Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Creating a Cragbaby – Sleepytime Solutions

Every cragbaby needs beauty sleep…

Taking your baby to the crag for any length of time means that there will be naps involved – for your baby most definitely, and for you…quite possibly after a long day of climbing and hanging out with your little one!  Everyone knows how cranky an overtired baby can be (and how annoying that can be to everyone within earshot…) so before you go off gallavanting around in the mountains, make sure you have a strategy for helping your baby to catch some Zzzz’s.  We found through trial (and error…) several tips for making on-the-go naps in strange places easier on C.  The following is a practical guide for what worked for us – but remember that sleep habits during the early months are influenced a great deal by temperament and personality of each individual baby, so try our ideas but toss ’em and go back to the drawing board if they don’t work…

C catching some Zzzz’s on a morning approach to some boulders in Grayson Highlands State Park, VA

Take advantage of natural sleep inducers.   

  • Car Rides – For day trips with a decent drive, try to time your car time  with when you know your little one will be tired.  With any luck, your cragbaby will arrive at the crag well-rested and ready for new discoveries – plus mom and dad have time to scour the guidebook and plan out the day! 

The Kelty Kid Carrier makes it easy to transfer hibernating bears from our backs to the ground!

  • Nursing –  There is a lot of “mainstream” information out there nowadays that cautions moms to NEVER nurse a baby to sleep because it creates bad habits – babies should be taught to be dependent, self-soothers,  etc.  Our family sides with the camp that knows that all of those things will happen soon enough, when a child is developmentally ready, but this post is about getting your baby to sleep at the crag, not to debate infant sleep habits in general.  We believe that God designed breastfeeding to be a wonderful cure-all for baby’s needs.  As far as sleep goes, breastmilk contains many sleep-inducing properties, not to mention that the act of suckling naturally soothes and calms babies – it was designed to put your baby to sleep, so why not use it to your advantage!  If your out at the crag and baby is too excited to calm down enough to sleep, take him or her to a quiet place away from all the action, and offer to nurse.  Have your sleeping spot picked out, and your blanket down and ready so that all you’ll have to do is place your little snoozer down.

C rolling away to dreamland with his sleepytime music.

  • Music – C knows that when he hears anything off of Renee and Jeremy’s album, “It’s a Big World,” it can only mean one thing – sleepytime is coming!  He hears it when he’s getting dressed for bed, when he’s being rocked to sleep, during his last nursing session in the evening, when he’s fussy but fading fast in the car…and also when its time for a nap in the woods at the base of a cliff!  The album is downloaded onto my iPhone so that we have it in a pinch for whenever we need a sleep cue, STAT!  Obviously, it doesn’t have to be this particular album, (although many of our climbing partners can attest to its peaceful, eyelid-drooping properties!).  It doesn’t even have to be music (book, blankie, toy, etc)- the point is, find a strong sleep association that can be portable and easily accessible when you’re out at the crag.

Sometimes the Crag-Daddy needs some sleepytime, too…

  • Movement – Its no secret that smooth, rhythmic motion can lull a baby to sleep (and for that matter, adults – hammock, anyone?)  Our family is big into babywearing, and in C’s earliest months, he spent many a naptime nestled up snug and tight against Mommy or Daddy’s chest.  Now that he’s older and taking longer naps, he usually sleeps in his crib during the day, but we still capitalize on the movement principle a good bit on crag days.  Just like you can plan car rides to coincide with naptimes, you can do the same with approaches or hikes from one area of the crag to another.  Depending on your carrier, you might even be able to transfer your sleeping babe back to the ground when you get to your destination.

Some babies sleep with binkies, this cragbaby sleeps with his chalkbag!

Expect a different routine.  Especially in the beginning, a trip to the crag is going to be a completely different day than your baby has ever experienced.  Don’t expect everything to fall into place perfectly the first time out.  Eventually, you’ll start to develop a “crag routine,” but it may or may not be the same routine that you have at home.  For instance, at home C always has two naps, each 1.5-2 hours, whereas at the crag he usually has 3 naps, all around an hour or so.  It works for him, so it works for us. 

A peaceful bear slumbers nearby while everyone else crushes!

Know when to call it a day.  A full day of climbing, plus driving to and from the crag, makes for a long day for cragbabies.  Be considerate of your little people needs – finish up well before your little one gets overtired and cranky so you can end on a good note.  Our end of day schedule usually works something like this – We hike out sometime between 5 and 6, and grab dinner pretty soon after we get on the road.  By the time we finish dinner, its approaching C’s bedtime.  We go ahead and put him in his jammies and “super-dipe” him (we use cloth, so our night diaper is bulked out to the max!).  C usually falls asleep pretty soon after we get back on the road, and then when we get home we can usually transfer him to his crib with only some minor resettling, if any, rather than having him wake all the way up to get ready for bed at home.   

“It’s sleepytime guys! See ya when I wake up!”

