It’s totally fine for your baby to sleep in the car seat on a long journey (it's often pretty impossible to stop them!), but it’s recommended you keep them in it for a maximum of 2 hours before taking a break. So keep an eye on the service stations coming up so you can plan a rest break for when they hopefully wake from a nap (often the car engine stopping is enough to wake them if not anyway!). You’ll probably find they’ll need a feed and a change so you might not make it to the 2 hours!
Transfer them if they're still sleeping when you arrive
If they’re still asleep when you arrive at your destination and your car seat can be removed from the car, it’s best to try and transfer them to their sleep space on a firm flat mattress, rather than allowing them to continue sleeping in the car seat based on the above time recommendations. I know it can be tempting to keep them in if they’re fast asleep, but hopefully they’ll transfer, if not you can try for another nap in a bit.
Keep it cool
Make sure your little one isn’t overdressed in a hat and coat when in the car seat. If it’s super sunny you may need to block out the sun with some sort of car sun shade for the window.
You can keep an eye on them with a handy car mirror, or if there’s space an adult can sit in the back to keep a closer eye (I definitely have spent a lot of car journeys doing this in the past!) and you’ll find it easier to settle them if they get upset rather than reaching over.
On the topic of getting upset, I know the main concern for some people will be the fact their little one just really dislikes the car seat and they're apprehensive about how that will play out on a long car journey.
Tips for if your little one isn't a fan of the car seat
If nothing you do seems to settle your little one, chances are there may be some underlying discomfort. Did you feed them just before you set off and now they're all crunched up? Maybe think about allowing some time after the feed before you put them in the seat. Also make sure the straps etc are safe but comfortable, is one twisted and digging in for example - crying a lot may be the only way they can let you know about this!
On the flip side to being too full and uncomfortable, they may just be hungry - this is when you may need to stop sooner than the 2 hours to top them (and possibly the car!) up.
It can be stressful for everyone involved and distracting for the driver if your little one is very upset. So consider some white noise, guided relaxations or classical music and for older ones some nursery rhymes everyone can sing along to can be a great distraction.
If you're not in the back with them keeping them company, the tears may simply be coming from feeling far away from you and a lack of connection. So although it's hard work, try and keep connected, talk and sing and engage in whatever way your little one responds to best.
Long journeys with babies and older kids can often go one of two ways! My advice is be prepared, make sure you’ve got snacks and drinks for yourself and your kids just in case you get stuck in traffic!
If you’d like some support with your little ones sleep, please do check out my sleep support packages, or hop on your free 15 minute introductory call. Or in the meantime, head over to my Instagram page for all my latest free help and tips.