Baby Hates The Car Seat? 9 Survival Tips

Baby Hates The Car Seat? 9 Survival Tips

It’s gut wrenching – you need to go somewhere in the car, but the minute you put your baby in the car seat, he starts screaming. And he continues to do so the whole way there.

Unfortunately, it’s not just once, it’s every time.

Rest assured, you’re not alone. Many parents of young babies and toddlers experience the heightened stress of an anti-car baby.

It’s understandably difficult, battling feelings of guilt with the mechanics of driving a car, while attempting to soothe your baby from a distance at the same time.

“Zachary absolutely hated the car from his very first trip. Once he started crying, it would escalate, and the only thing that would calm him down was being removed from the car. I’d take him out and he’d be wet with sweat, shaky, red-eyed. It was incredibly distressing for everyone.” — Talia

“My oldest child would cry if the car stopped. And then he wouldn’t stop until he wore himself out and fell asleep exhausted. Nine years later I still remember vividly rolling up to traffic lights willing them to change before the car stopped.” — Anna

What To Do When Baby Hates The Car Seat

So what can you do to help your baby cope and preserve your nerves as at the same time? Here are 9 great tips from mothers who have made it through to the other side:

Baby Car Seat SOS #1 – Take Some Deep Breaths

When your baby cries, you may feel anxious, upset, stressed and pretty darn horrible. Hearing the sobs and wails is heart breaking, and you can literally feel your blood pressure going through the roof. You probably already know this, but there is nothing you can do. Remember, your baby is wired for safety, which means he wants to be in your arms. Of course this is not practical when driving, so take some slow deep breaths and focus your attention on helping yourself to feel centred. Practice mindfulness and just breathe. By not staying calm yourself, you will only feel worse.

What is mindfulness and how does it help with stress, anxiety and depression? Check out this great clip:

Baby Car Seat SOS #2 – Check Your Thoughts

Thoughts become feelings so check your thoughts. If you’re thinking about how awful the situation is or how bad of a decision you made to drive – you’ll just feel even more rotten. Some good mantras can be helpful. The favourite, ‘this too shall pass’ is a good one. Its important to remember that it’s just a phase and will get better, and eventually be a thing of the past.

“Both my kids went through a stage where they would just scream in the car and there was absolutely nothing that would calm them. The good news is that they both grew out of it in about a month or two (longest month or two ever!). Now they are both happy and content in the car.” — Mylitta

Baby Car Seat SOS #3 – Soothe Your Nerves With Some Tunes

You may find playing some music not only distracts you, but also helps to soothe your baby. You could keep a CD of your baby’s favourite nursery rhymes in the car for these occasions. Alternatively, try having your own karaoke party in the car. Your baby will be soothed by your voice, and you may find this stops him crying. Ok, you might not sound great, but no-one else can hear you. Unless you’re driving in a convertible with the roof down of course…

“I often found music helped keep me calm. I know a crying baby is an awful thing to hear but my stress levels rise if that is ALL I can hear. Music gave baby something else to focus on and me something else to focus on.” — Anna

Baby Car Seat SOS #4 – Siblings To The Rescue

Siblings can be a great source of comfort if they are old enough not to unintentionally hurt baby. Silly faces, songs or gentle talking can help distract baby. Sitting your children close to each other may help to avoid tears in the car. Give the older sibling a selection of toys and books to use in case your baby does become upset.

“One thing that helped was moving his car seat into the middle, so that he was (rear facing) next to his sister, who is 3. Now, they face each other, and she does a fantastic job of keeping him happy, waving toys at him, playing peekaboo etc. So I would recommend trying to put the baby next to a toddler or older sibling, as long as they aren’t going to hurt them!” — Talia

Baby Car Seat SOS #5 – Take Regular Breaks

This one can help; but it can also just delay the inevitable. Most mums find that baby will resume crying once they are placed back into their carseat again. This one comes down to a judgement call really. If you are mid-way through a long journey and baby is crying with hunger, you should find somewhere suitable to pull over. If you’re only driving for a few minutes and baby is crying because he wants a cuddle, it may be best to power through. That way, when the journey is over you can enjoy a big cuddle and not to have to worry about strapping him immediately back into the dreaded car seat.

“If you can safely pull over and give your baby a cuddle then you may like to do this to reassure yourself they are ok but they are also quite likely to start off where they stopped as soon as they are put back into their car seat.” — Anna

Baby Car Seat SOS #6 – Large Baby Mirror

Placing a large baby mirror in the back seat may help. A large mirror will allow you to see how your baby is doing, and will also allow baby to check that you’re still there. With young babies, it could simply be the fear of parental abandonment causing feelings of panic, and being able to see you may help to prevent crying.

