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What to do when your baby hates the car seat

The following tricks can help you to find a solution for car rides.

baby hates the car seat

There are two types of babies in the world: Those who love the car seat and those who cry at the mere sight of a car seat. My children fell into the latter category, so I spent years deciding whether or not it was even worth it to leave my house knowing a car ride full of wailing awaited me.

And I know I'm not the only one. Parents are constantly searching for the elusive trick that will make baby stop crying in the car. Proper use of car seats helps infants in car accidents, and the design protects babies' heads and spinal cords in case of a crash. Unfortunately, babies don't understand these benefits. They just know they can't see mama and no one is holding them.

Upset babies are hard to deal with all on their own, but the distracted driving that comes with a crying child in the car seriously augments the problem. It's no wonder. Research proves that all humans—not just parents—have a hard time ignoring the sounds of a crying infant. We are primed to help, according to scientists. A parent stuck in a car with a crying infant will likely feel panic, sadness and fear that can manifest in an increased heart rate and stress.


Dr. Teri Mitchell APRN CNM IBCLC explains why a baby's cries are so hard on parents and babies in these situations. She says the kind of cry a child emits when separated from a caregiver is specific in its demands. “There's a name for this particular type of cry: the separation distress cry," Dr. Mitchell says. “It's nature's built-in way of making sure that mothers go to their babies and ensure that they feel safe."

Children whose separation distress is not tended to because parents are stuck in rush-hour traffic will continue to do what is normal for them in this situation: scream. Dr. Rakesh Radheshyam Gupta says that “crying may lead to vomiting in infants and may cause hoarseness of voice."

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The following tricks can help you find a solution for car rides when your baby hates the car seat.

1. Make them comfortable from the start.

Babies who become upset the minute they are placed in the car seat are unlikely to calm down for the remainder of the ride. That's why it's important to start off strong by making the seat as comfortable as possible right from the beginning.

Don't let a baby lean back on the seat straps while loading them. The sudden feel of those obtrusive items on a baby's back can startle them or cause discomfort—enough to remind them that they hate the car seat. Items like LulaClips pin to the car seat straps to hold them out of the way while loading or unloading a child from the car seat. This makes the process fast and easy, and it can also help keep a sleeping baby from waking up during the transfer from mom's arms to the seat.

If your older baby still hates the car, incorporate frequent trial runs into your week while your baby is awake to create a positive association. With the car in park, sit in the backseat and play with baby while they're strapped in. Move to the front seat for short stints after they get used to the setup.

2. Consider what they're wearing.

Temperature can be a problem for babies when in car seats, but not in the way most parents expect. As opposed to being too cold, many babies struggle in the car because they are too warm.

Babies should never be placed in a car seat wearing a jacket. Not only will they overheat, but the bulk of a jacket keeps the car seat straps from working properly.

Take the weather into consideration, of course, but since the car is temperature controlled, dress the baby in normal clothes and save the jackets or extra layers for when it's time to get out of the car.

3. Sing a song.

Parents swear by music as a soother for kids during car rides, and researchers support the idea of using music to calm babies. In one study, babies exposed to music stayed calm twice as long as babies exposed to baby talk or adult speech.

Cueing up a playlist of baby's favorite songs can work, but singing to the baby along with the music has benefits for all involved. Besides calming them, singing a tune can also calm parents.

4. Plan around gas.

Sure, make sure you have enough gas in the car to get to where you want to go, but also plan around a baby's gas. A baby who experiences major gas after a meal is not going to like feeling constrained. Plan car rides long enough after meal times for a baby to get the gas out at home when moving around is possible.

Children with reflux also have unique challenges in car seats as they don't allow them to move freely so they can have problems getting comfortable if they can't find the right position due to stomach or reflux pain.

One mom found that her son's reflux took care of itself around the 6-month mark, and car rides suddenly weren't a problem anymore. Waiting for reflux to fix itself is difficult, however, so talking to a pediatrician or finding natural ways to deal with it are preferable. It's possible that controlled reflux will equal peaceful car rides for all.

Children do grow out of the screaming-in-the-car phase, but these tactics can help move them towards happier car rides sooner. With a little advanced planning, peaceful car rides may be around the next bend.

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Why right now is the best time for a drivable getaway

Flexible schedules mean more vacation options. 🙌

Looking back now, last winter feels like a lifetime ago. At the time, my husband and I were eagerly planning our summer vacation just as we've done in years past. You know how the next part goes: COVID-19 came into the picture and changed our plans not only for vacationing, but for so much else in life.

In the time since then, we've gained a truly valuable new perspective on what matters—and realized we don't have to look so far to make beautiful memories with our kids. By exploring getaways within driving distance of our home, we've developed a new appreciation for the ability to "pack up the car and go."

Of course, that isn't to say that travel is the carefree adventure it once was. With COVID-19 still a very big part of the equation, we've become much more diligent about planning trips that allow for social distancing and exceed cleanliness standards. That's why we've exclusively turned to Vrbo, which helps us find nearby accommodations that meet our new criteria. Better yet?

Thanks to the money we've saved by skipping air travel and our remote-friendly work schedules, we're able to continue with the trips throughout the fall.

Here are a few more reasons we believe it's a great time for drivable getaways.

Flexible schedules allow us to mix work + play.

After months of lockdown, my family was definitely itching for a change of scenery as the summer began. By looking at drivable destinations with a fresh set of eyes—and some helpful accommodation-finding filters on Vrbo—we were able to find private houses that meet our needs. (Like comfortably fitting our family of five without anyone having to sleep on a pull-out couch!)

With space to spread out and feel like a home away from home, we quickly realized that we didn't need to limit our getaways to the weekends—instead we could take a "Flexcation," a trip that allows us to mix work and play. Thanks to the ability to work remotely and our kids' distance-learning schedule for the fall, we're planning a mid-week trip next month that will allow us to explore a new destination after clocking out for the day.

We’re embracing off-season deals.

With Labor Day no longer marking the end of our vacationing season, we're able to take advantage of nearby getaways that mark down their rates during the off season. For us in the Mountain West, that means visiting ski-town destinations when the leaves are falling rather than the snow. By saving money on that front, we're able to splurge a bit with our accommodations—so you can bet I search for houses that include a private hot tub for soaking in while enjoying the mountain views!

Vacationing is a way to give back.

If we've learned one thing this year, it's that life can change pretty quickly. That's given us a new appreciation for generous cancellation policies and transparent cleaning guidelines when booking trips. By seeing both of these things front and center in Vrbo listings along with reviews from fellow travelers, I feel confident when I hit the "book now" button.

Beyond that, I know that booking a trip through Vrbo isn't only a gift to my family. On the other side of the transaction, there are vacation home owners and property managers who appreciate the income during these uncertain times. What's more, taking getaways allows us to support our local economy—even if it's just by ordering new takeout food to enjoy from our home away from home.

While "looking ahead" doesn't feel as easy as it once did, I am confident that there will be a lot of drivable getaways in our future.

This article was sponsored by Vrbo. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Detective set

Plan Toys detective set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

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Mama, all I see is you

A love letter from your baby.

Mama,

I can't see past you right now, I'm so small and everything's a little blurry.

All I see is you.

When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I'm here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren't lonely for me.

You are my everything.

When you feel like you don't know what you're doing, you're making it look easy to me. Even though we're still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

I trust you.

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