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How to Help a Baby who Only Sleeps in a Carrier


Getting a baby to sleep can be one of the toughest things to do as a parent and once he or she is asleep, you are too worried about them waking up that you try to leave them as undisturbed as possible. Some babies are just so picky that it seems like they can’t fall asleep anywhere except in a carrier. If you’re looking to help break that habit, follow some of these tips.

So, how do you help a baby who only sleeps in a carrier? A baby who falls asleep in a car carrier will often be used to the motion and background noise. They also might be used to sleeping in a slightly upright position. To eliminate these problems, try to help your baby adapt to little to no motion. Using a white-noise maker will help with the familiar noise if he or she often naps in the car. A baby who is used to falling asleep in a carrier, like a baby wrap, will be used to the heat so try to recreate these elements.

Sleeping in a car carrier can become a safety hazard, so changing your infant’s habits is not only a convenience issue but a safety issue as well.

From Car Seat Carrier to Crib

This process may take a few days to a few weeks to complete and it may seem painstaking. Switching to a crib is the best option, however, for your baby to get a safe, and restful nap.

An infant who is used to sleeping in a carrier can be used to the motion if they often nap in cars and the noise. Sleeping in a car can be similar to the feeling of being inside the womb. This is why sleeping in a car can be so calming for infants.

You have probably heard stories of moms and dads that drive around the neighborhood for hours trying to get their baby some much-needed sleep. Maybe this is even you, but raising a baby who can only sleep in cars can be exhausting for the baby and the parents.

This car sleep is not as good for the baby, because it is a more restless type of sleep. So, here is what to do if your baby is used to sleeping in a car.

Start off with the rocking in a chair. This little motion will (hopefully) get the baby to fall asleep and then try to rest the baby in the crib. It may just be as simple as that, but probably not.

Make sure your baby is tired and the atmosphere is calming and not over-stimulating. Rocking the baby is something that may help, but you don’t want the baby to be too dependent on you to help them fall asleep either. Let the baby be sleepy when you put him or her down.

Another thing a baby who falls asleep in a car might be used to is a white-noise. Investing in a white-noise machine or even playing off a “baby” playlist on Spotify will help create the right setting for your angel to fall asleep.

When you are trying to help your baby sleep somewhere other than a carrier, remember it might take some time.

For more information on how to get your baby to fall asleep in a crib, click here. I have lots of great tips and tricks for you.

How to Get Your Baby to Sleep other Places

If you are not succeeding with getting your baby to fall asleep in a crib, try some other locations. A swinging bassinet is a great idea to get your baby to start transitioning over. This option allows some motion so switching over may not be as tough. It is also a safer option.

There are some great products available. Some bassinets are on a sort of “glider” that allows you, as a parent, to rock the baby to sleep and then let the rocking stop. This will help the infant to be napping without a constant motion.

Other carriers are automatic and gently rock back and forth. This will allow you to have peace-of-mind when you are getting things done.

There are sleep cushions available. These are great for putting on the floor when you are at a sibling’s, parent, or friends house. These sleep positioning pillows can help babies feel comforted like they were in their car carriers.

However, these sleep positioners can be dangerous, especially for infants. If a baby gets stuck in a position and the pillow is blocking airways, they won’t be able to help themselves. That is why placing these in cribs can be dangerous. These pillows should only be used if there is someone supervising, to make sure there are no injuries.

Hazards of Sleeping in Car Seat

Sleeping in a car seat can be dangerous for a baby. It becomes even more dangerous when the car seat is taken out of the car and placed on the floor while the baby is still asleep. This is because the position the car seat is designed to be safe in when it is strapped into a seat is different than when it is on the floor. The angles all change. When a baby is on the floor in the carrier, the head could tip forward and block the airways of the baby.

This is an entirely real risk to your baby. This article details the dangers of sleeping in a car seat. The Dodds family had a baby pass from this sort of incident. They now use this terrible loss to raise awareness for parents of new babies.

An infant who falls asleep in a car seat should always be watched and checked up on, and moved after the car ride is over.

For Babies who Only Sleep Wrapped or Carried

This is a whole different issue but may be rooted in the same problem. While sleeping in a carrier wrapped to mom’s chest may not be dangerous, it sure can be exhausting for the grown-up in this situation.

The reason that your baby might not want to sleep anywhere else is that of the warmth and tight embrace he or she feels in this position. Baby Bjorn or wraps snuggle the baby in and make it the environment feel nice and cozy. Another reason is the familiarity and the smell. They may just be used to the smell and touch of mom or dad and it’s soothing. This all seems angelic and sweet, but in reality, sleeping with a baby strapped to is not ideal. So here are some ways to adjust this habit.

