I love that I have a career I can build around my kids. It means I get to spend a lot of time with them. But if I'm being honest, sometimes it's nice to skip out on a daily parent duty and feel like I've gained 10 minutes of "me time". One of those duties is the wonderful, but time consuming, pre-sleep routine of jammies and teeth brushing, books and songs, rocking and tuck ins. So I just love the random days when my kids fall asleep in the car and I can simply pick them up and carry them to their beds.
I find that many people are surprised that I can do this without my kids waking up. While this does sometimes come down to a child's personality, there are some things you can do to help encourage this.
Here are my tips for a successful car to crib/bed transfer.
Plan ahead. Whether it's nap time or bed time, if you know you will be getting in your car and heading home at a time when your child needs to be sleeping, ensure they are ready for sleep.
Feed her. If we have an appointment or a play date that will end right before nap time, I pack a lunch so she has eaten before we start driving. Whether you eat at a park, in the grass outside the doctor's office, or in the car, make it a fun "picnic" - your kid will love it.
Change her. Always ensure her diaper is clean and dry (or she has gone potty) before buckling in to head home.
Have her ready for sleep before starting the drive. Remove shoes, bulky sweatshirts, or anything she wouldn't sleep in so that you are not having to remove it once she is already asleep. When we drive home before bedtime, my kids will change into pajamas and brush their teeth before getting in the car. This alleviates any Mom guilt about my children sleeping all night with unbrushed teeth.
Bring comfort loveys or blankies in the car with you. Anything (within limits) that she needs to fall asleep comes in the car with us so she can snuggle up and pass out when it's time.
Timing is everything. I will say there is some science to this part and a little bit of trial and error to see what works best for your child. If you attempt to transfer her after only a few minutes of sleep she will likely wake up and feel rested (even though she's not) and not go back to sleep. Then nap is a wash and you end up with an overtired child the rest of the day. Not fun. The same thing will happen if you wait too long to make the transfer. If you're child has slept 30-45+ minutes in the car, there is a good chance she will wake up when you try to move her and once again, she will think she's rested and not be able to fall back asleep.
The key timing that I have found is about 15 minutes (10-20 minutes depending on the child) after she falls asleep. This is the point where she is in deep enough sleep that she will stay asleep when transferred from her car seat to her crib or bed.
Once you are home, and before moving her, ensure her room is ready for sleep - blinds closed and room dark, white noise on, and crib or bed ready. This is also the time when I let the dogs outside so they don't bark and wake a child in transit.
If it is winter, have a blanket ready to place over her once you remove her from her car seat. If you have winters like we do in Wisconsin, that frigid winter air is enough to wake anyone out of a dead sleep.
Quietly carry her to her room. If she starts to stir during this process, stand and rock with her and shush her for a few seconds once in her room and before you lay her down. Once you feel her fall back into sleep, lay her down. Quietly walk out of the room and say a silent prayer for a good long nap.
If she wakes once you leave the room, you can either give her space to put herself back to sleep or quickly go to her and shush her and rub her back until she settles back down to sleep.
Lastly, keep trying. If it doesn't work the first time, it doesn't mean it won't some day. For some kids it takes repetition and getting used to the process. For some kids, it's about their age and while they will not stay asleep during a transfer as a baby, some will once they are older than 1. Sometimes, it's about a little trial and error - some kids won't stay sleeping after 10 minutes of sleep but they will if you wait 15-20.
Good luck and best wishes for keeping your kids well rested while also getting out of the house sometimes!