Q&A: Baby dislikes car seat

by API Leader Wisdom on February 18, 2015

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690096_silent_screamQ: I have a 2-month-old son who suddenly really dislikes being in his car seat. He cries inconsolably during car rides. I have tried talking soothingly to him, singing and offering a pacifier. When able, I have sat in the backseat with him, and this works best. But most of the time when we’re in the car, I am driving and there isn’t another person who can sit back there with my son. It’s heart-breaking to hear him cry and cry. Short of buying ear plugs, do you have any ideas?

A: I know from personal experience how nerve-wracking and upsetting this can be.

It presents a tricky conflict between of needs between comfort and safety. My daughter went through a similar stage when she was a baby. What worked for us was for me to sit in the backseat to nurse, comfort and hang out with her.

A: Your son sounds like mine.

He hated his car seat. It was a drastic difference from his older sisters who would usually sleep during a car ride. It didn’t matter how short or how long the car ride was, my son would cry the entire way. Like your baby, my son was comforted best when I was able to sit in the backseat with him, but like you, I was usually doing the driving.

I tried many different things, and what ended up working the best was to cover him up in one of my sweaters so it has my comforting smell and to have a night light on when it was dark. I also only went on long car rides when someone else could be in the backseat, like his sisters, who could talk to him and comfort him. My son’s car seat discomfort lessened as he grew older and finally went away completely when we were able to switch him to a forward-facing car seat.

A: This happened with my son, too, and it was very stressful.

We took baby to the chiropractor’s, but what ended up working best for us was switching to a rear-facing convertible car seat and using a white-noise machine. Still, whenever possible, I would ask my husband to drive so I could sit in the backseat with baby.

A: My daughter also hated her car seat, but we learned it was because she was suffering from acid reflux.

The combination of the seat belt pushing against her stomach and the angle of the seat worsened the reflux. To ease the ride for her, I rolled up a baby blanket and placed it in the groove of the back of the car seat, as directed by her health care provider, and also adjusted her car seat harness so it’s not too tight (keeping it within safety standards of no slack). This helped. Another thing is that my daughter had motion-sickness, so driving slower around turns also helped. Another trick was singing, and as she grew older, she liked to join in on the singing.

To get her into the car seat, I would allow an extra 10 minutes so she could explore the car seat first before trying to buckle her in, explaining at the same time that she needs to be in the car seat for safety and that she would be out of the car seat as soon as possible once we arrived at our destination. I would then transition her into “car seat mode” by inviting her to sing a song with me.

I also limited my driving during the week, and then ran errands on the weekends when my husband was home and available to stay home with her.

Q: It seems like most babies go through a phase of disliking the car seat.

I would limit unnecessary driving. It seemed to get better when my babies were tall enough to see out of the window.

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API Leader Wisdom (3 Posts)

The above Q&A shares tips from API Leaders to real parenting questions with an Attachment Parenting approach. To submit a question to be answered by the API Leaders, go to the Contact page on this website. All questions and responses are edited to provide anonymity and so that tips are applicable to families beyond the original situation. All parents are encouraged to seek out support from their local API Leader and API Support Group. Learn more about becoming an API Leader.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Shelby February 18, 2015 at 1:42 pm

My daughter disliked riding in her car seat also. I tried giving her a safe toy or soft book to occupy her and singing really helped. I also put a mirror up so we could see each other. We also had a good bye routine that included blowing each other kisses through the window. It also helped to play games with her while she was in her car seat. It seemed to distract her and also associate it with something positive. We’ve tried a few things and they seem to work at different times and stages of development. Keep trying things until you find something that works! I know how stressful it can be. Good luck!

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Wendi February 18, 2015 at 11:51 pm

My infant went through this. For us it seems a part of sensory overload combined with extra heat from the seat which aggravated the eczema condition my child still gets in temperatures above 80 degrees. My child didn’t do well in swings, strollers, kayaks or with loud sounds.

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Kristine February 19, 2015 at 7:23 pm

My twin boys who are now 4 months old would scream at the top of their lungs every time we put them in their car seat. It was a big disappointment because their older sister (now 8 years old,) would fall asleep no matter the distance. However these boys are relentless in their loathe for the car seat. To my surprise it was as easy as loosening their seat belts and giving them a little space! Our twins were born premature, so they were wee fellas. Unknowingly, they were rapidly catching up with their weight and between the lack of sleep and being “new parentnoia” we hadn’t realized their belts were too snug on them. We also realized that they did not need a blanket covering them everywhere they went as their tiny little bodies produced so much heat and sweat back there! It was almost embarrassing that it took so little to satisfy these babes with just a minor adjustment. After a while, their shrieking cried became more like bored whines so we got them a cute colorful caterpillar with big eyes that se to keep them feeling safe and entertained.

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