If your baby hates being in the car, you are not alone! It’s not uncommon for babies to dislike car rides. The combination of being strapped into a car seat, the motion of the vehicle, and the unfamiliar environment can make some babies feel uncomfortable or anxious. Here are some tips to help turn dreaded car rides into smoother, more enjoyable journeys for both you and your little one.
Start with short trips:
Just like any new experience, car rides can be overwhelming for babies. Begin by taking short trips to help them become accustomed to the sensation of being in a moving vehicle. As they grow more comfortable, gradually increase the length of the journeys.
Create a comfortable environment:
Ensure that your baby’s car seat is properly installed and adjusted for their age and size. Some car seats are more cushioned than others and may include inserts or head supports to provide additional comfort and support – make sure you follow the manufacturers guidance on how to use these safely for your child’s age and size. Consider placing a familiar and comforting item, like a soft blanket or their favourite toy, within their reach.
Check for any causes of discomfort:
Perform a comfort check to look for anything that could be making your baby feel uncomfortable. Ensure that the car seat harness fits snugly but not too tightly so that they are safe but comfortable.
Dress your baby in clothing appropriate for the temperature to avoid overheating or feeling too cold. Remove any bulky layers – not only will this stop them getting too hot and bothered, but it means you can adequately tighten the harness straps.
Be curious about anything else that could be bothering them. Is the sun in their eyes? Are their clothes itchy? Is the angle of the seat set correctly?
Let them see you:
It is safest for your child to be in a rear facing car seat – safety guidance is that they are rear facing for as long as possible. This means your little one can’t see you when you are upfront in the car which may make them feel anxious or upset. Mounting a safe plastic mirror in the back of the car so they can see you can help them feel more settled and relaxed.
Schedule car rides around nap time:
It can be helpful to try scheduling car rides to coincide with nap time – if they are able to fall asleep during the journey, then it can make a longer journey easier for you both. If your baby will not sleep in the car, then try and time a journey for when they are well rested and more likely to feel relaxed.
If nap times aren’t feeling very predictable, then our online baby and toddler sleep courses can help you get into a great daily routine with your baby’s sleep. We also have a free guide all about nap transitions if you think your little one is ready to drop a nap.
Entertainment and distractions:
Use toys, mirrors, or mobiles designed for car seats within their line of sight. Soft music or lullabies played in the car can create a soothing atmosphere.
Experiment with different toys, music, or even audiobooks to find what captivates and relaxes your little one.
If your baby becomes upset in the car, turn to your tried-and-true calming techniques. Sing a lullaby or talk gently to them, reassuring them with your soothing voice and use a dummy/pacifier, if they use one. You can also try gentle shushing sounds or white noise to create a calming atmosphere.
You might also need to take a moment to calm yourself – it can feel stressful being in the car with your baby when they are upset. Take some deep breaths and focus on keeping your voice calm and soothing.
Plan breaks during longer car rides to give your baby a chance to stretch their limbs, change their nappy, have a feed if needed and get some cuddles and a break from their car seat. These short breaks can do wonders in resetting their mood and making the journey more manageable for both of you.
Have someone sit with them:
If you’re travelling with another adult, consider having them sit next to your baby in the backseat. Having a familiar face nearby can provide reassurance and comfort during the journey.
If your baby’s is regularly distressed or uncomfortable in their car seat, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor. They can rule out any underlying medical conditions and provide additional guidance specific to your baby’s needs.
We hope these practical tips help you overcome challenging car rides with your baby. Remember, every baby is unique, so be patient and adaptable in finding what works best for your little one.
Remember, it’s important to prioritise your baby’s safety while travelling in the car. Always use the appropriate car seat for your baby’s age and weight, take regular breaks and focus on safe travels.
Stay positive, stay calm, and support your baby while they get used to their new way of travelling.
Want more support with your child’s sleep?
If you would like to learn more about sleep and have guidance on how you can approach achieving a predictable routine and well-rested night’s sleep then check out our online courses.
Available from newborn to 4 years old, our courses are designed to help you learn how you can support your child to sleep better.
We share all the information you need to help you really understand your little one’s sleep and how to help them achieve more predictable naps and restful nights – all from your own computer, phone or tablet whenever it suits you.