26 answers

Car Travel and Visiting Folks: Interrupting Naps?

My son is 5 months old and there are friends and family who would like to see more of him. On one hand it's good to get out and about with him, but on the other hand it messes up his nap schedule and makes him grumpy, and for this I feel badly. My husband's family, for example, wants us to make a 6-hour drive (which will be an all-day affair given all the stops we'll need to make), each way, over the span of one weekend. Even when friends want to meet at a restaurant that's 45 minutes away, it messes him up because he's only awake for ~2 hours before needing to sleep again. And he won't just sleep in the restaurant. Am I being inflexible and overly protective of his nap schedule? I know he can sleep in the car, but that's never seems to give him the quality sleep he needs and he still ends up exhausted. I need some perspective from other moms, there seem to be expectations out there that I should take him wherever and make him deal with it. Thank you in advance for your thoughts!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

I told the in-laws that we weren't coming for the weekend getaway. They were disappointed and made it clear that they do things differently, and I know I'm not the most popular person with them right now. But, I feel like I did right by my son. If we were going for a whole week, that would be different, but it was too much travel for too short a visit. Hopefully, the in-laws will get over it, although I have definitely earned myself a reputation of being overly protective, in their minds. Oh well! My friends have been more understanding, and if I say I can't swing it they have generally been understanding, and sometimes come to me instead. In general, I'm getting better at not worrying so much about pleasing others. I may not always be popular for it, but it's the lesser of evils. Thank you all you moms for the support that gave me the "okay" to just go with my instincts!

Featured Answers

whatever works for you is what is best. If you don't mind missing out on things, then I would stick to the nap schedule with exceptions when you think it's ok. I was less flexible with my 1st childs naps, because i could be. my next 2 kids needed to be out and about a bit more and both stopped napping at age 2, my oldest was almost 4 when she stopped. I think it is so good for them to sleep as much as possible - it makes everyone happier :) Don't let anyone make you feel bad, mothers already spend enough time second guessing themselves.

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I would not hesitate to just say no. Getting your child on a schedule can take time and you don't want to ruin it. We were very strict about our first child's nap schedule for the first year if not longer. Now that we have a second, it is a bit more difficult, but we do our best to assure both boys get down for their naps. You need to do what is best for you. Have the people come to you. You are the one with the new baby!

I don't mean to sound like a witch, but you have a 5 month old - people should be catering to you! I'm all for socalizing and getting out and about, but 12 hours of driving for a weekend away (which in itself brings on it's own challenges with little ones) is asking *way* too much. Go with your gut. I disagree with those parents who cater their lives to nap routines (enjoy an occasional dinner out with friends!), but you know what's best for your little guy.
Good luck

how about having family and friends come to your house or your area? share the burden, so to speak.

I think you are absolutely right to putting your son first. Your in-laws should make the trip to see you if it is so important to them to see your son more often. And friends should understand and maybe bring lunch to your house one weekend so you can catch up but your son can nap when he needs to. The weather is also getting nicer so people can come over and bring BBQ fare and be outside while your son takes his nap in the comfort of his own bed. I think you just need to tell people that either you make plans around his nap time or they come to see you. It is important for your son to have his nap when he is used to it, for your sanity and his. Good luck.

You are a smart mom! I am reading a book right now that talks about the importance of protecting sleep and how many cranky kids there are out there because their moms run around too much when they should be home sleeping =) Trust your instincts. This book is called, "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" and a lot of my friends swear by it. It's nice because it tells you the science behind why sleep is so important and it doesn't tout one method over another (ie Cry it out vs. attachment parenting vs. whatever), it tells you to do what works for you but make sure you protect the length and quality of your child's sleep.

stick to your guns!! people will eventually get used to it. if you let them walk all over you now, they'll never quit trying to make you sacrifice your quality of life to meet their demands. don't go down that road!!! draw a firm line NOW, and they will grumble, but they will get used to it. good luck!

i agree with most of the other posters that you are the only one who can protect his sleep, and you are doing a great job! when we needed to make a long trip we scheduled it so he would nap in the car and it made it so he still got his naps, so when we got home he still napped, we also would leave at bed time or just before then he would play in the car maybe even eat i sometimes rode back there with him to keep him entertained and then he would fall asleep, i agreee that it isnt really the best sleep but it shold help you keep a routine going anyway. i also agree that why dont the people come visit you? it always amazes me how quickly people forget what it is like to have kids, when they want you to come visit, i had a great grandmother who couldnt figure out why it was so strssful having a baby in the car and then we reminded her that when her kids were little car seats werent required so they could fall asleep in your arms or nurse as needed, even roam around the backseat, to keep themselves entertained!

Hi - I think alot of people deal with this problem, I know I have. I brought this question to my doctor and he suggested that at this age I really should revolve around my son's schedule first. If people want to see him, have them come to you so he can keep his nap schedule.

