10 tricks to help a baby who hates the car seat

For most little ones, they will grow out of car seat crying, but first you might like to check out our 10 possible reasons your baby hates the car.

Car seat crying is stressful and worrying, but you’re not alone. We can completely empathise with you, so we have done some asking around and researching the best tips to make car journeys less anxiety-inducing for both you and your bub. Experiment with these suggestions, and find the safest solution that works for your family.

10 tricks to help a baby who hates the car seat

1. Bring your car seat into the house

Let your baby sit and play in the seat at home, even just for a few minutes each day. Keep relaxed, smile, and make it fun. If your baby is showing signs that they’re not enjoying it, just calmly remove them and move on. You also might like to get your baby comfortable in their seat in the home each time before taking them to the car. The goal is to let it become as familiar and positive as possible.

2. Ensure that your baby is healthy

See your GP to rule out any physical causes, and perhaps consider consulting a paediatric chiropractor. If your baby suffers from wind or reflux, see if your baby travels better just after a feed, or half an hour after. If they’re teething, give them a teething ring. If your baby has a dummy, it can also help to soothe any ear discomfort, and sucking in general will comfort them.

3. Put yourself in your baby’s shoes

Get in the backseat and imagine you’re in the baby car seat. What can you see and feel? Is the sunshade blocking the exciting sights? Is it extra warm or cold in the back? Babies shouldn’t wear a coat in their car seat, but is there clothing that could be added or removed? Are they wearing a hat in the car when they don’t normally, or does a blanket mean that they can’t freely move their feet? Is their nappy too tight?

4. Stimulate their senses during a ride

Even tiny newborns need rich sensory input, and if all they can see is the back of the seat in front of them, they’ll no doubt get bored and frustrated. Some great ideas are to attach a photo of your face to the back seat, a baby-safe mirror, a poster of colourful shapes or black and white patterns, or some soft hanging toys that your baby can kick or grab. Change them regularly to keep it interesting.

5. Experiment with different types of music

You could try lullabies, white noise, audio books, nursery rhymes, classical music, or your own favourite music. They love to hear your voice, so sing along as well so they can hear you. Take a deep breath and use a reassuring tone when you try to console them from the front seat. It’s hard when you’re feeling stressed yourself, but your baby might become more upset if they sense your anxiety.

6. Tell your baby what’s going on

Even with a newborn, you can trust that they are listening and understanding what you’re saying on some level. Before you leave the house, let them know what’s about to happen. Reassure them that you’re right there, that they’re safe, and it won’t be for long.

7. Minimise car trips

If you don’t have to take the car, don’t. Your baby would most likely rather be in a baby carrier or pram than the car, even if the weather isn’t optimal. Can you take a bus or a train instead during this phase? Otherwise, don’t do any more car trips than is necessary. Perhaps for now you could get your groceries delivered, or leave errands until the weekend when someone else can help you.

8. Check that the car seat is fitted correctly

Consult a professional car seat fitter to ensure the seat is on the right angle, the straps are in the right position, and that it is the correct size for your baby if you’re not sure. You might be in a hurry to move your baby to a forward-facing car seat, but rear-facing car seats are the safest option (read When can I move my baby from a rear-facing car seat?).

9. Take short trips or regular breaks

Sometimes, we just have to take the car for whatever reason. Taking breaks can help but it can also delay the inevitable—they’ll only cry as soon as you put them back in the car, dragging out the whole experience. Stopping to feed and comfort them might help to calm your nerves, though, so do what feels best for you.

10. Check your own emotions

Sometimes nothing you do will help to calm your baby down in the car, but the good news is that it’s a phase and your little one will grow out of it. You’ll only feel worse about it if your own emotions take over. Hearing them cry is heartbreaking, and the biggest reason your baby is crying is most likely because they want to be in your arms…but while you’re driving, there is nothing you can do, so try to find a way to calm your own nerves. Practice deep breathing, play songs that relax you or make you feel great, and find a mantra that helps you to feel centred.