She’s going to go to sleep any minute now... You just know it! If you just push the stroller around the block one more time… one more lap around this block, then you can join your friend for a quiet lunch and catch up on your lives uninterrupted, without your child raking the silverware on to the floor and screeching, causing your friend to nervously rifle through her purse for her birth control. So what if your Fitbit now says you've just hit the mini-marathon mile mark? Just keep going!
Guys, we need to talk about the please-go-to-sleep stroller walk...
Is there a march more maddening, more frustrating, than the one in which you attempt to lull your little one into a state of slumber via stroller walk? It's so maddening, somedays it can feel as endless as the post-apocalyptic journey of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Just with less dystopian angst and more HappyBaby Puffs.
I remember pushing my kid’s stroller up and down my apartment building hallway, again and again, back and forth, dangling my iPhone over the top, playing a lullabye. My neighbor at the end of the hall would take out her recycling and toss me quizzical looks… no doubt wondering exactly how many times I planned to play Alison Krauss's cover of “Baby Mine.” I would ignore her, my gaze laser focused on my kid’s eyelids. They would flutter closed... and I would catch my breath... and then his eyes would immediately snap back open: a total nap tease.
It's basically a known fact that lots of infants fall asleep better in the stroller, for a couple of different reasons. The combination of the movement and the stroller's womblike environment make little ones feel like they're being carried, which has been linked to happier and calmer babies, according to a study at the Brain Science Institute. Plus, babies who nod off outdoors sleep better than babies who are stuck inside, reported The International Journal of Circumpolar Health. That said, stroller naps aren't always the best idea; it all depends on your child's age and the type of stroller involved. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) cautions against letting babies sleep in strollers due to an increased risk for SIDS, stating on their website: "If your baby falls asleep in a car seat, stroller, swing, infant carrier, or sling, you should move him or her to a firm sleep surface on his or her back as soon as possible." (But following this logic, pram style strollers which function as moving bassinets are safe, meaning stroller naps are a viable option for many moms.)
Looking back on it now, it makes me laugh. At the time, it made me want to roll my behemoth BOB stroller over my own throat in frustration. My kid lost his nap early, and even when he did nap, it was sporadic, and very hard to time. Lo, how I remember having high hopes that he would pass out en route to the dermatologist, thus insuring a quick and easy skin check while he slept quietly in a corner. Cut to the actual appointment, and the poor doctor dangling her stethoscope over the stroller like a makeshift mobile, trying to give me advice about eye cream while my son belted "Wheels on the Bus" at top volume. I would thank the doctor and leave, and my kid would of course immediately pass out the second I clicked the office door shut behind me.
I remember another time, circling a block at the beach with my husband. Around and around we went with the stroller, our lofty plan being to sit in the sun and enjoy some tacos and each other's company once our little guy nodded off. At the time, his naps often constituted our date nights. (Or date half hours, rather.) So around we went in our bathing suits and flip flops. We'd near the beachside taco stand and stare longingly after the crowd of surfers as they lazily tossed back cold beers and burritos. Then we'd bypass the scene once more, heading back around the block just one more time...
I imagined us going around that block for years... my husband's beard eventually graying and dragging the ground... my bikini line also graying and dragging the ground... while our son continued to bat endlessly at the Whoozit tied to the handlebar.
I eventually realized the futility of our plan, and we just took the kid to the taco stand awake. Which of course is what we should have done all along. Did he then fall asleep the second we made our way down to the beach to play? But of course.
Really, when I think about it, the elusiveness and unpredictability of the stroller nap can actually be a quick and powerful lesson in parenting. It teaches you to really accept that life can no longer be controlled or planned in the same way it once was. Which, for some, can be a tricky thing to grasp at first. But I think it's really one of the most important things you learn as new parents: that if you're to keep from rolling your BOB over your own throat, you've got to be like those surfers at the taco shack. And you've got to learn to just roll with things as they come. And to just ride whatever wave parenthood sends your way next.
Or maybe I'm a fool and my kid just hated Alison Krauss.