Baby Car Seat SOS #7 – Car DVD Player

This one has been a big saviour for our family, especially since we currently live in the country and have big drives most of the time. It’s not that expensive these days to get some headrest DVD players which can play baby’s favourite DVD. It’s made a big difference to our trips and our sanity.

Baby Car Seat SOS #8 – Minimise Trips Where You Can

Some trips are necessary, but it’s okay to surrender and minimise trips where you can. Forget the pressure to be everywhere and do everything – be a homebody for a little while, or just cut back where you can. If you’re meeting friends or family, ask them to come to you instead. If you have older children, ask if others can help with school runs for a little while too. People will understand that it’s not always that easy to get out with a baby.

Public transport is another great alternative while your baby gets through this fussy stage. My daughter loves traveling on the train or bus. She’s right there with me, and when she was little, she’d often sleep through the trips because she’d be cosy in her baby carrier.

If you’re only travelling a short distance, consider walking instead. Keep your baby close in a sling or wrap, and you’ll be able to chat away whilst you walk. Not that he’ll be listening though, chances are he’ll be cuddled up asleep on your chest.

Baby Car Seat SOS #9 – Check Your Baby’s Comfort

Some things you might like to check that could be upsetting your baby include:

  • Is my baby too hot? Some car seats are made from fabrics that don’t breathe so well and they can end up sweaty and sticky, especially on warmer days
  • Is my baby catching too much sun? Sometimes babies end up with too much sun on their face, even through tinted windows
  • Is my baby too cold? Are there any draughts coming through a window? Or could a window down be causing baby’s ears to feel uncomfortable due to the wind?
  • Consider a sucking comfort for your baby – be it your finger or someone else’s

Resist the Temptation To Turn Your Baby’s Car Seat Around Too Early

Babies are safest in your car when they are rear facing. The chances of being in a collision are slim, but it’s important your child is properly protected in case one occurs. In a rear facing car seat, the stress on the child’s neck is minimised in the event of a collision. A baby’s neck muscles are not yet strong enough to withstand the force of a collision. Experts recommend keeping your child rear facing until at least 15 months.

“A lot of mothers are so distressed by crying they turn car seats forward facing. For me, the risks of spinal injury outweigh a few weeks of crying, so whilst it may be tempting, turning the car seat shouldn’t be considered lightly.” — Anna

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Kelly Winder is the creator of, a writer, doula (trained in 2005), and a mother of three awesome children. She's passionate about informing and educating fellow thinking parents and parents-to-be, especially about all the things she wishes she knew before she had her firstborn. Kelly is also passionate about travel, tea, travel, and animal rights and welfare. And travel.


  1. In my view leaving a baby to cry in their car seat while you drive Is the same as leaving a baby to cry in their bed during “sleep training”. My baby hates driving in the car and will only go for short periods being content. So we don’t drive much. We walk and catch public transport. It restricts the things that we do but I believe that, like controlled crying/cry it out methods, it’s harmful to a babies mental health to let them cry in the back seat while we drive. I don’t understand why anyone who is against controlled crying would get in their car and drive with their baby crying in the back seat and be ok with this

    1. It is very difficult that’s for sure. When you have three older kids to take to school and all of a sudden there’s a hold up at the gate (my kids went to school on an army base, it was the best in the area being in the country) and the baby starts crying. What can you do when you have cars in front of you and cars behind you waiting to get through? I made an effort not to travel while she was going through that stage, but it was either risking an upset baby during the drive to school or paying $30-$35 for a taxi one way. When they were a little older, they caught the bus. But sometimes, it’s impossible to avoid the car with a baby. Hopefully mammas have help with friends and family, but that’s not always possible either.

      1. I feel the same way as you.. my bub starts to scream on top of her lungs in the middle of the road up until we arrive at my daughter’s school. I feel anxious when the traffic is so slow with cars ahead of taking time to drop their children off.

    2. It’s great that you have other options than driving with a baby who doesn’t like car rides. However, there are people who don’t have other options. I live 20 miles away from the nearest town. I can’t walk or catch public transport to town, so I have to drive. And with it being small roads with no shoulder, I can’t pull over to sooth baby. Unfortunately, I have to power through the situation while baby cries. It’s not what I want, but it’s what I have to do.

      1. My daughter also lives 40 miles from the grocery store. No public transportation and the only way to shop for anything is a long drive. Baby is 1 yr old and still screams in car seat. Once in awhile she can time shopping trips when it is time for a morning or afternoon nap and baby will sleep on way. Then you have to do enough activities to tire her out for ride home. Also, our daughter herself screamed when she was a baby – it was awful.