Hi R.,
Sometimes it can be hard to travel with kids, especially long distances. But, babies are pretty adaptable and I don't think that sleeping in a car is worse than sleeping at home for them. I think a 6 hour car ride could be horrible if your baby cries a lot and wants to get out of the car seat. I am sure a car ride like this can be stressful. Maybe you can ask that they come and visit you instead. I'm not sure if that is possible. I think that traveling with an infant is a little easier than traveling when they are older and need to be entertained more. Hopefully, your husband can help you with the baby and you could make some stops on the way. I guess I would do it if it was over a long weekend, like Thanksgiving, or a 3 day weekend. Or, maybe if your husband takes a few days off in the summer. I think you will find that it might mess up your routine and schedule for a few days, but you can get back on track when you get home. It might also be good to spend time with family and possibly take a couple of hours to yourselves, with family to help. I usually found that traveling is a lot of work, but it is nice to get away from the usual routine once in a while. I would bring something special from home that your baby will recognize as familiar too.(special blanket, or music they like) As long as baby has his two parents around, he is usually happy wherever he is! Good Luck! I'm sure you will do fine, whenever you are ready for this road trip!

I used to interrupt my daughter's naps for things like this, but she didn't particularly care about (and didn't exactly take to) routines so it wasn't a big deal. My nearly 6mo son LOVES his routine, so I really work around his naps. I think it's entirely reasonable to tell friends and family that some things are too much for your son - after all, it's in their best interest to see him when he's rested. Sometimes my friends/family understand, sometimes they don't...

Hi R.,
I was a total nut when it came to keeping my son's sleep schedule. It did mean being trapped in the house and missing out on visits at times, but it ALSO meant having a 7 week old that slept through the night. SO WORTH IT!! He is now 2 years old and continues to have a great sleep schedule, which is so important for his health (and my MENTAL health!!).
So - don't be afraid to keep his sleep schedule. You are doing the right thing for both of you :)

Traveling with little ones and interrupting naps is difficult. We have been taking my son to NY (about a 6 hour trip)since he was little. When he was about 5 months, we would get up early, before he normally woke, and put him in the car. He would sleep a few more hours once we got started. By the time he woke it was usually within an hour of time to stop for breakfast. After breakfast he would play in the car until he fell asleep, usually around his nap time. When he woke, we would be just about there. Sometimes it was frustrating and we definitely had some crying fits, but seeing family was worth it.

Leave around 5am, He'd wake up around 7, we'd stop for breakfast at 8, back on the road around 9. He'd fall asleep between 10-11 and we'd get there around 12 or 1 and he'd wake up. We also have a box of toys that are only used on car trips, so they seem new to him.

Now that he is 18 months we leave two hours before nap and he plays until nap time. At nap time we give him his pacifier and blanket and put on sleepy music. He takes his nap and when he wakes we stop for lunch. After lunch we finish the drive and he plays. It is more difficult to keep him entertained now, but we do it with toys and books. Even though we said we wouldn't, we have started with the portable DVD player and an Elmo movie about 1-2 hours after he wakes from nap. He does take about a 2 hour nap, which is very helpful.

You need to find a schedule that works for you and your family. These have worked for us, but we have had to experiment to get there.

Good Luck and Safe Travel,


I do not think you are being unreasonable at all! I believe that your priority is your baby's schedule, and it's perfectly acceptable to have everyone work around that (not the other way around). I am a firm believer in working around the nap schedule (which does make it seem like there's no time for anything else!) but they need that quality sleep for brain development so it shouldn't be taken lightly. And this stage does not last forever! Of course there will be exceptions, but overall I'd try to stick to the nap schedule. As for the drive to see your husband's family, can you take an extra day or two off? Because that drive will likely take you twice the normal time, (i did a similar drive once when my baby was 3 months old- it was exhausting for all of us and i did not do it again until she was 8-9 months old). Once you get there, it will be worth it but it's not something I'd recommend doing too often (or even more than once/twice!) that first year. As for my friends, I just told them that it would be easiest for me if we met close to my house, and I did this for about the first 9-10 months. It gets much, much easier after the first year, when they only take one nap, etc., so I would stick to your gut feelings and put your baby's needs above all else. Hang in there!

whatever works for you is what is best. If you don't mind missing out on things, then I would stick to the nap schedule with exceptions when you think it's ok. I was less flexible with my 1st childs naps, because i could be. my next 2 kids needed to be out and about a bit more and both stopped napping at age 2, my oldest was almost 4 when she stopped. I think it is so good for them to sleep as much as possible - it makes everyone happier :) Don't let anyone make you feel bad, mothers already spend enough time second guessing themselves.

