It's science: This is why your baby always falls asleep in the car

Hint: the reason has to do with YOU, mama

why car rides put babies to sleep

Baby...go. to. sleep.

When your overtired, fussy baby's crying is bringing tears to your own eyes, and no amount of soothing or Dr. Harvey Karp tips seem to be helping, it's time to go for a drive. Safely secured into their car seat, your baby begins to settle. One more lap around the block ought to do it, you think, as you see your baby finally begin to drift off to sleep.

What is it about a car ride that seems to cast a spell on a wide-awake baby? Turns out, the inside of a moving car is a lot like the safe, warm and quiet environment inside your womb. The sound and vibration of a moving car's engine creates the similar sound and motion that helps your baby relax.

Cars offer the same type of low-level rocking movement that your baby felt in your womb when you walked around.

Your baby's response to rocking is a natural reaction of their sensorimotor systems. Researchers have found that gentle and constant rocking regulates your baby's central, motor and cardiac systems in a coordinated way that calms them down.

Your baby's cerebellum is the part of their brain that is most primitive—always on guard and keeping track of everything going on in their environment. It's directly linked in a feedback loop with the vagus nerve, a part of the parasympathetic nervous system that connects the brainstem to the body and allows it to monitor and receive information. The parasympathetic nervous system oversees a vast array of crucial bodily functions, including the fight-or-flight response and heart rate. Rocking puts your baby's cerebellum at ease and creates a parasympathetic response of relaxation, lower heart rate and increased sense of well-being.

The steady humming of your car's engine is a type of white noise that is soothing to your baby.

White noise is sound that contains all frequencies at equal intensity and distribution. Your car's engine is a kind of white noise that can mimic the familiar sounds your baby heard in your womb and can mask loud sounds that may stimulate your baby's brain. White noise influences sleep by encouraging your baby's brain to adopt and maintain the slower, rhythmic brain waves associated with sleep. In a small, randomized study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, full term newborns listened to recordings of intrauterine sounds. It was shown that listening to this type of white noise increased the likelihood of the babies falling asleep within five minutes from 25% to 80%!

The inside of your car is not very stimulating.

The inside of a car can be insulated, warm and dark, just like your womb. And the interior doesn't change, so there is nothing new to see, hear, feel or do. Plus, your baby knows you are nearby and feels safe. This combination allows your baby to tune out the external world, relax completely and fall asleep.

From the Shop

Every parent—and every baby—deserves better sleep.

The snugness of your baby's car seat creates a feeling of security.

Not only does the car seat harness hold your baby's body in the proper position in case of an accident, the feeling of security it provides and the cozy warmth of your car's interior can utterly transport your baby back to the womb.

Coaxing your baby to sleep by taking a car ride can be an effective solution to sleeplessness, but is it safe?

A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics shows that when car seats are used as directed by the manufacturer's guidelines, babies have a very low risk of suffocation or strangulation from the harness straps. Dr. Ben Hoffman, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention Executive Committee, agrees, stating, "All the data that we have on car seats indicate that there aren't risks associated with babies sleeping in the car for short periods of time when they're properly restrained in a car seat that's been installed with appropriate positioning." However, using car safety seats for sleep in a non-traveling context does pose a risk to babies. So the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies who are still asleep when you have reached your destination should be transferred to a crib or bassinet.

But sometimes you *don't* want them to fall asleep in the car.

That same baby sleep magic that brings relief after a long night of fussing can throw you into a panic during the afternoon when you are out running errands. When you notice that it's too quiet and look back to see that little head tipped to the side, eyes closed, and that sweet little face drifting into slumber, you can feel desperate to keep your baby awake until you get home for a proper nap.

Here's what you can do to keep your baby awake until you get out of the car:

  • Make sure they are not overtired, which makes falling asleep almost a sure bet.
  • Avoid car rides 30-45 minutes before naptime to preserve that window of opportunity when your baby will fall asleep easily for a scheduled nap.
  • Skip the bottle or pacifier in the car seat because sucking is very soothing and will likely lead to drowsiness.
  • Distract them to keep those eyes open.
  • Pull over and take them out for a little fresh air and change of scenery.