Don’t forget that sleep is an issue that can be quite fickle at times for babies.  Remember the saying, “The only constant is change?”  It’s not unusual for patterns of sleep to change dramatically by the week, or even by the day.  There are all sorts of outside factors that can influence sleep behavior – developmental milestones, teething, growth spurts, illness, separation anxiety, etc.  What worked last week at the crag might seem like a horrible idea this week.  The best thing you can do is to have a host of sleep-inducing ammunition lined up in your arsenal, understanding climbing partners, and a long-term perspective that all too soon you’re gonna miss these days!

Dreaming of redpointing 5.14…


15 Responses to “Creating a Cragbaby – Sleepytime Solutions”

  1. Beth Lineberry

    Great article with some great tips!


  2. Brandy Walters

    Awesome post! This is probably our biggest cragbaby issue! Our issue with crag sleeping has been finding a good, safe, level spot and finding something good to sleep on. Sometimes I wish we had a mini thermarest to help with all the bumps/rocks/roots on the ground. Lukas likes to sleep on this tummy so this is pretty important! Looks like you bring a couple of thick blankets…

    Breastfeeding is a fabulous cure-all tool, no doubt! I can’t imagine NOT having that as a tool in my arsenal 🙂


  3. Yes, finding a good spot can be tough sometimes. We have looked into the thermarest idea, but they don’t make small ones unfortunately. Doubling up some thick blankets usually works pretty well for us. Canaan likes to sleep on his tummy too – ts amazing how you don’t notice all the roots/rocks/bumps until you try sleeping on them!


  4. Kathy Southern

    Sounds like you’ve got a good system and a good set of climbing partners to help out. Great post! (And canaan is adorable too!) 🙂


  5. They do make mini-thermarest type pads that go with the Phil and Ted’s porta-crib. We also had one of these:,5 that came with a mini-thermarest and made a nice spot for nap time. When nap time at the crag for us got really difficult was from about 1 year until she could make it without a nap and not be too cranky.


  6. Kristen

    Thanks for this post. Just SEEING that is indeed possible for me to get out and adventure with my child without feeling like a bad mom is so encouraging. I need to know that other people live the kind of lifestyle that we want to live– even if it is a sacrifice and a challenge AND it doesn’t always work out the way we envisioned it would. Remembering that our day (and our child) is not ruined if things don’t go swimmingly with sleep on-the-go is huge. Something I am learning, as a new mom, is not to put so much pressure on myself for perfection in my child’s life. Thank you again for your blog and for the inspiration! Now I’m off to sleep-train my child– train him to sleep outside of his crib! 😉


    • Kristin E.

      Love, love, love this blog! I am so inspired!!! How old is Canaan now? I have an almost 2 year old and it seems much tougher, now, to get him to rest outdoors. He just wants to climb, play etc.

    • Congratulations on being a new mom, Kristen! And thanks for reading and commenting – hopefully some of the info will prove to be helpful in your new “sleep training.” 🙂

    • @Kristin E. – C will be 17 months next week. We’ve found that nursing him to sleep and plopping him down on the blanket has gotten harder and harder. It seems easiest these days to put him in the backpack carrier and walk around – and thankfully once he’s asleep he usually stays that way when we put the pack down. Glad to be a source of inspiration 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

  7. sam

    Things change so fast, I’d love to hear how you are managing the naps now that C is over two…

    We’ve started going outside again with ours now that spring is coming, and trying to get them to nap in little peapod tents. It can be hard to find a flat spot, and one far enough from noisy passing people. I’ll try the backpack carrier, maybe they will nap in that (I usually use my shoulders, not a carrier, because I can carry a full pack and one of my girls can sit on top of the pack). The tents have worked OK, but not great, and since they don’t sleep so well, they tend to wake up a bit cranky, and that tends to put an end to the day…


    • Erica

      You know I was thinking of resurrecting the Creating a Cragbaby series now that C is a toddler and our “system” has changed a bunch…maybe it would be good to start with naps! We pretty much only use the backpack carrier now – he falls asleep pretty quickly in it and despite how uncomfortable he looks, will generally stay sleeping for around an hour or so – not his normal nap length he takes at home, but its enough to take the edge off so he can make it through the rest of the day…

  8. sam

    I’d certainly be interested in your system… that would be an interesting post. Things change so fast in these first years. Car rides and napping are the biggest challenges, and introducing roped climbing to them is the new thing for this summer (their 3rd, they just turned 2). I’ve been working on getting them comfortable with their new harnesses, which I’m pretty happy with, easy to put on and off ( So far, I’m just swinging them, and hoisting them up and down for as long and as high as they want, and listening to them (when they say “out” that’s what happens, I want them to associate climbing with fun, and choice).


  9. Laura

    Great article. We are taking our little guy camping for the first time in Sept. He will be 5 months old. We are still looking at sleep sack/bunting bag options for tent sleeping. Any suggestions? We are expecting nights of about 50F. We are leaning towards layers and a bunting bag or merino sleep sack.


  10. Helena

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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN