Car seats are a necessity for every family that plans on traveling with kids. You have to hope for the best, but unfortunately, not all infants go along with being strapped in for the ride – at least, not without kicking up a fuss. Even if you manage to pull this off, there’s no guarantee your baby won’t get back to being difficult about this somewhere down the line.
Your baby suddenly hating the car seat might be a sign that you need to readjust the seat’s fit. It could also mean that they’re craving more direct attention from you and your partner during the ride. Your kid may be fed up with how long you’re keeping them cooped up there.
Try fixing this by normalizing the car seat in their daily lives. Practice making generous use of distractions – toys, music, even talks – to keep them calm throughout the whole trip.
There’s always a reason behind your baby suddenly hating car seats – especially if they’ve been okay until this point. Figure out what you could do to improve your baby’s riding experience.
Reason #1: It May Not Be Comfortable Anymore
Babies grow pretty fast, rapidly outpacing their car seats fit in as little as a few months! Car seats need to have their straps and recline adjusted frequently for the sake of your baby’s comfort.
Poor fits are more than just an inconvenience for them – these can lead to health issues. Improper car seat fits could cause cramps or breathing issues for your infant. In extreme cases, your infant may even suffer from positional asphyxia, suffocating in a matter of minutes!
If you aren’t sure how to best proceed, it’s a lot safer to err on the side of caution: looser fits are better bets than snug ones. You could always accommodate the former with extra pillows and blankets to provide the necessary padding for your baby’s well-being.
A perfectly fitted car seat is good, but it’s not always enough. The next thing you need to check for is placement. Your car seat’s current position in the car might not be ideal, making your infant feel dizzy during the ride.
Watch for signs of dizziness or discomfort. Paleness, unfocused eyes, poor or slouched posture, or weakness are dead giveaways for someone about to lose their lunch – get the vomit bag out quick. Not paying attention to this possibility could get your car covered in sick!
In general, you want the baby’s car seat firmly in the center of your vehicle. This makes your baby less likely to get dizzy during the ride. It’s also one of the safest places inside your car!
Reason #2: They Want More Attention
Even the most comfortable car seats will get in the way of your baby’s fun, limiting how they can play and interact with their surroundings. Your baby suddenly hating their car seat could just be a sign that they got fed up with not getting the attention they want.
Unfortunately, you won’t always be available to provide your infant with that kind of direct engagement. It’s hard to entertain your baby while keeping both eyes focused safely on the road. This is easier to manage with other people in the car, but their presence is far from guaranteed.
You don’t need to play with your baby to attend to them. In fact, just talking to them – as you would any other passenger in your car – is more than enough to keep them occupied.
Communicating with your child helps them develop a grasp of language and bolsters their cognition. Even one-way communication contributes to this, so feel free to chat their little ear off!
Do keep your tone in check here. While it’s true that babies won’t understand what you’re saying, they will pick up on the emotions underlying it. Babies are especially capable of picking up on negative emotions like anger and might end up feeling anxious due to your display.
You’re trying to occupy them, not worry them. Feel free to talk about your day, but make sure you aren’t accidentally venting your frustrations at your little one.
Reason #3: They’re Getting Cramped Up for Too Long
There might be nothing wrong with the car seat itself – the big problem could just be how long they’re stuck like that! It’s easy to lose track of time while driving, but your baby is going to feel every minute of that wait.
Car seats are designed to protect your baby but do so at the cost of their immediate freedom and range of motion. No one likes being restricted like that – and having it be the case for long periods of time could bore your baby to tears.
If you’re riding for more than half an hour at a time, try adding a few short breaks in between. This helps with the pace of the trip, allowing your baby to let loose and stretch a bit. If you can spare the time, haul your baby out of the car seat and onto your lap for a few minutes of cuddling.
Five minutes of quality time can drastically improve how well the next hour of your trip would play out. Doing this also has the added bonus of normalizing the car seat’s presence in their life, which is something important we’ll be elaborating on in the next subheading.
Remedy #1: Get Them Used to The Seat Again
The car seat isn’t very enjoyable for your baby, but what might be making it worse is the feeling of isolation they end up associating with it. Think of it like a detention room – a place where they expect to be uncomfortable, so they’ll never see it as anything but unless you try to change that.
In the same way that a room is just a room, their car seat should remain a car seat. Normalize its presence in their lives – don’t let all of their encounters with the car seat be negative.
Give them a good reason to get over their unconscious fears. A good way to start doing this is by bringing the car seat into your home. Buckle your infant in while doing mundane things (i.e. eating a meal, playing with toys, watching tv) to give them positive experiences with the car seat.
Make it a part of their daily lives so it doesn’t just end up as some unwanted place in their minds. Do it quickly, because the longer their negative assumptions persist the harder they’ll be to break.
Remedy #2: Bring Toys For Them to Play With on Car Rides
Babies won’t have much to do while strapped into a car seat. It’s always good to bring something they could fiddle with – especially for long trips.
That said, you can’t just bring any toys you see along for the ride.
For starters, steer clear of hard toys like block sets or action figures. You can’t guarantee that the car ride will be smooth for the entire duration, and a sudden stop could launch the toy. This would pose a huge hazard inside a moving vehicle – potentially even leading to an accident.
You want to make sure that their toys aren’t too small – these could be choking hazards, and you won’t be able to monitor your baby safely while handling a car. A few soft toys like plushies or dolls could make for a safe, solid start.
Remedy #3: Keep The Music Going!
When in doubt, play some tunes! Music gives your baby something to focus on, making them less likely to whine and act disruptively while in the car seat.
You can’t just play any music here, though. Studies have shown that babies can distinguish between different types of music, and even have favorite genres. There are a lot of factors that contribute to their preferences, so try experimenting to see what your baby seems to like most!
Classical music makes for a good general recommendation, with a reputation for soothing babies – even across different cultures. A bit of Bach or Mozart could be just what you need to help your baby wind down and sleep peacefully over the course of a long trip.
It can be a bit of a shock having your baby suddenly hate their car seat again, but don’t forget that they were perfectly fine with it until recently. Whatever changed made it unacceptable for your infant, so it’s crucial you find out and address that concern for the sake of any future road trips!