I did a face palm when I looked out the window. There was my husband, in the car with our two month old daughter. Back and forth. Back and forth. Definitely not normal. Last time I let him drive, I thought. “What gives?” I asked when I climbed into the car. “When the car stops, she cries,” he answered. Sure enough, I noticed it too. Every stop sign or red light, she would either cry or wake from a nap.
So, short of avoiding traffic stops, what were we to do? Our daughter was a great sleeper. It was a real blessing for us as new parents. But car trips were hit or miss. We lived in a busy little town and avoiding stops and crosstown traffic just wasn’t going to happen.
Baby, You Can Drive My Car
Sort of. Baby is in the driver’s seat when we plan our trips. Like I said, she was a fabulous sleeper at home and in the car when it was moving. But the moment we stopped, the crying began. If she was in a deep sleep, any stoppage would wake her. It was so frustrating. Yet, it seemed impossible to cure.
For a few months we kept our daily trips as short as possible. Being new parents, we weren’t sure if she was having motion sickness. To begin with, we took short trips to the market or the park. Gradually we increased the length of the trips, and our Saturday road trips were back on track. Within a month she was a joyful voyager exploring the limits of her known world from the car seat.
Make for a Comfortable Ride
We were lucky that the issue we experienced was isolated. Long trips on the highway were never an issue. But those short trips were sometimes a nightmare.
If your baby is wailing in the car, check on the obvious things first. Inspect the car seat. Adjust the harness properly. Make sure that those straps aren’t pinching her skin or bunching up her outfit. Remember to remove bulky winter coats. Aside from being uncomfortable, they’re also unsafe. A bulky coat equates to loose straps in an accident. Instead, purchase a wrap that covers the car seat and will keep her warm and free from painful constriction.
Next, look inside the car. Are the vents blowing on her? Or, is she not getting enough from the car’s climate control system? Redirect those vents where necessary.
Sun glare is another culprit to consider. She can’t don the sunglasses, so invest in a window shade or two and block out those rays. Feel the car seat in and its buckles and you’ll quickly realize how hot the seat can get. It doesn’t take long for the sun to go from sleep inducing to roasting. Also make sure that glare from other cars’ headlights aren’t angling into her eyes. The canopy on the car seat is usually enough to negate this nuisance.
And I know how much you love your music. But turn it down! Take a look at your car’s interior. Newer vehicles have speakers everywhere. Avoid the thumping bass from rocking her out of her mind. Chances are music will soothe her in the car. But if it doesn’t consider white noise or nature sounds. Plenty are available in the many music apps out there. Also consider plugging in some of her favorite lullabies.
Keep it Entertaining
Let’s face it, a trip in the car can be so boring. Unfortunately, your baby isn’t much for conversation at this point. Sometimes sitting next to her is the easiest way to soothe her. Pack plenty of her favorite toys too. For safety purposes, keep soft toys on hand in the car. A hard plastic toy could turn into a projectile during a quick stop or evasive maneuver.
How about the mobile over the crib? They sell them for car seats too. These are a perfect option to keep her entertained. I remember sitting in the front with my husband, the both of us giggling over the cooing sounds she made. Another item to consider is the safety mirror on the back seat. It’s easy to smile and wave to her, and she’ll be comforted by seeing and hearing you.
When you’re home, bring the car seat inside. Let her sit in it while you play and talk. Take any negative associations away from the car seat. Gradually increase the time. Some kids even will nap in their car seats. For most babies it’s just a matter of proper conditioning.
Do you own a stroller system that incorporates the car seat? If you do―use it! These walks will increase her sense of familiarity with the car seat outside of the car.
When All Else Fails
Without a doubt, some babies just aren’t into the car. If the above options don’t make an impact, it’s time to look at some other possibilities. Make sure she isn’t experiencing motion sickness. Have you been feeding her before or after trips in the car? If you notice that she’s fussier in the car after a feeding, then mix up the feeding times. If possible, try and feed at least thirty minutes before a trip or immediately after.
Once again, make sure all is secure with the car seat. Make certain that she hasn’t begun to outgrow it. Ensure that her head is secure. There are plenty of inserts available that will keep her head from wobbling. When all else fails, ask your pediatrician for advice. Many times it’s the simple fixes they know from experience that we often overlook.
Hit the Road
Any road trip is a system of checks. Snacks, gas, bottles, diapers. Make sure all are on board. Keep the toys ready. Have some comforting music or soundscapes in the queue. Road trips are all about having fun, and make for perfect family adventures. Follow these points and you’ll be sure to have a wandering little spirit tagging along well into the future.
Emily Anderson is a mother of three children, all under the age of 10. Located in the Pacific Northwest of the US, Emily is a mom and part-time blogger, jumping in front of the computer when the kids are sleeping. She started this blog in April of 2019 and is proud that the blog is now paying for itself. If you want to know about her journey as a blogger, check out out her personal digital journal or her post about failing her way to blogging success.