  • Wrap them tight in a swaddling blanket before you lay him or her down – This tightly wrapped baby will feel familiar with this sensation and might associate it with napping
  • Rock them until they are just on the verge of sleep – a good trick that helps with any sleeping baby is to rock the babe until he or she is sleepy and the eyes are nearly closed. Then, place the baby down in the crib
  • Use a noise machine and low lighting – just like getting a baby out of the car seat sleeping habit, getting the baby to sleep in a crib requires a calming environment
  • Make sure the baby is warm – going along with the environment, a baby who is used to body heat will be expecting a warm place to snooze so make sure the room is warm
  • Wait to make the transition at first – a baby hits deep sleep around 5 minutes or so, so the prime time to transition a baby from a carrier to a crib is right around here. You have to start somewhere, so take small steps in the right direction.
  • Let the baby cry – sometimes letting the baby adjust on his or her own is what is best. Listening to tears from the baby monitor is hard but a lot of babies can get through the uncomfortable change in a short time if they feel like no one is going to put them back into a comfy carrier. Try this, and try to hold off on rushing in to help the infant.

A baby will probably not be comfortable with change, but it really is in the best interest for you and him. Be patient during this time of adjustment and the change will come.

Related Questions

How do I get my baby to sleep without being held? A lot fixing a baby’s sleeping habit comes with trial and error. The best thing to do is to create a calming atmosphere for the baby, with low lighting and white-noise. Do not wait until the baby is asleep but just on the verge before you lay him or her down in a crib.

Is it safe for a baby to sleep in a sling? There should be no hazards as long as the sling is worn correctly. To make sure the baby is safe, check up and make sure his or her head is not at any awkward angles.

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Hi Sophia,

Thanks for these tips. My son is so fussy. (He is 7 months). He only falls asleep if i’m laying down next to him. So I  do that. The moment I move his eyes are wide open and clings onto me (LOL). The problem is sometimes when I pretend to close my eyes and go to sleep sometimes I actually fall asleep! But I have so much work and things to do it just really is frustrating when I wake up and realize its the middle of the night already and too late to get into any projects. I still have to get out of bed and put my pajamas on and brush my teeth, etc… very annoying.

My biggest challenge is letting my son cry! I just could never just let him cry,ever, I failed on that one. I know that he is old enough now that crying be such a big issue but I am just worried about psychologically damaging him by allowing him to cry. 

I had the same problem with my son. He would only go to sleep if I laid down beside him with my eyes shut, pretending to be fast asleep. I knew I had to lay like that for awhile to convince my son I was really “asleep” but then in the end I would actually fall asleep and then, just like you, wake up way later around 2am with my clothing still on and passed out in my bed. I really hate when that happens to so I totally relate to you lol

Also, if your son is 7 months old its okay to let him cry a little bit when you put him down! It won’t mentally or emotionally scar him. Please read this post I wrote called: Can Sleep Training Psychologically Damage My Baby. I go more into detail why its okay to let your little one cry and how it won’t affect them negatively. In the end its a win-win situation, trust me.  

Hello Sophia,

The post you have written is very well researched an logical to follow. I read with some interest some of the comments regarding the car seat being removed from the vehicle and not being very safe at this stage. I do not completely agree with this as in my experience, unless someone or something flips the seat with the baby facing down, this scenario is not at all possible. 

The baby in the car seat creates a very low centre of gravity based on modern seat design that even with movement from an infant, they will not be able to flip this on its face and cause the breathing obstruction you have spoken about. That is my experience however older models might be different which I have not seen yet.

Rich

Hi Sophia, I have a few friends who drive many miles and use a lot of gas trying to get their babies to sleep, with ours, during the day naps she would only sleep in the front pack, although this was fine for a while since it allowed us to go out walking, eventually we used a blanket to give the feeling of the pack, then when she was asleep on our shoulder we gently put her down for sleep. Took a while to transition but worked in the end!

Yup! Sometimes parenting is tricky, where you have to do a little song and dance to get baby to sleep, and then ever so slowly transition them to bed.

Trying to get a baby to sleep sometimes can really be a tedious work. There are some environments or situations that hastens the sleeping process. Like you have mentioned, for a baby sleeping inside a car has a similar feeling to sleeping inside the womb. 

Though that is good but sometimes it can become a problem. I know of a parent that got so used to her child sleeping inside the car and one day actually forgot the baby inside the car for hours. She went into the house took a nap and actually forgot that her baby was inside her car.

Like you said if some habits are formed by the child due to their sleeping patterns it would be best if we slowly try to change that habit for the health and safety of the child.

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