Does your baby HATE the car seat? Mine always has too. Driving anywhere was absolutely miserable for a lonnnng time. So if you’re also in the “Baby cries every time we are in the car” club, I’m so sorry.
It’s the worst.
On the bright side, my own misery has given me some tips to share with you so that yours can end as soon as possible. And the best part is, these tips are reallllly easy to implement!
Let’s get right down to it, shall we?
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What to Do if Your Baby Suddenly Hates The Car Seat
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1. Don’t Force It
If at all possible, start by simply minimizing the amount of time Baby is spending strapped into a car seat.
Think about it, we would kinda hate to be stuck in the same position with buckles holding us down for hours on end too, right?
If your baby is still in an infant carrier car seat, try to avoid leaving Baby in the carrier while out and about. Use it as a car seat only. Try baby wearing on outings as an alternative. You can go hands-free and still go about your life, but the screaming will stop! And the snuggles are pretty great too.
I also recommend embracing staying home a bit more. I know that’s not always fun for grown ups, but a little less time buckled up could be just what your baby needs to adjust to riding in the car when it’s really necessary. Enjoy some down time in your home with your little one.
If you CAN’T avoid frequent commutes or you have a long drive coming up, the following tips will be helpful.
2. Equip Your Car
Baby car mirrors were invented for mamas like us!
Strap a baby mirror to the headrest in front of the car seat, so you can see Baby through your rear view while driving. These mirrors are made with shatter-proof glass and strong straps to keep the mirror secure and keep Baby safe.
And the best part is…Baby can see YOU! They love this. They don’t feel so alone back there, which is a huge part of the anxiety for little ones.
This is also great because you can know that your baby is safe and do frequent checks at stop lights. I even use it to play peek-a-boo or make up my own motions to “If You’re Happy and You Know It” (like “if you’re happy and you know it blow a raspberry!” or “touch your nose!”)
Interacting while on-the-go will bring some ease to your stressed-out kiddo.
They also make baby car mirrors that play music or have soft lights with a little remote. It’s kind of genius. Riding in the car at night can be scary for tiny ones and if you’re not in a place where you can safely turn the lights on, the remote comes in handy.
These mirrors are basically a must-have if you have a baby who cries in the car!
3. Set Them Up for Success
If you know you’ll be in the car for a while, check allll the things BEFORE you leave.
Make sure Baby isn’t going to be too cold in a onesie or sweating in long pajamas.
Tip: Seriously, those car seats hold A LOT of heat! Check Baby’s lower back next time you get them out to be sure that’s not the problem.
Use window shades to make sure the sun isn’t blinding Baby’s eyes while riding. I mean, who likes the sun in their eyes?
Also, how’s their hunger level? Strategically plan your drive for after your little one has eaten and had time for the milk or food to settle. They will be filled, but not FULL. Also, make putting on a fresh diaper the last thing you before you head out the door. Think, fed + dry = less cranky.
You may also want to plan any long trips around Baby’s nap time. Leaving on the earliest side of naptime can be a recipe for sleeping off that first hour. Avoid the “wait til she’s super tired” approach because that often backfires and leads to overtired, angry, hating the carseat, and letting you hear alllll about it.
Another great tip: Let your baby bring their go-to comfort item with them in the car. If a particular lovey, blankey, or pacifier calms them in the house, it just might do the trick on the road too. You could also try having a special toy or stuffie that your baby ONLY gets to have in the car. It’s a nice little treat and incentive to go for a ride.
SHORT ON TIME? PIN IT!
Ok, here’s the good stuff. If you’ve already done all of the above and you’re still frustrated because your baby hates their car seat, try some of these clever ideas. They’ve worked for me numerous times!
- Have someone sit in the back: If you’re on a lonnng trip and you just can’t stand the screaming any longer, have your co-pilot sit next to Baby and entertain them for a while.
- New Toys: It doesn’t take much to entertain a baby. Have a stash of cheap toys or interesting household items (like a soft hairbrush or a bottle of colorful sprinkles to shake) to hold their attention. Aim for something they’ve never seen.
- Food: If Baby is old enough, bring a pouch of baby food and a little spoon on your drive. Have the co-pilot offer little bites to your baby when they get antsy. As they get older, snacks like puffs or cereal can hold their attention even longer.
- Music: Sometimes simply singing songs or cranking up the radio is enough to soothe babies. It might take a few tries to find just the right song, but most babies have a favorite that’ll do the trick. We have actually used our toddler’s padded wireless headphones for our baby on a long trip. It worked! Just make sure the volume is on the lowest setting as to not hurt their tiny ears.
- You Tube: I know, screens are evil. But when you’re desperate, you do what you gotta do. If things get rough, try searching for “soothing baby lights” on You Tube. You’ll find calming lights than dance around the screen to lullabies. Babies eat it up.
- Windows Down: This is my personal mom hack. If Baby is in one of those screaming cycles that just won’t break, drop the windows (or better yet, the sunroof.) Many times this is the ONLY thing that calms our crying babe. Just leave them down for a few minutes, then rave to your baby about how nice it was and immediately distract them while they are calm.
5. Have a Contingency Plan
Ok, if you’ve tried all these things and your baby just really still HATES riding in the car, have a back up plan.
If you’re on a trip, be ok with stopping. Trust me, frequent stops are better than pushing through the screaming and going mad. If the weather permits, search for nearby parks on your route and push Baby in the swing or let them stretch out on a blanket.
Last tip: When all else fails…Know the law.
Be certain of the laws in your state and read the info on your baby’s car seat, so you know EXACTLY when you can switch them to front-facing. Usually, once a baby is no longer rear-facing, they chill and enjoy the ride.
Keep in mind that even a toddler is safest in the rear-facing position as long as their height will allow, so try to hold off as long as possible.
This Too Shall Pass…
I sure hope these tips work like magic for you. I’ve had great success with all of them, but I won’t lie, occasionally my baby still cries in the car and there’s just nothing else I can do. Some babies are just extra hard (trust me, I know.) If you feel completely out of options, remember this:
It will pass.
Sooner than you can believe, your baby will be a full-on toddler and instead of crying in the car they will be talking your ear off. Until then, keep the drives as short as you can. Stay home and just sit in the floor and enjoy your little one. Read books and play pat-a-cake and roll a ball. The days are long, but the years are short.
So, kiss your baby and make all the mental notes above for your next road trip. I think these tips will make all the difference!
If have successfully helped a baby that hates the car seat, we want to hear from you! Give us your best tips below!