Avoiding the car nap

I’m going to totally jinx myself for writing this, but Liv has been a great sleeper ever since we initially implemented The Baby Whisperer techniques. As soon as we brought her home from the hospital, we tried to get her into an eat, play, sleep routine and it helped her create a more predictable schedule. As a first-time mama, it also helped me to anticipate her needs. If she started to get cranky an hour or so after her meal, she was sleepy. By using the methods in the book, we were able to teach her how to soothe herself without crying and since then, we’ve stuck with the same kind of schedule.


Even though the events change, the order is about the same:

(she’s 17 months)

7:00-7:30 Wake up

7:30 Fresh diap and sippy cup of milk

8:00 Breakfast

8:30-9:00 Independent play while I clean up from breakfast

9-11:30 Play time and snack

11:30-1:30ish Nap

2:00 Lunch

2:30-3:00 Independent play while I clean up from lunch

3-6:00 Play time and snack

6:00 Dinner

7:00 Bath time, stories and bed. She’s usually asleep by 7:45 or 8:00


The naps have started to become less frequent -it’s hard to believe at one point she took 5 short naps each day!- and after doing the “one or two naps?” tango for the past few weeks, we’ve settled into one nap. I read that many babies will be down to one nap at 18 months, and here we are, almost 17 months on the dot, and boom. And to be real, mama needs that nap.

I wouldn’t necessarily say I look forward to naptime, since I blast through as many to-dos as possible. I also cram extremely spicy foods into my face without worrying about a tiny voice asking for a bite, and do the things that are challenging to do while Liv’s awake, like blogging, cleaning and putting away laundry. By having a solid amount of time to work, I’m able to enjoy some downtime at night.

I’m really loving one nap so far -we’re able to do more during the day instead of feeling like it revolves around naps- but sometimes on the way home, Liv will fall asleep in the car. One of my favorite things is to take her out of her car seat and let her sleep on me for a while before transferring her to her crib.

Last week, this happened twice: we snuggled for about 10 minutes and when I put her in her crib, Hello!  Eyes wide open.

“It’s nap time, lovebug. I’ll see you when you wake up.”

I snuck downstairs, looked at the monitor and she was still awake. She stayed awake, playing, clapping and doing somersaults. She’s a funny thing.

Up until now, she’s always been easy to transfer into her crib, but now… it’s a gamble 😉

Sleeping liv

[This morning. We made it! Haha]

Any tips for avoiding the car nap?



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  1. Leslie W on June 11, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    I’ve blasted music, rolled down the car windows, made funny noises every time I see the head bob, etc. I hated those car snoozes. They didn’t qualify has a nap, but still took the place of one. With two kids under 2 years old, it was a necessity that the toddler took a real nap! 🙂

  2. Rebecca on June 11, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    No, not car naps!! Happened to me on Sunday and I was so upset. I had just come home from 3 solid days of track and field competition – and had a monster list of chores/laundry to get down. Hubby is working on getting his parental units home ready for sale, so he was gone all day. We had to switch vehicles, so I had to drive out there and switch cars. I knew I was in danger zone at 11am, and it happened – he went for a snooze in the car.

    He didn’t nap for the rest of the day.

    Yours and L’s schedule is very much the same as ours – except my once ‘independent player’ has turned into a child that wants to be helping Mommy or climbing on the furniture and scaring Mommy. ;-D

  3. Kristine on June 11, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Avoiding the car nap. Ah yes, I do that at all costs! DD#2 is 9 months now, and if she falls asleep in the car, I usually can’t transfer her to the crib, totally wakes up. Then she thinks that 10 minute nap was somehow sufficient…not-so-much, as then we’re in for a cranky afternoon. Thankfully I have my 4 year old sitting beside her, and I tell her to keep her awake by talking and clapping really loud….lol. It works for the most part!

  4. Peggy on June 11, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    My kid only napped in the car so instead of avoiding it we implemented a drive along Chicago’s Lake Shore every day mid afternoon. To transfer we upgraded to a “big girl bed” which actually ended up being an extra queen mattress we had in storage. It was much easier to lay her down when I was beside her rather than plopping her in a crib.

