When my daughter was born we lived out in boonies about an hour and a half away from everyone we knew. My husband’s job relocated out there and we bought a gorgeous house there and we really did like the city. I remember thinking that my daughter could just nap in the car seat when we had to make the drive north to go see family.
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All baby’s like the car seat…
Ha! Was I wrong! Everyone always talks about taking their baby for a drive or walk in the car seat stroller to get them to sleep. All the kids I nannied for never minded their car seats. My sweet little girl would scream and cry hysterically when she had to go in that thing!
At first, I thought something was wrong with the car seat that was making her uncomfortable. After adjusting everything and even trying her in her convertible car seat, I realized she just hated being in the car seat.
I dreaded going anywhere because it meant having to listen to my sweet baby cry and cry sometimes until she would make herself gag. So, I decided it was time to get creative and see what I could do to make it better for her.
First things first…
The first thing you will want to check is that your car seat is adjusted properly. This is so important not just for being comfortable but first for safety. For rear facing seats the straps should be at or below shoulder level, not above the shoulder at all. When they are tiny you will also want the middle bottom buckle to be closer to their body. So, plop your baby in their and take a look at the straps are they too high? Too low and digging into their shoulder maybe(don’t adjust them higher just for comfort you still need the car seat to be the safest it can be to protect your baby)?
Once it is adjusted properly, of course, you will want to be sure it is also installed properly. Follow the instructions from your manufacturer. If you are unsure about the lingo or what it should look like there are tons of pictures and videos online.
If you are not sure what it this is supposed to look like here are a couple great safety resources for using your car seat properly. There is more to know than you would think! I see kids not properly buckled all the time!
Tried and tested tools that helped make the car seat rides better…
- Feed/Burp/Change – This may seem obvious but it was definitely something I made sure we did before every car seat ride. I made sure baby was well fed, well burped and had a nice clean diaper. If all her needs were met then I knew it was none of those things bothering her. Kind of a process of elimination method it what I started with.
- Time drives for naptime – If you will be driving for a longer period of time then timing a drive for naptime can be a great tool! My little one still cried for like the first 15 minutes or so but then at least she would sleep the rest of the way. Much more peaceful long drive for everyone.
- Special car toys – When babies are little they drop their toys or sometimes can’t even really pick them up yet. We found an awesome clip-on car seat bar that kept little J entertained for at least part of the drive. We also kept a special reserve of light up, musical toys that we only played with in the car so that they are exciting. As she got a little older I always made sure she had her favorite teething toys to chew on too!
- Mirrors – This was always a must have for me anyways. I love the mirror that lets you see your baby in the back while you drive! So helpful to know what is going on back there. Babies love mirrors too so it can be a fun thing for them to look at too. The other bonus is that as they get older they will be able to see mommy or daddy in the mirror and that can be reassuring as well.
- Baby/Children’s Music – This was a desperate try for us when it seemed like nothing would work. We ordered a few baby CDs and would put them on when we drove. To my surprise little J LOVED these things! The music was a great distraction for her and actually helped to soothe her to sleep too! We started with this baby one when she was small and then graduated to this toddler one as she got closer to 1. I am not going to lie I really really hate those songs now! But at that point in our lives, they really helped us out!
- Car seat type – Eventually your baby will outgrow the infant bucket seat and have to switch to a convertible car seat. Many are safety rated from newborn and up. Try switching your baby to the bigger and more spacious convertible car seat. Sometimes the extra space and being able to see more can help! It is worth trying because you will have to buy the car seat at some point down the road anyways.
- Sing/Talk to your baby – My daughter happened to love “Old McDonald Had A Farm.” So if I sang it in the car she would stop crying for a little while to listen. I do not have the most beautiful singing voice but it made her happy. I would warn anyone who got in my car what they were getting into. And by the end of the car ride, I would not have much of a voice but she stopped crying for a little bit so it was worth it! Figure what your baby likes to hear and sing away or just talk if that works too! Pretty soon you won’t be embarrassed when other people get in the car because it just becomes a habit. (Sorry to everyone who got to enjoy my musical masterpieces!)
- Have an extra person ride with baby – If you happen to be traveling with someone else ask them to ride in back with the baby. They can distract, play, sing and comfort baby. Another option is to ask the other person to drive while you ride in back with the baby. My hubby would drive almost all the time and I would hang in the back with little J and try to keep her happy!
Stick with it…
The best advice I can offer you is to stick with it. Keep getting in the car seat. The more your baby gets used to it the smoother it goes. Don’t get me wrong it was over a year of hating the car seat. However, it definitely improved dramatically! Try some of these tools and tips and see what works the best for your family.
Always make sure that you are never compromising safety for comfort. Keeping your baby safe and alive if far more important than not hearing her/him cry for a little while. Many grandparents will say to turn the car seat around, also people will tell you that at one year of age you can turn it around. Not true! REAR FACING UNTIL AGE 2 IS THE SAFEST FOR YOUR BABY! The guideline changed a few years back and the news doesn’t seem to have traveled very well. Watch the video of the crash test rear v forward facing and I can bet you will be on board with following that guideline too!
This too shall pass…
When I am having a tough time with a baby phase or stage I try to remember that this too shall pass. Baby’s grow and change physically, mentally and developmentally so fast! In the moment it may seem frustrating and exhausting but try to remember it is only temporary. Soon enough you will have a toddler who can face forward and tell you in words that they don’t like the car seat(see isn’t that better? ha!).
Medical cause for concern…
Always be sure to watch that mirror for any medical reason your baby may not like the car seat. If your baby vomits, turns blue from crying too much or anything else alarming be sure to pull over safely and check your child. Call 911 for emergencies of course. There is a small percentage of babies who can get motion sickness. Check with your doctor about any concerns you may have. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed pull over to a safe location and take a moment, a breath of fresh air and try again.
Hopefully, these tools and tips will help your baby and you enjoy the car rides! At the very least I hope they become tolerable for you both. I know it can be tough but hang in there momma! This too shall pass!
If you loved these tips and they are working for you please come back and share! I LOVE to hear from all the moms! Other mommies out there please share with us what your secret weapons are for happy car rides!! I want this to be a place for moms to connect and share! So, even if you never leave comments I would be so happy if you left one here : ) Thanks!