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Riding out the car seat blues

Some babies conk out while you’re pulling out of the driveway. Others can’t spend five minutes buckled in without starting to wail. Here are a few tips to help you and your baby stay safe either way.
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Never take a baby out

Parents sometimes take a crying baby out of the car seat, which is extremely dangerous and makes it even more difficult for the baby to get used to riding in the car seat. Some parents make poor driving decisions when their babies are crying, which puts everyone in the car at risk. Either pull over and calm your baby down, or focus on your driving. Don't try to do both.

The good news is that a few new ideas and a little time and maturity will help your baby become a happy traveler. (I know, because three of my babies were car-seat-haters!)

The trip to car seat happiness

  • Any one (or more) of the following strategies may help solve your car seat dilemma. If the first one you try fails, choose another one, then another; eventually, you'll hit upon the right solution for your baby.
  • Make sure that your baby is healthy. If car seat crying is something new, and your baby has been particularly fussy at home, too, your baby may have an ear infection or other illness. A visit to the doctor is in order.
  • Bring the car seat in the house and let your baby sit and play in it. Once it becomes more familiar in the house, she may be happier to sit there in the car.
  • Keep a special box of car toys that you'll use only in the car. If these are interesting enough, they may hold her attention.
  • Tape or hang toys for viewing. You can do this on the back of the seat that your baby is facing or string an array of lightweight toys from the ceiling using heavy tape and yarn. Place them just at arm's reach so that your baby can bat at them from her seat.
  • Make a car mobile. Link a long row of plastic baby chains from one side of the backseat to the other. Clip new toys onto the chain for each trip.
  • Hang a made-for-baby poster on the back of the seat that faces your baby. These are usually black, white, red and bold primary colors; some even have pockets so you can change the pictures. (Remember to do this, since changing the scenery is very helpful.)
  • Experiment with different types of music in the car. Some babies enjoy lullabies or music tapes made especially for young children. Others surprise you by calming down as soon as you play one of your favorites. Some babies enjoy hearing Mom or Dad sing more than anything else. For some reason, a rousing chorus of "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer" has always been a good choice for us, even out of season.
  • Try "white noise" in the car. You can purchase CDs of soothing nature sounds or you can make a recording of your vacuum cleaner!
  • Practice with short, pleasant trips when your baby is in a good mood. It helps if someone can sit near her and keep her entertained. A few good experiences may help set a new pattern.
  • Try a pacifier or teething toy. When your baby has something to suck or chew on, he may be happier.
  • Hang a mirror. That way your baby can see you (and you can see your baby) while you are driving. Baby stores offer specialty mirrors made especially for this purpose. When in her seat, she may think that you're not there, and just seeing your face will help her feel better.
  • Put up a sunshade in the window. This can be helpful if you suspect that sunshine in your baby's face may be a problem.
  • Try to consolidate trips. Trip-chaining is effective, especially if you avoid being in the car for long periods of time, and you don't have many ins-and-outs.
  • Make sure your baby hasn't outgrown her car seat. If her legs are confined, or her belts are too tight, she may find her seat to be uncomfortable.
  • Try opening a window. Fresh air and a nice breeze can be soothing.
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  • Rated 0 out of 5 by 18reviewers.
    Rated 0 out of 5 by Thanks for sharing all these great ideas! My baby does not like the car seat at all. He will try to push himself out of it & screams! Lately I've been going out on walks with him in the car seat that attaches to the stroller & now our car rides are a lot calmer!! February 4, 2015
    Rated 0 out of 5 My 4 month old has good and bad trips. She absolutely loves her new carseat mobile with a flashing light;however, it is difficult for her to pull the music making strap just yet. Thanks for sharing your bad trip stories. It makes me not feel so bad. June 2, 2013
    Rated 0 out of 5 by These tips are worth trying! My 6 month old hates the car seat. Unless she is really tired, the car rides are horrible! Thankfully I have found a few toys that do keep her occupied and happy for a little bit of time! January 2, 2013
    Rated 0 out of 5 by My daughter absolutely HATED to be in the car seat. It did not matter if she was in the car or not. As soon as I put her in it she would scream at the top of her lungs and it broke my heart! I tried toys, mirrors, singing, music, windows down, trying to have someone sit in the back seat with her, NOTHING worked. And this was odd because she is a very happy baby and rarely fusses, let alone scream like that. So my last thought was that she may be uncomfortable. The car seat I had was part of a travel system and was very basic, hard, and small. So I bought a convertible car seat, it sits higher so she can see out the window, much more padding (so it goes with saying it looked a heck of a lot safer), and an abundance of room. IT WORKED LIKE A CHARM! Now she coos in the car, giggles, plays with her toys, and is that happy little girl I know and love! December 13, 2012
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