Q: 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.