We often hear stories of babies and toddlers who love going for a ride in the car. For many parents this is a last ditch effort to get them to sleep. There are even TV commercials that depict this scenario. Exhausted mom or dad heads out to the car in their pajamas with a screaming baby. They strap them into their car seats and start driving around the block, until eventually the baby falls asleep.
What if your baby is the exact opposite? What if getting in the car is a horrifying experience for them, and they scream and cry for an entire trip – in turn making it a horrifying experience for you? While we don’t hear about these types of babies as often, this situation is actually quite common. Many parents of infants and toddlers have to deal with this issue. Trying to keep your mind, your eyes, and your hands focused on safe driving while at the same time doing your best to soothe a baby you can’t reach is extremely stressful. So what are your options? Do you just keep driving, hands clenched to the wheel, wanting to scream and cry yourself? No.
Tricks to Soothe the Car Seat Blues
I put together a short list of a variety of different things that you can do to a) soothe your baby and b) your ragged nerves.
How about some tunes? I don’t know about you, but I personally find music to be very powerful. Depending on what I’m listening to, it can make me want to dance, make me want to cry, or relax me. And it just may have similar effects on your child. So why not put together a compilation of music? Depending on your car, you can create a CD, a playlist for your phone, iPod or MP3 player, or perhaps even a USB stick you can plug into your car. Whatever the method, mix together a selection of music for both you and your baby. Some music that will calm and relax you, and perhaps take the edge off of your nerves. And then some of your child’s favorite music as well. Whether that’s lullabies, or any other music that you’ve found that makes them happy. And since hearing your voice should have a positive impact on your child, make sure you sing along. Don’t be shy.
How about some movies? Why not invest in a portable DVD player for your car? If your child has a favorite age appropriate movie, play it for them. Headrest DVD players are relatively inexpensive, and simple to install.
Big brothers — big sisters. This trick is obviously only going to work if your child has older siblings, or at least another older child that you would often transport as well. Having them close by, and being able to see them, can be a great source of comfort for your baby or toddler. Talking with them, playing with them, even making faces at them will be a great source of distraction. If you have two in the back seat, why not put your rear facing infant in the middle, beside a front facing older child. And then provide the older child with toys or books or anything else that could be useful distractions. Your baby can now see the face of someone familiar, and this may be all that’s necessary in order to calm them down. Having their sibling play with them should also prove useful in making your drive more pleasant. If you plan to try this technique, just make sure that the older sibling is old enough to understand not to hurt the younger child.
Rear facing car seat mirrors. It’s very likely that part of what is traumatizing your child while in the car is that they can’t see you. If that’s the case, installing a rear facing mirror just might solve the issue. Placing a large mirror on the headrest of the back seat not only allows your baby to see you — assuming you have taken some time and adjusted it correctly — but allows you to see your baby as well. Being able to see you will hopefully still some of their panic. And even just looking at themselves may prove to be something of a distraction as well.
Pullover, if necessary. Whether or not this is something you want to do, will often depend on several things. How badly is your baby crying — to the point they’re going to make themselves sick? How long is the trip? If your child is just upset and you’re going to reach your destination momentarily, it likely doesn’t make any sense to pull over. However, if your journey is relatively long, pulling over and giving your child some face time may be advantageous. Just be aware that chances are, as soon as you start driving again, so will the screaming and crying.
Is your baby comfortable? Maybe we are all over thinking this, and the issue is just that your child is somehow uncomfortable. Here’s a little bit of a checklist of things you can investigate:
- Are they too hot, too cold, or catching some sort of draft? If there’s a back air vent, check its positioning to see if it’s blowing either hot or cold air directly on the baby.
- Are they getting blinded, or fried by the sun? Perhaps a window shade is the answer.
- Do you drive with the windows down or even cracked? Perhaps air pressure or wind is bothering their ears.
If all of this fails, and your baby still finds traveling in the car to be a stressful situation, don’t give into temptation and turn their car seat around too early. It’s better that they be distressed and crying, then in a position that’s more dangerous to them. Statistics have proven that babies are the safest while in the rear facing position.