Bottom Line: Being able to soothe a squalling baby with a car ride is a huge relief. But if a car ride results in an unwanted short power nap, don't worry or stress and just remember that you can try to put your baby down again after they've been up awhile. Push that nap to later, just for today, mama.

Editor's note: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against routine sleeping in sitting devices for infants. Here's why pediatricians don't want babies to sleep in car seats outside of the car.


These are only the vitamins I give my children and here's why

It's hard to say who loves these more—my kids or me.

When I became a mama five years ago, I didn't put too much thought into whether my son was getting the right vitamins and minerals. From breastfeeding to steaming and pureeing his first bites of solid food, I was confident I was giving him everything to support his growth and development.

But then the toddler years—and the suddenly picky palate that accompanied them—came along. Between that challenge and two additional children in the mix… well, I knew my oldest son's eating plan was falling short in some vitamin and mineral categories.

I also knew how quickly he was growing, so I wanted to make sure he was getting the nutrients he needed (even on those days when he said "no, thank you" to any veggie I offered).

So when I discovered the new line of children's supplements from Nature's Way®, it felt like a serious weight off my chest. Thanks to supplements that support my children's musculoskeletal growth, their brain function, their immune systems, their eyes and more, I'm taken back to that simpler time when I was so confident my kids' vitamin needs were met.*

It wasn't just the variety of supplements offered by Nature's Way that won me over: As a vegetarian mama, I'm the picky one in the family when it comes to scanning labels and making sure they meet our standards. The trick is that most gummy vitamins are made with gelatin, which is not vegetarian friendly.

But just like the other offerings from Nature's Way that I've already come to know and love, the children's supplement line is held to a high standard. That means there's no high-fructose corn syrup, gelatin or common allergens to be found in the supplements. The best part? My two oldest kids ensure we never miss their daily vitamins—they are so in love with the gummy flavors, which include tropical fruit punch, lemonade and wild berry.

Nature's Way Kids Mulitvitamin

Meanwhile, my pharmacist husband has different criteria when evaluating supplements, especially when it comes to those for our kids. He appreciates the variety of options from Nature's Way, which gives us the ability to rotate the vitamins based on our kids' daily needs. By keeping various children's supplements from Nature's Way on hand, I can customize a regimen to suit my kids' individual requirements.

Of course, high-quality products often come at a higher price point. But (to my immense gratitude!) that isn't the case with Nature's Way, which retails for a competitive value when compared to the other items on the shelf.

Like all mamas, my chief concern is supporting my children's health in any way I can. While I see evidence of their growth every time I pack away clothes they've outgrown, I know there is much more growth that doesn't meet the eye. That's why, for my oldest son, I like stacking the Brain Builder gummy with the Growing Bones & Muscles gummy and the Happy & Healthy Multi. My 3-year-old also enjoys getting her own mix to include the Healthy Eyes gummy. And both of my older kids are quick to request the Tummy Soothe tablet when something isn't sitting right in their stomachs.* And I'll admit it: I've tried it myself and the berry blast flavor really is tasty!

Although my current phase of motherhood may not be as "simple" as it once was, there is so much to appreciate about it—like watching my kids play and sing and create with their incredible imaginations. Along the way, I've eased up on some of my need for control, but it does help to have this range of supplements in my motherhood tool kit. So while I may not be able to convince my son to try kale, having the Nature's Way supplements on hand means I do know he's right on track.*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

This article was sponsored by Nature's Way. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.

And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3


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11 products to help parents survive the 4-month sleep regression 😴

So you—and baby—can start getting more rest.

Ah, the 4-month sleep regression...unlike, say, your baby's first solid food or her first steps, the 4-month sleep regression isn't a milestone that many parents typically look forward to. Whether you're currently in the midst of the madness or just anticipating what might be ahead, odds are you have some questions—and some worries—about this much talked-about sleep (or lack thereof) phase.

But guess what, mama? The news is good! According to experts, sleep regressions aren't really a thing; they're more like transitions. And they're actually a good thing—they mean your baby is growing, changing, developing, + finding new ways to interact with the world around them.

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