  5. Candice on June 11, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    That has just started happening to me. That 10 minute snooze in the car will override his 2 hour nap. NO BUENO!!! Lots of talking to him…snacks in the car, fun music I know he likes to dance and sing to…car window down, you name it…I do everything I can not to let him sleep in the car…but sometimes the sandman still wins.

  6. Lara on June 11, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    It’s fun to read about your routine in anticipation of what well be doing in 7 months 🙂
    I think Emily (DG) wrote a post on this for babble! I seem to remember it had some good ideas!

  7. brittney on June 11, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    I want my to-do list to look like Liv’s! 😀

    • Fitnessista on June 11, 2013 at 5:36 pm

      right?! the life.

  8. Gina on June 11, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    I like reading your stories about Liv as well because I have a 7 month old daughter, and all information is appreciated! I’ve made her some of your baby food recipes and she loved them, so please keep it coming- it’s great!!

  9. Emily Malone on June 11, 2013 at 6:20 pm
  10. Ashley on June 11, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Emily (Daily Garnish) posted on Babble about this recently! She had some great tips, the one I thought was most genius is playing with rolling the windows up and down.

  11. Nyree on June 11, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Do you let her cry it out to sleep when she doesn’t fall asleep in the car? I’ve rocked my baby to sleep since he was born (now 20 months) and he used to fall asleep at about 8 after 5 minutes or so of rocking, now he won’t go to sleep until 9! I can’t do the hour + of rocking anymore!

    • Fitnessista on June 12, 2013 at 10:23 am

      no, she usually is ready for nap time and will roll around for a little while before falling asleep. we used to rock her to sleep (when she was a newborn) but then i started putting her down after rocking for a few minutes and she was drowsy but half asleep. then, we would put her to sleep after she yawned, but would pat her until she crashed out. the patting got shorter and shorter until she didn’t need it anymore

  12. Natasha on June 11, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    I give my daughter (she’s 2.5) a snack in the car (like fresh blueberries) or we play I Spy, both of which keep her awake if we are traveling close to nap time.

  13. Simply Life on June 11, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    oh she is just so sweet!

  14. Becky @ TheBexFactor.com on June 11, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    I have no tips for you. My son is 8 months old and has just reached the weight limit on his bucket seat so we are moving him to a convertible car seat. Since he is currently still taking 3 one-hour long naps a day, I’m nervous for what our days with no bucket seat to nap in look like. He only naps in his crib or the bucket seat so nap times are pretty easy when we are out and about. I try and make it home for naps and I can move him easily from bucket seat to crib. If we can’t be home for naps he easily falls asleep covered up and rocked in the bucket seat. Not sure what we will do if we can’t be home for a nap with no bucket!!

    Any tips?

    • Babydoll888 on December 16, 2013 at 5:54 pm

      My daughter is 10 months old. When she outgrew the bucket seat, napping anywhere but home was O.V.E.R. She won’t sleep in her stroller, and I’m pretty jealous of the moms at the mall with napping toddlers in their strollers.
      I can’t transfer her from the convertible car seat to her crib. She wakes up, and ends up missing her afternoon nap if we are out and she falls asleep for even 5 min in the car 🙁
      Then there’s the next day too. If she doesn’t get enough sleep one day, she’s up at 5:30 am the next day. I try putting her to bed early on these days, but she lays in bed, awake until after 7:45, no matter how early I put her down.

  15. Allie P on June 11, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    My son is a bit older (26 months), but he definitely won’t go back to sleep if he falls asleep in the car. The only thing that has worked so far is letting him watch a movie on my phone :/ The one thing I swore I’d never do! But because he only gets to watch a movie on my phone very rarely, it’s enough of a treat that he doesn’t dare fall asleep and waste it! haha

  16. Dani @ Run Daniella Run on June 11, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    Nap times are hard, my girls were around 2 when we finally gave up on 2 naps and had just the one ranging from 1.5-2.5 hours. Usually closer to 1.5 hours :/ BOO! Car naps are hard to avoid, I normally will start talking to them, tickling toes, just try to get them to interact with me until we are home. We quit naps at 3…it was a sad day, although I do love not arranging my days around nap time anymore. We moved on from our nap time because they were beginning to not sleep very well at night and were waking up at 5:30 in the morning. I will gladly give up the nap during the day so they sleep to a more reasonable hour, 7:30/8:00. I run at 5:30 and feel bad leaving my husband with 2 four year olds bright eyed and bushy tailed. At the age your daughter currently is I would continue with naps and make the 1 nap per day work for you. Good luck! Also remember everything is a stage so this too shall pass!

