Baby Hates the Car Seat? 8 Car Safety Tips to Help Your Tot Travel Happy

Photo by Sally Anscombe / Stocksy
Photo by Sally Anscombe / Stocksy United

Not every infant loves the car seat. Also true: Some babies who start out loving their car seat for the comfy, cozy security it offers may suddenly rebel against it as they get older.

Needless to say, when the anti-car seat crying starts (or the wailing or thrashing), it’s just no fun for moms and dads who, of course: 1) want their kids to be happy, and 2) have places they need to go!

Still, safety comes first: Rear-facing seats with snug fitting straps are the safest option for kids until they’re two years old. And while, yes, this too shall pass, there are a few tips and tricks you can try in the meantime to help your tot become more travel ready.

1. Make Traveling by Car with Your Baby Fun

Turn your child’s car fright into delight by creating an adventure ritual—sing a silly song with your baby, buy a special toy that they can have only in the car, have a good long snuggle before strapping them in, or play some special tunes on your mobile device that you know they love. The idea is to create a positive association with car rides. Car rides = special times!

2. Keep Calm and Drive On

When faced with a car-seat meltdown, strive to keep your voice calm and neutral. (If you respond with stress or other heightened emotions, it can increase your child’s own feelings of anxiety.) Give your baby heaps of praise when they’re settling down or when they successfully manage a trip to the store without a tantrum. And keep the praise up once you get back home or arrive at your destination.

3. Check to See if Something Is Causing Them Discomfort

Is the sun shining in their face? Use a stick-on sunshade. Do they hate not being able to see you? Check out a safe plastic mirror for rear-facing car seats. Does the car seat actually fit? Double check the car seat’s size and weight recommendations and see if it’s time to upgrade.

Photo by Jessica Byrum / Stocksy / 1091848
Photo by Jessica Byrum / Stocksy

4. Dress for (Car) Success

Young babies have a hard time regulating their body temperature, so it’s important that your baby not be too hot…or too cold. A good rule of thumb? Dress them in a couple of thin layers of clothing when they’ll be in their car seat, but never in bulky jackets or clothes. (Bulky clothing can prevent you from adequately tightening the car-seat straps and harness.) If you’re worried they may be cold, place a coat or blanket over them after you’ve buckled them in.

5. Turn on Their Favorite Song

“Any kind of relaxing, calming music can contribute to calmer moods,” notes the American Academy of Pediatrics. While that may eliminate Metallica from your car travel playlist, there’s no need to restrict yourself to “kid” music to promote a sense of calm. (After all, you should be able to enjoy it, too!)

6. Have Someone Ride Alongside Them (When Possible)

If you’re driving with another adult or older child, have them sit next to your child to keep them occupied with a favorite toy or book. If you’re driving alone, talk or sing to your child—even if they can’t see you, they will hear and recognize your voice.

7. Use a Calming Essential Oil in a Car Diffuser

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, using essential oils like lavender, clary sage, neroli, and chamomile can reduce agitation and stress, and promote calm. Harness the power of aromatherapy with a car diffuser to help turn car-seat anxieties into quieter, more relaxing moments. (Be sure to use natural essential oils rather than chemical-based fragrances, as some people may have negative reactions to these products.) If the aromas don’t help your child, they may help you relax a little more. Speaking of which...

8. Grin and Bear It—Their Safety Comes First

When all else fails, you may need to just put up with some noisy, unhappy car rides. Regardless of how loudly they voice their displeasure, rear-facing seats are simply a necessity for keeping kids safe and healthy.

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