9 Ways to Cope When Your Baby Refuses The Car Seat

This post is part 4 of 4 of Happikiddo’s “Buckle Up No Excuse” road safety series. #buckleupnoexcuse

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For some parents, a car ride is a guaranteed nap for their baby but for others, it can be a stressful scream-fest instead. Trying to drive while your little one wails and cries at the top of her lungs is challenging, to say the least.

Crying baby

A mum shares her frustration with us:

“My 3-month old baby hates the car. The crying begins as soon as I start driving. We’ve tried everything: adjusting the straps, using a blanket, not using a blanket, hanging toys from the handle but nothing works. Occasionally he’ll cry himself to sleep, but for the most part driving with him is a nightmare. I’m about to give up. What can we do to improve his experience with car seat?” – Helen Wee, mum to Oskar

Crying is usually less severe than thought; it’s a baby’s way to communicate. Although it’s tough to deal with, always remember that you and your baby’s safety come first. No matter how tempting it may be, never take a crying baby out of the car seat. It’s extremely dangerous and counterproductive, making it even more difficult for your child to get used to riding in her car seat.

The good news is – with time, consistency and a few trials and errors – your baby will eventually become a happy traveller. Just don’t give up and give in!

Here are some tips we found useful:

Tip #1: Make sure baby is comfortable

  • Dress baby lightly. Car seat is akin to an insulated bucket and crying makes baby even warmer.
  • Remove baby’s hat to prevent overheating and having it drift down over his eyes.
  • Make sure the air-conditioner is not blowing directly on baby’s face.
  • Take out the U-shaped “head support” especially if you’re living in a tropical climate as it can get really warm.
  • Make sure your baby hasn’t outgrown his car seat too. A too-tight harness is not fun.
  • Put up a sunshade in the window. Just make sure to avoid any hard ones that could come off and bop your baby during a quick stop.

Tip #2: Establish familiarity
This may sound a little cumbersome but try bringing the car seat into the house and let your baby sit and play in it at the beginning. Once she gets used to it, she may be happier to sit there in the car.


Tip #3: Entertain with toys or images
You can keep your baby occupied in the car by doing the following:

  • Keep a special box of soft, safe toys such as furry friends or foam blocks, specially for car rides only. These may hold baby’s attention for a while during the journey. Avoid hard toys because they could cause injury in an abrupt stop.
  • Tape or hang lightweight toys at where your baby can see. Place them just at arm’s reach so that your baby can bat at them from his seat.
  • Hang a baby-friendly picture poster with colours like black, white, red and bold primary shades on the back of the seat that faces your baby. Change the pictures regularly. You can also take a photo of your face, with a nice and big, happy smile. Blow up the picture to about A4 size and position it where your baby can see it.
  • Sucking or chewing on a small, soft toy can help pacify your baby. Stick to objects that are large enough not to present a choking hazard.

Tip #4: Music and sounds
Music has a calming effect on some babies. Play lullabies or sounds made especially for young children. Keep experimenting until you find a favourite. You can also opt to play ‘white noise’ such as those of calming nature sounds. Or wind down the windows by just a little. Fresh, cool air and the whooshing noise may help.  Easiest still, talk to your baby – mummy’s voice is the best!

Tip #5: Practice makes perfect
A few pleasant experiences may help set a new pattern. Take advantage of times when your baby is in a good mood by practising with short drives. Have someone sit near her and keep her entertained.

Tip #6: Driver-baby mirror
Get a special driver-baby mirror that allows you to see each other. Seeing a familiar face will help baby to overcome any separation anxiety she may be feeling. Be careful not to keep checking on your baby though; your focus should be solely on the road and everyone’s safety.

Tip #7: Snacks
For toddlers, you can keep them occupied with some safe, choke-free treats in the car.


Tip #8: Plan ahead
Try to consolidate trips as much as possible to avoid lengthy car rides. Since your baby’s discomfort over a wet diaper or a little gas can be intensified by sitting in the car, timing your journeys properly can make all the difference in the world. You may want to give him a bottle right before you go out, burp him, and rock him till he drifts off a little before putting him in his car seat. During lengthy road trips, stop by a rest area to take a break every 1-2 hours.

Tip #9: Rule out health issues
If your baby only recently starts crying in the car seat when she’s been okay all the while –  or if she has been particularly fussy at home – she may have an ear infection or other illness. Visit your pediatrician to rule out any possible health risks.

Do you have any other tips to share with new parents?


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