming overtired.
Once your little one gets to the point where they are only taking two naps a day, both should really happen at home in a crib. Of course there are special circumstances where this is not possible, but car naps should be rare at this stage.
Toddlers who have dropped down to one nap a day should almost always be home for nap time. This nap can last anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours, so unless you have a big road trip planned, it will not make sense for nap to be on the go.
Somewhere between ages 2.5-3.5, most toddlers are ready to drop the nap. If your toddler is protesting nap time, feel free to allow them to catch a 20-45 minute snooze in the car at some point in the afternoon to help them make it to bedtime. This should be a short term strategy until they are able to make it through the day without any nap at all.