  17. Melissa on June 11, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    LOVE when they crash and let us hold them and ease into their cribs … but lord knows it doesn’t always happen!

    My best trick for avoiding the car nap is to talk to my daughter and ask her questions. Now that she’s 2.5, she is always talking about what she sees outside as we drive, who she played with on the playground, what she ate/who she sat next to, which baby doll needs a diaper change, who hit whom at school, the list goes on … so if I don’t want her to fall asleep for some reason, I’ll talk to her and play a toddler version of 20 Questions. It usually works … though a couple months ago she surprised us when she crashed after swim lessons on a 10-min ride home (about an hour earlier than normal nap-time) … so it’s not TOTALLY foolproof but, as Liv gets older and even more chatty, it might help. We both work outside the home, but we try to keep her on her school schedule even on weekends for consistency sake. This means we try to be home by 12/1230 for her nap each day and make afternoon plans after 3 PM. (She sometimes naps 2-3 hours on wkds). Of course, sometimes life happens and nap-time is spent in the car, but it’s rare. I know my kid and she, like DH, NEEDS her sleep 😉

  18. Erica on June 11, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    When my son (6mo) resists every attempt to keep him awake until we get home for his nap I have been known drive (and drive and drive) to keep him asleep. I don’t even bother trying the crib transfer anymore because as you said: boom! Eyes wide open! Thank goodness for the Starbucks drivethru 🙂

  19. Alicia on June 11, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    When my daughter goes to fall asleep I talk to her, roll the windows down, tickle her head if I can…I pretty much do anything I can to get her to stay awake till we make it home…she usually tries to fall asleep when we are around the corner from the house.

    How long do you do independent play? Do you put her in the pack n play for it??? Details…

    • Fitnessista on June 11, 2013 at 11:55 pm

      It’s 15 min to 30, depending on what she’s doing and how long it takes me to clean the kitchen and put dishes away. We have an open kitchen so she plays toys or books in the living room in front of me.

  20. Casey @ thislittlechickpea on June 12, 2013 at 7:07 am

    My son used to do a morning nap as his only one but then switched to after lunch. If we are out in the morning it’s a nightmare if he falls asleep because he still needs to eat, but usually I’m able to keep him up. We sing LOTS of “interactive” songs or at least songs he knows some words to, like old macdonald and wheels in the bus. He is much more aware when it’s my voice over the radio and even when his eyes get droopy, if I pause on a part he knows he will perk up with an animal noise or some hand motions 🙂 good luck!

  21. Madeline @ Food Fitness and Family on June 12, 2013 at 8:46 am

    The dreaded car nap! For desperate situations I put on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on my iPhone and fit it into my headrest haha. If she’s occupied she will normally stay up. If we are driving home from post it’s a 30 minute drive so just long enough for an episode. I would rather let her watch a little Mickey than ruin her nap and mess up our day (no nap = extreme crankiness). If she falls asleep it’s game over.