I guess i fall on the other side of things. I believe that, while routine is good, your child needs to be able to survive when the routine gets broken. I also think the more experiences that a child has the better off they are -- and car trips, visits with relatives and restaurants are HUGE experiences for a baby.

I have two kids(2.5yrs and 15 mo) and have taken them both on several car trips to Florida, Texas and all over the state of CT. Both my two do very well when we are having a "normal" day with normal nap times... but then they also do very well when the routine gets broken and we, say, go to grandma's

But this is just me. I am a very active person and the thought of not being able to go out and do things and see people drives me nuts. There are many, many parents out there who are very happy staying at home and following a routine until the child goes off to school. You need to decide what kind of stay-at home mom you want to be and make a conscious effort to either change things or tell people that they need to come to you. Your child will adapt.  I hope this helps.

I have a 7 month old and know exactly how you feel. I would first recommend you get the book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Marc Weisbluth. It talks all about the important of sleep as well as all of it's stages and issues. Another mom recommended it to me and it's been a lifesaver--it also made me realize that I am the guardian of my son's sleep, a job I should and do take really seriously. I can't tell you how many times I've said, "sorry that's his nap time" or "sorry that's when he goes to be at night." When people say oh come on, he'll be fine you need to have a life, blah blah blah I first look at them like they're crazy and then say something like he's only this age for such a short time, I think we can all deal. Yes sometimes I do push it, life happens, but his sleep schedule is crucial to his happiness and well-being. The more sleep he gets the easier it is for him to go to sleep, and to wake up happy and energized. Stand your ground, it's your job to be protective--people will say all kinds of things, and most of the time it's not in the best interest of the child, it's to help them have what they want. it's totally understandable, but when it comes to sleep everyone will end up happier if the child comes first. Good luck!

First off he is only 5mo old, and I personally wouldnt make him just deal with it. I have been the same way with my children as the other poster said. If my children dont get their sleep/nap in, then they are just wrecks later on. I wouldnt drop everything just to make sure they had their naps, some things you cannot avoid. But I would put them on schedules for sleeping when we are most often home, of couse if we had a appointment, play date, etc, I wouldnt schedule it at nap time.

As far as your situation, why doesnt the family come visit you and your baby, rather than you having to travel 6hrs with a 5mo old? I know sometimes easier said than done when it comes to family, but I would never travel for that amount of time with a young baby. I know lots of people that think it is nothing, and drag their kids everywhere, anytime. I am just not like that.

Best of Luck


I totally and completely agree with you. I, too, have been told by others to make my children just "go along with" my needs/wants/etc. I do not like interrupting their nap schedules, either. It is so nice to see that there is another person out there who feels this way. I've been told by other family members that the kids will adjust, you just have to do it your way--well, they are not the ones who are up 2 AM (or whatever the case may be) trying to console a child whose schedule has been completely thrown off by my "nonchalant" interference. Yes, there are emergencies that come up and we all have to deal, but why make that the rule rather than the exception?

Yes, you are being inflexible and overprotective of his napping/sleeping schedule--but I think that is exactly what your baby's mom should be! There may be babies out there who can handle any wrench thrown into their daily schedule. Mine are not those kids--clearly, yours is not, either. Stick to your opinion. There is not a single other person on this planet who knows your child as well as you do. Do not let those who would question you make you question yourself!

We did alot of this. My parents live 6 hours from us here and we traveled to NY alot when the kids were little, and still do now! It does get easier as they get older, even a month at a time makes a difference. As they get to be 6 months to 9 months they become easier to entertain. We always let them just sleep in the car if they would. We stopped as necessary because I was nursing, particularly with my daughter, but if you are bottle feeding, keep going if you can.
No need to make the trip longer than necessary. We always looked at it this way, it is important for family to be involved, but since it was important to them, my Mom, my Dad and even extended family always did their part when we were traveling, giving us a break, pacing with the kids if needed,rocking, changing, or entertaining them so we could get a break. This also helps them learn not to be totally dependent on Mom and Dad for everything. That others can also meet their needs. I think it's important to get your kids out and about when they are smaller. They learn to adapt to more environments, noises, etc and when they got to be toddlers, we found that they were comfortable anywhere, would sleep anywhere away from home, camping, whatever. I hear so many stories from folks who didn't travel or go out because of the "schedule" and then ended up with a kiddo who would sleep no where but in their own bed which can make life difficult later on.
So I say, keep on trucking and life is too short not to spend time with all the people you care about, if they care about you and seeing you and the little one, they will step up and help out to make it a little easier too!

I'm wondering the same thing! Any thoughts?