    3. I couldn’t agree more. I always have to pull over in a parking lot and calm my daughter down. I once was in a parking lot rocking her to sleep for 45 minutes. I usually don’t get very far in the car so I keep my trips minimal and luckily we live in a very convenient location. I agree that the cry it out method is very harmful!

    4. This isn’t cry it out. Your baby knows you are there, especially if you get the mirror and talk to him or her. I have a mirror and he can see me. He is fine for this first 10 or 15 minutes but after that he is bored and restricted.
      How about you enjoy your perfect life where you can take public transport or just not go in the car and stop judging what other people have to do.
      This is so different from CIO sleep training, Judgy McJudgerson.

      1. I agree, that was a really unhelpful comment. I’d never use Cio method and was out today with my 4 month old and she’s just started doing this. In rush hour traffic I couldn’t turn back and had to power on. It was awful!

      2. Thank you ! That’s is exactly what I said. They over here making parents feel worse than what they already feel and contributing to their anxiety when some of them really don’t have any othe choice. My husband and I are in the military we take separate cars because he is in a different unit therefore our first morning formation are in separate locations so I have no choice but to hear my baby cry on our way to day care and on top of that I get to think about leaving him crying there until I’m released at the end of the day. Not all of us have the privilege to Minimize our trips or stay at home.

    5. We were all little and our parents let us cry and we all survived ok. You can’t gelp it if you have to drive. No one should ever feel bad for this.

  2. My 14 month old daughter hates the car seat so much she has started sticking her fingers down her throat and making herself gag and vomit if she is unhappy. It’s one of the most stressful situations that I have been in, especially in those moments where you simply can’t pull over.

  3. my baby just turned a year and STILL hates car rides. I dread going any where in the car. I think I’ve tried every trick but each distraction only works for a few minutes. We just got back from a vacation where we drove from Canada to Seattle, which was 1 1/2 hours of screaming. It was miserable and mentally/emotionally draining. I avoid driving whenever possible. 🙁

  4. I have the feeling many of the saftey experts have not been in a car with a a baby who screams until they hoke, cannot breathe and turn purple. I had to climb over and fish my half suffocated baby out of her rear facing carseat in the middle of a traffic jam the other day… Dont wish that upon anybody. As to siblings to the rescue – please consider that for a child in a caraeat to be ble to commu icate with a baby i a rear fci g seat they need to lean over (esp. in big cars). That immediately renders their own side safety shield unusabe and unsfe!!! For a child in a high back booster or forward facing carseat to be safe they need to be sitting nicely and upright, not leaning to the side.

    1. I couldn’t agree more!!! My baby cries so hard she chokes and one day she couldn’t catch her breath and I was already pulled over luckily and pulled her out of her car seat. Thank God for backseat mirrors too! Definitely considering turning the car seat forward facing once the baby turns ONE.

  5. My little one keeps getting so worked up that she vomits. I’m wondering whether it could actually be travel sickness?

  6. These suggestions are all about making the parent more comfortable with the situation rather than trying to solve whatever is upsetting the baby. Not very helpful when you want to make the infant happier.

      1. Hello all.
        I agree with Laura and here is my suggestion. Check your car seat! there might be a lump hurting your baby’s back!
        Our baby girl cried every time we went for a long car trip and stopped when we changed the car seat. We were given one car seat that my wife didn’t like because she noticed that there was a big lump right where the baby’s back has to rest so we made sure the car seat we bought had a flat surface to support the back of our baby. Now she is happy and we realised she had a god reason to cry.

  7. I agree with Chi Chi. This sounds like the cry it out method which is so terribly destructive to an infant’s emotional well-being.

    Find someone to tag along so your baby isn’t alone in the backseat. Never let them ‘cry it out’.

  8. I am experiencing a situation that had never imagined before…my baby daughter of 10 months old is always crying when we go out with the car. She has even vomited several times. I feel really bad about this situation, I had to cancel also my holidays because of what happened.
    We tried almost everything with her, but it is impossible.
    Meantime more she grows more she understands. Recently she doesn’t want to see the car anymore. It is being like a nightmare for her.

  9. My baby is 5months, he’s never liked the car seat, always crying from.the start to finish. I dread driving because its become like this everytime. Summertime was a nightmare, he’d cry and sweat so bad i felt so guilty. I’ve tried many tricks but they don’t last..i also have a 5 year son who helps out alot during school run but the trips to and from school.are so stressful with the constant crying.

