7 tips for when your baby hates their car seat

My son hated car rides as a baby. For a while there, I was seriously questioning my wisdom in going out with him and my toddler ever. I know of parents who simply stopped car rides with their baby, and believe it or not, a friend of mine once showed up at my house with her little guy in his car seat looking like the picture on the left below. She sheepishly admitted that her son hates being buckled up and so in hope of having him cry less, she leaves the harness straps loose and chest clip way below armpit level.

2 pictures of babies in car seats. Picture on the left shows baby incorrectly harnessed with harness loose and chest clips too low. Picture on the right shows baby correctly harnessed.

It is important to know, if you are in an accident, the only way for the car seat to keep your baby safe, is for your baby to be harnessed in properly and the car seat installed correctly. See this great video below from Parachute Canada:

I know how awful it is to hear your baby wail in the car. I remember the first time I had to drive with my first-born in the car, all by myself. My 2-week-old daughter relentlessly wailed for the first 10 minutes of the drive and then suddenly went quiet for the last five minutes. I wasn’t sure which was worse! Was she okay?! By the time we got to the doctor’s office I was a ball of nerves!

Since staying cooped up at home with a baby and toddler was NOT an option for me, I figured out ways to help make it less nerve-wracking to travel in the car. Here are seven tips if you have a baby who hates their car seat:

  1. Make sure your baby is not too hot and not too cold.
    • Dress your baby as you normally would, then harness into car seat. No bulky jackets, snowsuits or bunting bags. Use layers on top of the car seat that can be removed as needed. In the winter your car might be cold to start with but it quickly heats up.
    • Avoid using hats in the car as they tend to slide down over your baby’s eyes. Use a sweater with a hood if it’s cold.
    • If it’s hot outside, do not use blankets. Remove sun covers once your baby is in the car.
  2. Make sure your baby’s needs are met before going in the car. Is she hungry or needing a diaper change?
  3. Experiment with driving at different times. Does your baby prefer if he is ready for a nap so he can sleep? Or does he do better if he’s just had a nap? Does he do better with a full tummy or a half-hour after feeding?
  4. Play music loudly and sing along. If it doesn’t calm baby, it just might calm you!
  5. If there is someone with you, have them sit in the back with your baby.
  6. Older babies may appreciate having a soft toy to play with.
  7. If all else fails, reassure baby by saying soothing things like “mommy is here, mommy hears you.” Focus on driving and getting your precious cargo to your destination safely.

Keep in mind mirrors that allow you to see your baby through your rear view mirror are not recommended. In an accident they could be a dangerous projectile. Plus they can be a source of considerable distraction for you while driving.

As always, remember this is a phase and it will NOT last forever. As for your baby’s crying, it’s true that research shows it is best to respond to your baby’s cries consistently and in a nurturing way. The good news is that you are doing this most of the time. Stay confident knowing you are doing your best to respond to your baby when you can and are keeping your baby safe. Don’t forget to take care of yourself too!

For more information about car seat safety, connect with us!

For parenting information or to speak with a public health nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About Andrea Scott RN

I’m a public health nurse with the HaltonParents team – you’ll find me blogging, tweeting and answering emails. I’ve been working for the Halton Region Health Department since 2006 and my focus has been on supporting parents with babies and little kids. I have two little ones myself, “Pumpkin” and “Monkey” who give me plenty to blog about! :)
This entry was posted in Babies, Car Seat Safety, Parenting, Physical Health and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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