So, your baby hates the car.
I get it. I’ve been there, with both of my children. It’s beyond miserable for everyone involved. The baby is crying hysterically, the siblings are covering their ears trying to drown out the screams, and the parents…oh the poor, poor parents are merely trying to survive.
If you are anything like us, you’ve thrown your shoulders out reaching in to the backseat to hold hands and comfort, and lost your voice while loudly singing “Old McDonald” for hours on end, and all while trying to arrive at the intended destination safely without screaming any expletives.
I’ve avoided going places as to not have to listen to ear-piercing screams for the. entire. ride. I have researched what it would take to install a limousine partition in my vehicle so I could simply press a button, roll that puppy up, and drive in sweet, sweet silence. I have purchased specific toys, snacks and bribes to encourage happiness. For a period, we would only travel if my husband and I could both be in the car so one of us (me) could sit in the back and comfort, wedged in between two car seats. It helped a little; that’s what I was telling myself anyway.
I’ve tried everything. There is no simple answer as to why your baby or toddler despises car trips. I rationalized the misery by saying my babies simply know what they want in life. Trust me, if it were easy, by now I would have found the golden ticket!
There are, however, some checklist items and tips that may ease some of the pain. Keep in mind, most often it’s a matter of outgrowing the discomfort, for both mom and baby, but maybe these tricks will help alleviate some of the stress if only for a few moments.
- Take a deep breath. Stating the obvious here, right? You are thinking, “thanks for the useless advice!” In all honesty, the incessant crying is just as, if not more, stressful for the mom or dad as it is for the baby. Real life requires traveling by car. Grocery store trips, soccer games, grandparent visits; they are all necessary to arrive by vehicle. Sorry kid. Take a deep breath and know the screaming WILL stop once you arrive. If you are sure the baby is not in distress or hungry and is simply put out by the car seat, 99% of the time they will be chipper and ready to charm the moment the back seat door opens. Your job is to arrive alive to the intended destination. Do your best to block out the screams and focus on the road, as hard as it seems.
- Time the trip strategically (if possible). It’s hard to give up the baby-free break nap-time provides. Sometimes, however, you have to pick your battles, which means naps must occur in the car. Often, I would nurse or feed the baby immediately before needing to leave. Everything in the car would be packed, and we would place the baby in the seat as if we were carrying a WWII-era ticking time bomb. Most times it worked, and we would arrive to the intended destination refreshed, without our ears bleeding.
- Pump up the jams. Playing a CD, or using a phone to blast white noise or nursery rhymes can soothe the baby before they reach the DEFCON level of screaming. Singing a favorite song on repeat can also be helpful. Since the baby is faced backward and object permanence is not yet understood, singing reminds them you are still there.
- Pay close attention to climate control. Being too hot or too cold really pisses a baby off. If stuffy or too warm, a cracked window offers relief and also provides some white noise to soothe.
- Gather a Bribe Bag Once my babies were old enough to eat snacks and play with toys, the screaming went from immediately after hearing the buckle click to at least five minutes after departure. Those five minutes were glorious and felt like a tropical vacation (compared to the alternative). I purchased several snacks and toys only meant for the car. The toys were extra special ones with lights, noise and movement. The snacks were the same level of special, and were never to be brought in to the house and lose their excitement.
- Enlist a sibling to help. The innocent siblings are the bystanders in all of this. Thank goodness for headphones or testing for hearing damage would need to be seriously considered. Babies often adore older siblings, and asking them to make funny faces or sing silly songs can help, especially on a short trip. Make a game out of the number of giggles they can elicit. Reward from the Bribe Bag if necessary. After all, if the sibling can keep the little one happy, he or she deserves it!
The good news behind all of this torture is it WILL eventually get better. The baby will outgrow this phase, and the screams will dissipate. You’ll enjoy a few months of giggles and relaxation in the car before the annoyance moves to answering the question “are we there yet?” approximately 94 times each trip.
Take comfort in knowing you have a child who is not afraid to express his or her feelings. They know what they want, and go after it. This makes for a successful adult, right? Right?!?!!
Hang in there, girl.