Car Seat Crying – 8 Tips To Reduce Crying In The Car

Car Seat Crying – 8 Tips To Reduce Crying In The Car

Life with a new baby certainly has its challenges.

Your day now revolves around frequent feeds, nappy changes and nap times.

Somehow, in the midst of your new and unpredictable routine, you have to squeeze in errands, doctor appointments, and even school or work commutes.

But what do you do if your baby cries every time you put him in the car seat?

How can you drive safely with the loud distraction of a crying baby?

Car Seat Crying – 8 Tips To Reduce Crying In The Car

My second son was a crier. He cried a lot. Even when we tried our best to meet his needs, he was simply a high needs baby. Add reflux and a very high-pitched cry, and any car trip turned into a nightmare.

Sometimes he’d settle while the car was moving, but he would scream at the top of his lungs at every red light, or in bumper-to-bumper traffic. We were city dwellers in a large metro area, so this made daily errands awful for us and certainly for him too.

Every baby is unique, but sometimes a bit of problem solving, trial and error, and making simple changes can help reduce crying in the car.

Why Do Some Babies Cry In The Car?

“Just take a ride in the car and she’ll fall right to sleep!”

Most of us have heard this advice. A fussing baby won’t settle? Just try a car ride. That sounds great, unless you have one of those babies who simply cry as soon as they get near a car seat.

Because all babies are different, their reasons for disliking car rides also vary. My son was a high needs baby and we eventually figured out his crying in the car was probably part-personality, and part-discomfort because of not very well controlled reflux.

Whatever it was, it wasn’t fun.

Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Nap Solution, recently shared what she thought was a big reason why some babies cry in the car.

According to Pantley, many infants hate the car seat because they dislike the lack of freedom to move around. This makes a lot of sense, especially for older infants who are practising and perfecting their gross motor skills.

Many younger infants cry for the same reasons babies wake or cry as soon as they’re put down. Young infants are simply wired to be attached to their caregivers.

As nice as it might be to be able to hold and snuggle your baby, even during long car rides, it is never safe to hold an infant in a moving car. Babies should always be properly buckled in, in an approved infant car seat.

So, if babies cry because they can’t move, or because they aren’t being held, what can you do to reduce the crying?

It certainly isn’t safe to let them crawl around the car, or hold them, but there are things you can do to help reduce tears.

Here are 8 tips to reduce crying in the car:

#1: Check The Fit 

Babies have a way of growing overnight. A jacket that fitted perfectly yesterday might look too small today.

Even if you just adjusted the car seat straps three days ago, take another look. Is a too-tight strap applying uncomfortable pressure?

Where is the baby's head landing? Has he outgrown the seat? Is it time to remove the newborn insert?

Read the owner’s manual and check the weight and height limits for the seat, as well as any of the included accessories, like the strap covers or newborn inserts. Remember, never use aftermarket inserts, only those that came with the seat are safe.

#2: Provide Some Entertainment 

As adults, we sometimes enjoy a quiet ride. Our lives are usually busy and rushed, so time in the car can be an occasional moment of quiet reflection – unless we’re stuck in a traffic jam.

But for young, developing minds, a car ride can quickly become boring. Does your little one have some soft toys? A plush book? Try to rotate toys with each car ride so he isn’t bored.

Providing babies with a variety of toys can help keep their attention and prevent some tears. Be sure to use only soft objects; hard ones pose an injury risk if you brake suddenly, or in the event of a car accident.

#3: Play Entertaining Or Soothing Music

Depending on the time of day and your child’s mood, music can sometimes help prevent crying in the car.

If it’s near nap time or bedtime, or if you’re leaving an event where your baby has been stimulated, instrumental and calm music can be helpful in soothing him to sleep.

Jazz or classical music without lyrics is better to help babies settle. Lyrics can be more stimulating, so if you’re trying to help them fall asleep, play instrumental pieces.

If your baby is alert and playing with toys, a variety of music will entertain and distract him.

#4: Check The Temperature

Depending on your vehicle and your child’s car seat, it isn’t always reliable to use your comfort as a measure for his.

If you have a sedan that has air vents only in the front, and your infant is rear facing, he might be much colder or hotter than you are. Be sure to check. Dress him appropriately, use the windows, angle the air vents differently, and so on, to make sure your baby is comfortable too.

You can also use a sunshade to keep him cooler and prevent the sun from getting in his eyes.

#5: Provide A Familiar Face – Hang A Mirror

A soft covered mirror, hung so baby can look into it, is good entertainment. Your baby will enjoy watch himself. It can also provide reassurance if you’re able to angle it so you can look back at him, and he can see you too.

#6: Let Your Baby Explore The Seat And Get Used To It

If babies cry every time they are put into their car seat, they can develop a negative association with it. Even if you’ve solved any problems, a negative association means your baby will continue to cry whenever he's in the seat.

You can bring the car seat into the house and let him play around it, to create a more positive association.

#7: Rule Out Any Health Concerns

If your child doesn’t typically cry in the car and then suddenly cries a lot more, it might be worth checking into the possibility of ear infections, teething, etc.

If your baby cries often in general, and especially in the car, it might be worth looking into common infant health problems such as reflux. You can raise any health concerns with your baby’s health visitor or doctor.

#8: Be Patient – This Too Will Pass

Although it isn’t a solution, and it isn’t always fun to hear, you should know this phase of life won’t last forever. Not meaning to scare you, but we had a few very long years of car seat crying in our family. It did eventually end. And don’t be too concerned; it isn’t common for a child to cry in the car all the way through toddlerhood – we just got lucky.

Combine errands when you can, rather than having to run out several times a day. If you know baby will or won’t sleep in the car, plan your trips with his nap routine in mind.

Remember, it might be challenging for you, but it’s also just as challenging for your poor uncomfortable baby.

Safety Is The Most Important Thing

There’s hardly anything more frustrating than being in the car and feeling unable to soothe your baby. It can be tempting to add plush aftermarket products, loosen the straps, or even take your baby out of the car seat to settle him.

However, any one of these actions can have serious consequences in the event of a sudden stop or crash. It’s vital car seats be installed and used properly. If you have any questions about installation or car seat use, be sure to contact a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST).

If you need to settle your baby, it’s important to pull over to a safe location before unbuckling him from his seat.

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Maria Pyanov CPD, CCE CONTRIBUTOR

Maria Silver Pyanov is a mama of four energetic boys and one unique little girl. She is also a doula and childbirth educator. She’s an advocate for birth options, and adequate prenatal care and support. She believes in the importance of rebuilding the village so no parent feels unsupported.


One comment

  1. Yep, my daughter used to cry a lot in the car seat during the first few months, especially in traffic or once I stopped at a red light. Once the car was moving a bit fast it was fine. But after about 6 months, she started to get better in the car and now at almost 9 months, she hardly cries in the seat anymore, and mostly “sings” herself to sleep now. It also helped to get the tot view mirror for the rear facing car seat.
    It really gets better with time.

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