What to do if your baby only naps in their swing, stroller or car seat

June 2, 2019

There’s something almost magical about baby swings, strollers, and car seats in motion. Put a baby in one, and they’re almost guaranteed to fall asleep. Sleep-in-motion is a lifesaver for many a weary parent. Only problem is, you might find yourself in a situation where your baby will only nap in their car seat, swing or stroller—which can make life extremely inconvenient. (Hello, driving around and around the block to get your baby to nap!)


If your baby starts to make an association between sleep and motion of a swing or stroller, or the hum and vibration of a car, they may struggle to learn how to fall asleep on their own in their crib. Meanwhile, they may be getting a sleep in short and less-than-restful bursts, waking up when the car or stroller stops—or in the unlucky event that the swing batteries run out.


Even more important: letting your baby sleep for long periods of time or overnight in a seated position isn’t recommended, for safety reasons. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the best and safest place for babies under one year to sleep at night or for longer naps is a firm, flat surface.*


If your little one is hooked on falling asleep somewhere other than their own crib or bassinet, here are a few tips for helping them make the move to crib sleeping.


1. Keep the swing (or stroller or car seat) in the picture—at first.

Don’t expect your baby to make a cold-turkey switch. You might start by placing your baby’s usual snoozing seat next to the crib, so they begin to associate the setting of their room—or wherever their crib is—with sleep. If it’s a swing that they prefer, try putting them in the swing without any motion, or on the lowest possible setting—as always, be sure to buckle them in—and then move them to their crib once they’re asleep. Another trick is to keep the swing right next to the crib and turn it on when your baby is in the crib. The familiar sound, which they associate with sleep, may help soothe and comfort them. If your baby is a car seat fan, try a white noise machine, which may sound like the hum of the car engine.


2. Make motion part of the routine.

Try ending your bedtime or naptime routine by rocking in a chair or glider, walking around, or swaying with your baby to simulate the motion of their favorite sleeping spot, and then placing them in their crib when they’re asleep or on the verge of sleep. Do a little less swaying each night, until you’re just holding your baby before putting them down in their crib. Ultimately, your goal will be to put them down drowsy but still awake. You can give them a pat or gentle tummy rub to help them drift off before you leave the room.


3. Focus on the falling asleep part.

According to Dr. Melisa Moore of the Pediatric Sleep Council, when you want to teach your baby to sleep through the night in a specific place, the first priority is to help him learn to fall asleep in that place. Getting them to stay asleep there can come later. So, even if your baby wakes up as little as thirty minutes after you put them down in their crib, it’s still a step in the right direction. After a few nights, you should notice that they stay asleep in their crib for longer and longer.


Helping your baby get used to falling asleep in their crib takes time, but it’s important for their safety, and for building self-soothing skills. With patience, persistence and consistency, you’ll get there. If, after trying for a few weeks you find that your baby is still resisting their crib and only able to fall asleep when sitting upright or on an incline, ask your pediatrician about reflux—it may be the culprit.


*There’s no need to panic if your baby falls asleep on a long car ride; the vibrations of the car will keep them stimulated enough to be safe. Just transfer them to a flat surface if they’re still sleeping when you arrive at your destination.


Have you attempted or successfully made the transition from swing/seat/stroller naps to naps in the crib? We want to hear about it! Hit us on Instagram or Facebook.

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