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Transfer Your Sleeping Child From a Car

Have you ever tried to move your sleeping child from a carseat without waking them up? It probably ended in an epic fail, am I right? Click through to learn from my mistakes - how to successfully transfer your sleeping from the car seat to a bed AND how you can get your child to not fall asleep in the car! toddler sleep | child won’t sleep | #sleepbabylove #sleeptips #toddlersleep #toddler #toddlerlife #preschool

If ever you need to learn how to transfer your sleeping child from a car – take note!

True Story.  On a Sunday, it was noon, and lunch just ended.  My daughter B (then 3.5 years old) was in a great mood, so I figured now is a great time to quickly run to the library to pick up a Pinkalicious book that she has been asking for.  Brooke naps at 1:00 pm and our library are so close – what’s the worst thing that can happen?

(Side note: the library in my town doesn’t open until 1:00 pm, so this entire story didn’t involve going to the library after all – but instead driving to town 5 minutes away, and realizing the library was closed and driving home.  Bummer.)

Here I am driving back from my 5-minute drive to town, and as I’m pulling in my neighborhood, I look back, and B is sleeping.

Seriously??? After 5 minutes?

So I pull out all of the tricks in the book, and I start singing and tickling her leg, but I knew I was too late.  It was 12:20 pm.  Bummer…

The good news is that I’m not new at having B fall asleep in the car – the bad news is that I’m not successful at transferring her from the car to the bed.  I probably have better odds of gambling in Vegas.  But… she’s older than three, so if she doesn’t nap, it’s not the worst thing in the world but I’m still often stuck in nap purgatory.  So what’s a mom to do?

The golden rule of naps and cars: 

Of course, the sleep consultant in me will tell you the following rule to having your child not fall asleep in the car:

“Protect your child’s nap by not driving in the car around nap time”

But that being said, I know that you have some living to do – and I know that you (like me) didn’t meeeeannn (told in a really sheepish way) to have your kid fall asleep in the car.  But it does happen! 

Here are some tips and tricks to get your child transferred successfully from the car to the bed.  These tips are mostly geared toward the toddler out of an infant seat, so I will refer to a big kid bed but feel free to use the same advice if transferring to a crib.

How to successfully transfer your child from the car seat to the bed:

  • If you know in advance that you will have a high risk fall asleep issue, change your child’s diaper and feed them before your departure.  This way, if they do fall asleep and you are successful at transferring them to the bed or crib, you don’t need to worry about anything other than getting them down.
  • If your child has Velcro shoes, feel free to undo them before you start driving since Velcro is loud, and that is not something you will not want to hear while trying to covertly not wake your kid up.
  • Unzip any jackets or take off hats while your child is in the car seat before you get ready to move them.

How can you get your child to not fall asleep in the car? 

If you are on a moderate length ride, the best way to not have your child fall asleep is a distraction.

  • Try talking, singing, telling funny stories, or start a game of “I spy” to keep your child distracted.
  • If your hand can reach back to your child (safely…you are driving), try tickling or stroking their hands or legs to help your child stay awake.
  • Try raising and lowering the radio volume to help your child not zone out.
  • If your child is like mine, once they go down, it’s hard to get them up.  Raise your hands and say, you tried hard and hope you can transfer successfully from the car seat to the bed.

 Bring out your mantras to keep your child awake in the car (what works for me!):

So going back to my daughter, B, this is what worked for me to transfer from the car to the bed successfully:

  • Thankfully she was wearing Bogs (slip off winter boots), so they were easy to take off, and she rarely will ever let us zip her coat, so that was helpful too.
  • After carefully undoing the car seat, I hoisted her over my shoulder like a wet noodle (or a sack of potatoes if that gives you an excellent visual).  Limp holds are good since that means they are probably still sleeping.
  • I proceeded to whisper, “shh, shhhh, shhh, you’re still sleeping” over and over. I’m not exactly sure if there is anything scientific about this mantra, but I believe that when she hears it, she thinks she is sleeping so she doesn’t wake up.  I continued with the mantra until she was in her room and quietly set her in her bed and walked out.  I held my breath until that point – but it worked!

So Sunday was a good day.  B was successfully transferred to the bed, and she napped.  All of the angels were singing, and my husband and I were high fiving!  Best of all, we got 1.5 hours when both kids were sleeping.  Double high five!

Do you have any tried-and-true ways to transfer successfully from the car seat to the bed?  Of course, I’m sure that in a future blog, I will talk about how a well-rested child might not fall asleep in the car – but I am a very non-judgmental sleep consultant as I hope you are non-judgmental readers.

(this is an old post – but the story and great tips are applicable for this blog still!  Eeek, B is 10 now!)


Susie Parker is founder of Sleep Baby Love and a Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant through the Family Sleep Institute. When Susie's not ridding the world of sleepless families, she loves spending time with her two girls that have given her a ton of real world sleep experience head on.

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