We’ve all heard the advice to take your baby on a car ride if they’re having trouble falling asleep. Going for a drive is supposed to soothe your baby, right? But what if it has the opposite effect, and your child hates car rides?
If your baby is content prior to going for a drive, the first step is finding out what’s bothering the little one.
First, determine whether it’s the seat or being on a car ride that’s the problem.
If your car seat is installed in the vehicle, remove it and do a trial run inside the house. Put your child in the same clothes that they’d normally wear to leave the house. If it’s cold outside and your baby will be in a coat, mittens, and shoes, put them on first. Make sure your child is awake but calm. Put your baby in the seat and fasten the harness snug as you normally would. Keep your child seated for a few minutes.
How did it go? If your child was perfectly content, you can rule out the car seat as being the problem.
If your baby is content in the seat, but not inside the car, here are some things to look for and change:
- The radio or road noise is unpleasant. Some road noises and music may be unpleasant for your little one to listen to, or your car may simply be too quiet. Try playing a CD with nursery rhymes such as Baby Einstein over your stereo. Turn the volume up fairly high – louder than your normal speaking voice.
- Temperature inside the car is warmer or colder than the house. Try running the car for a few minutes to let the heater or AC get the temperature just right. Be sure to park outside the garage to avoid exhaust fumes.
- Nothing to watch and be entertained by. If there are two adults in the car, have one sit next to the baby. Interact by talking, singing, or using toys. If it’s just you and your baby in the car, try fastening a toy or a travel mirror to the headrest your child is facing.
How about children who are upset as soon as they’re in the car seat? There are a number of things to look out for and try in this case.
- Harness straps are uncomfortable. Some car seat harnesses have padding while others do not. If the problem starts the moment the buckles are in place and you’re sure the harness is adjusted correctly, give another seat a shot. Go to a store with car seats on display and try buckling your child into a different model. If you still have a screaming child, it might be a little embarrassing, but it’s worth testing out!
- Diaper is too snug. A diaper that fits comfortably while lying down may be too tight on the thighs or hips when your baby’s legs are bent in the reclined car seat. Try loosening the diaper a bit before buckling your baby in.
- Angle of the car seat is uncomfortable. First, make sure your car seat is installed at the angle recommended by the manufacturer. If you’re using an infant car seat, it may be worth moving on to a convertible car seat a little early. Try one out in a store or borrow a friend’s seat for a short trip. Convertible car seats incline less than infant seats and may be more comfortable for your child.
- Baby has acid reflux. If your child is inconsolable whenever in a reclined position, it’s possible that acid reflux is causing discomfort. See your pediatrician for advice.
As a parent, having a baby who is unhappy on car rides can be both upsetting and a distraction while driving. What I don’t recommend is simply waiting for your child to outgrow being upset in the car without trying anything different, thinking that it’s just a phase. The solution may be simple, and could make car rides a lot more pleasant for everyone!