I feel the same way you do about naps & sleeping. It's necessary and important for the kids and certainly makes the time spent when he's awake to be much more enjoyable for all involved. Let's not forget who gets to deal with them when they are overtired and cranky! With that being said, I'm sure there are instances when you can be flexible and bend the rules. For me, those times are few and far between. We've been pretty candid with our friends and family that for the next few years we'll be more house bound than we'd like - but it's all in the sake of having well rested (and hopefully well behaved) kids. It's definitely one of the top priorities on our list, so we make sacrifices. Hope this helps.

you are not selfish...you are a mom! Your child has to come first. Just politely tell them that you would love to see them but it would be best if they could come to you. Your son is very young and you are trying to keep him on a schedule. If they have children, they should understand. My sisters and I all had to do the same thing and almost everyone was accommodating. If they aren't, then they will have to wait until he is older...maybe over time they will realize they have to put forth the effort for a while. If YOU feel it's important to keep him on a schedule and for him to have quality naps than it IS important...you are the mom!

Good Luck!

Hi R.,

I completely agree with Aimee M's post. I have a 6-month old son and am going through similar situations right now. I've been very protective of his sleep schedule since the very beginning, having read a few sleep books before his birth. I know the benefits of lots of good quality sleep! I've had to deal with push back from family about not traveling and staying at home, but I know I am doing the best thing for my son by giving him the sleep he needs. I also know this schedule won't last forever!

I'm also working with the 2-hour awake window during the day (it was < 60 minutes for the first 3 months for us!), which can be very hard sometimes. On the days I wonder if I'm being crazy about it all, I look at my happy baby boy and remind myself that he is *not* this happy when he hasn't had good sleep. We ALL benefit when a baby is well rested!

I wouldn't travel to visit family/friends for a 6-hr trip with my son until he gets older. We've *just* started making a ~2 hour trip to visit family overnight on a weekend, and we completely time it around his nap. What has worked for us is getting him in the car about an hour after he gets up for the day so that he plays in the car seat for no more than an hour (I sit in the back with him), then falls asleep for 45-60 minutes. By the time he wakes up we are almost there. We bring his bedtime CD, a crib toy he is used to, and a sound machine and use them to put him down for naps/bedtime at the destination. I stick to his familiar routine as much as possible. When people are holding him and I see he's getting fussy and tired, I don't hesitate to say, "Time for your nap... you'll be a happy boy again when you wake up!" and take him and do our routine. The sound machine works wonders to block out household noise in a place that is unfamiliar to him.

As you've experienced, I also know that my son's sleep in the car is not very restful. I avoid it as much as possible. He sleeps best in his crib. We've learned to invite people over to our house for a BBQ (works with the nice weather now in season!) if they want to see us/him, then we can stick to his schedule and keep him in his crib. It's easier on everyone, and they get to see my son when he's in a good mood! I feel like a better mother when I do this, because I feel like I'm putting my son first.

As other people have said, you know your son better than anyone else on this planet. You clearly are a very aware and good mama who knows her son's needs. Do not let other people questioning you make you question yourself! Your son is a very lucky boy to have you! Keep up the great work, Mama!


We've taken our baby boy places since 5 weeks. For the most part, he sleeps through the travel, until we stop. For longer trips, we have to plan on that he will want to have something to eat/bottle or at the least, diaper change. I don't think it's bad that a nap is messed up from the travel because it's not like you travel everyday. He'll make up for it and still be happy and healthy. Lucas does and is happy to see everyone, but still must nap after seeing people for a little while and then he goes into the pack n play in a separate room and sleeps for a couple hours. People have to understand.

Dear R.,

There is NOTHING more important than listening to your own instincts regarding your son, and protecting and encouraging good sleep habits.

You are NOT being overly protective. Now is a critical time in terms of helping your son develop good sleep habits.If he develops good sleep routines now, your life will be easier in the future- as will his.

Well rested children are happier, healthier, and more flexible.I wish all parents understood the importance of this
issue and were as thoughtful and dedicated as you seem to be.

In the short term, helping your son to develop good sleep habits means more work and less freedom for you - but that is part of the "cost" of parenting.

As for others who may be critical and may want more "time" with your son - turn a deaf ear! They are adults and are being selfish. Let them suck it up ! What your baby needs is more important than what others want. Your job is to know your child,and to respect and protect his needs.

In the long term, the benefits you and your family will reap are priceless- as the popular tv ad says.

You've gotten a lot of good advice from other Moms - I just had to add my opinion, because this is an issue I feel so strongly about.

Enjoy your boy, trust your instincts, and you go girl ! L.

As for the trips... my husband's family is also 6-7 hours away. What works best for us is to drive at night, close to their normal bedtime. They sleep much better in the car at night than during the day, and we don't have to stop as often for meals/snacks/bottles. We get to my in-laws' house about 2 am, and can usually get all of our stuff unloaded & all the kids back to sleep within the hour. My husband likes to do all the driving, so I nap in the car & let him sleep in the next morning. It's an arrangement that works out well for us! We usually have to drive back home during the day, and they're usually crankier... but at least we're home at the end of it.

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