  10. My baby is 5months, he’s never liked the car seat, always crying from.the start to finish. I dread driving because its become like this everytime. Summertime was a nightmare, he’d cry and sweat so bad i felt so guilty. I’ve tried many tricks but they don’t last..i also have a 5 year son who helps out alot during school run but the trips to and from school.are so stressful with the constant crying.

  11. I’m in the same situation with my 2 month old.
    He screams and nothing can console him. I have to pull over MANY times and take him out of his seat and hold/love him for a few minutes , and then back in the car seat. It’s a pain to say the least! But it’s better than letting him scream and cry it out! At this age letting a baby cry it out in a crib or car seat is just not ok to do EVER!
    So if I absolutely have to go out with my lil one , I make sure it’s a MUST and I plan on pulling over a lot if it’s a trip longer than 5-10 min. I also try and put him in his seat as much as possible in the house ( like when I wash dishes up on the counter) so he gets use to his seat.

  12. Our 14 month old girl was a mess in the car from very early on, maybe 2 or 3 months, and is still not very good in it. We love driving but drive way less since we had our baby. I honestly found this article not very helpful (for me) as being mindful and putting on music are useless for me as, like many mothers here said, I can’t stand my baby to be stressed and crying. So I will share a tip that has been a HUGE help to us with Amy. It may not work for everyone, but it has been extremely helpful – not 100% foolproof mind you – but it’s gotten us through many car rides and has been a lifesaver. I noticed one day that when I started singing her favorite song or reciting her favorite book (she LOVES books) she calmed down. But it was hard to drive and recite books, and not much fun to recite the entire book “Giraffes Can’t Dance” several times in a row. A mom suggested I record myself reading her stories! Bingo! I recorded myself reading all her favorite books and made CDs for our vehicles. We never travel without them. We don’t love hearing the stories but my husband and I agree it sure beats hearing her cry. I recorded each story as a separate track and can fast forward if one isn’t cutting the mustard. Some are almost surefire baby-shutter-uppers. The key is to read with gusto – make voices for the characters and really get into it. She is entertained, imagining her favorite stories. Life saver. Hope it helps someone.

  13. I had the same issues with my 10-month-old granddaughter when we went on vacation a few weeks ago. She had her cousins and aunt in the back of the minivan with her, but she wouldn’t settle in the car for more than 20 minutes at a stretch. Living in Arctic Canada, she isn’t used to the car seat and, not having any issues with my children who also grew up in Arctic Canada, it came as a surprise. There were lots of stops to try to console her.

    For our upcoming family vacation, for any longer trips, we’ve decided that she and her mom will fly or take the bus. It will be more expensive, but it will be a lot more peaceful and happier for everyone involved.

  14. Oh god… reading through this article made me want to cry because none of the advice is something I haven’t already tried! Tried music, tried distraction, have a mirror, have a sibling, have a window shade, have a pacifier… I’ve tried getting him in the seat when he’s tired, when it’s warm but not too warm, when it’s cool but not too cold. tried when he’s already asleep, tried when he’s awake and fed, tried when I’m sitting there in the back seat looking at him — probably the only thing I haven’t tried is strapping him on the roof! He also hates the stroller. So I have become a hermit. He’s 10 weeks and has been doing this since day 1. I’ve never seen a 13 year old screaming entire car journeys so I’m sure this will pass but in the meanwhile, neither he nor I can take this level of anxiety so we will be walking a lot and using the baby carrier but that’s it!

  15. My first one had no problem with a car. That said, we did many fun things when he was a baby including hiking, swimming, baby / parent groups etc.
    My second one hates car! She has made me stay very ” still”.
    If I have to go somewhere, and have someone to go with me ,aka to drive, I start her in a car seat .If she’s gets upset, I’ll take her out and nurse/ hold her rest of the trip. I know this is not safe practice by modern standards, but how many of us were on car seats back in the day…. I know they didn’t exists when I was young. Not the safest practice but I don’t believe letting your baby cry is either. This is not to judge anyone. I know sometimes there’s no option.
    If I have to drive with her alone, I time drive around her naps if possible. If not, I give her some distraction : new teething toy, rattle, teething biscuit etc. Lots of silly sounds and singing. This might work or not….
    I know this shall pass ( I hope!). She is 11 months, in a forward facings car seat, and car rides are getting batter .Not great, but better.
    Meditate on this: : soon your baby will be 3 and this all is memory. Hang in!

    1. OMG, you are comparing Apple’s and oranges… go research what happens to babies not strapped in car seats in the event of car accidents, even if you think holding them is good enough…
      Let me tell you, the injuries sustained to a baby in a car crash not in a seat is ALOT worse than crying for a few minutes. I really hope child welfare find out and investigate such negligent behaviour from you….

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