One of the first things that any new parent learns early on is how important regular and good daytime naps are for babies. Not only are they pretty essential for a baby’s development and well-being, but they also give you a much needed break from the daily grind of looking after them. Most experts agree that the best place for daytime naps is in a cot. But some babies will only nap with motion and, in any case, being housebound every day is not always realistic for you and your family. So, for those times that you need to be out of the house, what are the best tips for ensuring that your baby sleeps well and safely in their pram?
1. Darken the pramSleep is controlled by a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin is responsible for helping babies fall asleep and stay asleep through more than just one sleep cycle. A baby’s body will only release melatonin when in the dark, so darkening the sleep environment is an excellent way to trigger a good nap.
Luckily, babies find being in the dark (just like being in the womb) comforting. Because babies are not capable of an emotion as mature as fear, they aren't afraid of the dark as older kids might be.
At home, you can always achieve a dark sleep environment by using block-out blinds on the window. But it isn’t as easy to do this when you are out and about. The best way is to use a very dark pram sun shade canopy to cover the pram and block the light. A pram shade will also help reduce the outside distraction.
“Babies should sleep in darkness, day and night…because it has the ability to turn on that neurotransmitter melatonin and to help the baby fall asleep and stay asleep”
Karen Faulkner, baby sleep consultant and expert
2. Reduce risks of pram sleeping
You also need to make sure you have eliminated the most obvious risks:
- Make sure that your baby can’t get tangled up in the safety harness or trapped in the folds of the pram. Always do up the restraints when they are in a pram or stroller (like with any other baby equipment). Make sure the footrest on the stroller is strong and secure. A weak footrest can give way and cause your baby to become trapped.
- Ensure that the pram or stroller brakes are engaged when it is stopped so the pram cannot roll away.
- Recline the pram or stroller as much as possible, ideally to a flat position. This is because there is a risk of baby’s head flexing forward to the “chin on the chest” position with a stroller the more upright it is. This, in turn, can reduce airway flow to the baby.
- When you get home, try to transfer them to their cot or bassinet so they are on a flat surface.
3. Ensure good airflow in the pram
Being outside, with a good flow of oxygen-rich, fresh air, is great for encouraging those lovely long daytime sleeps. However, pushchairs and prams can be rather deep and enclosed which can restrict air flow, and there could be a risk with babies re-breathing exhaled carbon dioxide particularly when they are still young and cannot yet lift their heads.
To help combat this, choose a stroller sun protector shade that not only allows good airflow through the fabric, but additionally one which has openings or which is flexible enough that ventilation gaps can be created.
4. Don’t let the pram get hot
In sunny Australia, we need to be cautious during the warmer months. Babies cannot regulate their own temperatures very well, so you will need to keep your pram at a comfortable temperature.
To do this, start off with a cool pram. If you store your pushchair outside the front of your house, check the sunlight hasn’t heated up the interior before putting your baby in it; pram fabrics and hardware can retain a lot of heat.
Do use a pram sun shade canopy as this will help block some of the direct heat from the sun (an uncovered pram will heat up more quickly against direct sunlight and will leave your baby exposed to UV). However, remember that your baby is a heat source too, so don’t choose thick blankets that can allow heat to build up inside.
4. Never leave your baby unsupervised
The most important thing to remember is to never let your baby sleep in the pram unsupervised (or overnight) – the pram should not be a permanent sleep place for your baby.
Check on your baby frequently (it’s good if your pram sun shade cover can be moved easily to check on the baby easily, without any noisy zips to wake them up). Every so often, you can slip your hand under your baby’s clothing and against the bare chest or stomach to check for an overly warm core temperature.
“Never leave your baby unattended in a pram or stroller”
Red Nose SIDs organisation
Following these simple steps should mean that your baby gets the best from their outdoor naps, which should lead to a good night’s sleep for the whole family.