How many of you have a baby who has no trouble at all falling asleep in the car, stroller, bouncy chair or sling? But when you try to put them into their own bed to sleep all the drama begins? It’s a common problem. Now there are times when it’s approriate for them to have a nap in the car or when you are out and about, but when your baby becomes dependent on movement to sleep, it is a problema.
A family in the past told me that the only way for them to get their son to sleep was by putting him in the stoller and walking around the house. They even went as far as to put Little speed bumps all over the floor so the could replicate the feeling of walking down the bumpy Barcelona streets! I’m serious! But when you get to that stage, I think it’s time to reflect and see about how we can teach that child to fall asleep in his bed. It’s just not sustainable long term to be rolling him to sleep all over the house.
So, what’s wrong with motion sleep?
For one thing, it’s pretty easy to fall asleep while we are moving. While we are sitting still our brain has time to relax and remind us that we are tired. It’s pretty hard for a baby who’s crawling around the room or a toddler who is running around the house to be still long enough to remember they are tired. So when we put them in the stroller and go for a walk, all of a sudden they start yawning and fall asleep.
But the thing is when babies fall asleep in these situations (car, stroller, slings) they are actually not getting the right kind of sleep. There are concerns that babies who rely on motion to sleep, are not getting the kind of deep, restorative sleep that is so important to their developing brains. It would be like the kind of sleep an adult gets on an aeroplane. We all get better quality sleep when we are fully horizontal and our brain is encouraged to go through full sleep cycles and entering into deeper sleep whilst not in motion.
A lot of products have been developed to help babies sleep with motion. But in the long term they are not positive environments for sleeping. I recommend using them occassionally when you need to, but you shouldn’t rely on these products as the only way to get your baby to sleep. You will be creating a sleep association that later on will be hard to break.
I recommend that you try for a ratio of 80/20 crib sleep to motion sleep for your baby/child.
When is motion sleep helpful?
- It can be really helpful for newborn babies to fall asleep with motion. Understandably they are used to moving around after being in the womb for nine months. Fort he first three to four months I recommend using slings or wraps to keep your baby close and secure. For this age it is also hard to get them to sleep for long periods of time as their sleep patterns are still very irregular and using motion sleep can really help to extend the length of a nap. But at the same time, I recommend letting them sleep at least one of their naps in their bassinet or crib so they can develo pan association with that too.
- For older children (6-12 months) the afternoon nap can be really challenging and for some parents in it easier just to go out and let their child sleep in the stroller rather than have to fight for a nap in the crib. It is a good time to run errands and let your child have his afternoon nap out of the house.
- Another time that I suggest using motion sleep is when there is too much time between a nap and bedtime. Then having a quick 20min cat nap in the car or stroller may be appropriate. If you push your child to stay awake until bedtime, they can become overtired and really struggle to fall asleep at night. Sometimes just a Little 20mins nap will help them get through to bed time. But I don´t recommend letting them sleep after 430/5pm as then bedtime will get pushed back too much.