  22. Jenna on June 12, 2013 at 10:11 am

    The line about cramming spicy things in your mouth whilst Liv naps had me cracking up! Such a funny mental image. 🙂

  23. Stephanie on June 12, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    If it is near naptime I will let her fall asleep in the car since she will transfer ok. If its too early (or too close to bedtime) then I literally keep a bunch of books etc in the front seat and keep (safely) handing stuff back, singing, talking whatever. 🙂 Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

    We’ve been on one nap since about 12 months (on her initiative) but can you believe that some kids drop ALL naps by 18 months?! The horror………… 🙂

  24. Julie on June 12, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    My daughter NEVER transferred from the car to her crib well so rather than miss out on her nap (me, not her!), there were a few times (if the temperature in the garage wasn’t too hot or cold) I would pull into the garage, put the door down (turn the car off, of course!) & keep the door to the house open so I could hear her & let her nap it out in her carseat. 😛

  25. char eats greens on June 12, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Sometimes I’ll just try to keep talking to my girl (she’s a lot younger though – 6.5 months!), but it doesn’t always work haha. Car nap can sure screw ya!! We had that happen this morning actually. She fell asleep when we were like 10 minutes from home. Those are especially the worst!!

  26. Lauren @ Confessions of a First Time Mom on June 12, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Oh man, this post is especially relevant for me today, because *my* Liv almost fell asleep in the car while driving home for nap time. She’s 10 months and still naps 8:30-10 and 1-3, so our time out between 10-1 is always a gamble in the hopes she won’t fall asleep in the car. She’s never been a transfer baby, and if she sleeps even 5 minutes in the car, she’s Captain No Nap for the rest of the day. Today I sang the Elmo song, the Alphabet song, and the Itsy Bitsy Spider about a million times to keep her eyes open. I also reach into the car seat at every red light to tickle her. Her eyes kept closing, but she never fell asleep, and *bam* she’s passed out hard in her crib now. Phew! Dodged a bullet there.

  27. mama on June 12, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Its her age right now! When she gets a bit older she wont be as susceptible to falling asleep in the car soon before her nap! I would just talk, sing, tickle, play in the car until you get home as much as you can! My daughter is 2.5 now and she doesn’t fall asleep in the car unless were hours past her nap (which i dont let happen rarely ever! Momma needs that nap time too, right??) I have used BW with both my daughters! Its a wonderful method!! Liv is so cute!!

    • Fitnessista on June 12, 2013 at 6:24 pm

      ok, good to know!! 🙂

  28. Marguerite Miller on June 12, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    You seem to have gotten some great advice! Mine are adults now and will (hopefully) be having little ones of their own soon! I would just keep talking and singing and trying to keep their attention! Or when it was possible, just leave them in the car for a while when we got home! I know that is not always possible, but as long as you have a garage you can park your car in, it is usually safe! II could never do this at home, since we didn’t have a garage, but did it a number of times at my relatives houses!

    I actually got really good at getting them to sleep on me, and then being able to slide out from under them without waking them up! Granted, this was usually on the couch or floor, and not in their cribs! Depending on how long they actually slept, I would just keep them up and try for a nap in a little while if they wouldn’t stay asleep, or get themselves back to sleep!

    Every child is different, and you know your child the best, so you would usually know if keeping her up and skipping a longer nap will cause meltdowns or crankiness, or if the nap was really for you anyway! LOL When the naps start to become more for you, then it is time to change to quiet alone time play for 2 hours if they don’t want to nap, it is still quiet time alone for a while!

    Liv gets prettier every time I see new pictures of her! (I was on vacation and ill before that for a while, so I feel like I haven’t seen her in a month! LOL

  29. J on June 16, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Oh my goodness, Livi is SO beautiful! I felt like she was so much older than my little guy, and now I realize that they are only 3-4 months apart. Isn’t it crazy how as they get older, the age gap seems to shrink?
    We are in 2-1 nap purgatory at the moment, but after one year of 20-30 minute naps, we are starting to see naps that range from 45-70 minutes now and it is AMAZING! I don’t have any car transfer tips, but I’m eagerly reading the comments just in case this becomes an issue for us too.
    Can you give us a really quick snapshot of how you transitioned from 2-1 naps?

    • Fitnessista on June 17, 2013 at 12:25 am

      thank you!! it’s funny how the age difference doesn’t seem like so much as they get older
      i noticed that her first nap was getting shorter and shorter, or that if she had a long 1st nap, her second nap was nonexistent or too short. i started delaying the morning nap as long as possible, which helped us make the transition. the tricky thing is making sure they can last from naptime until bed time without becoming a toad 😉

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