Getting from point A to point B is a necessity in life. And for most of us, doing this involves using our cars. But unlike all the happy babies you see in car seat advertisements, some babies do not like their car seats in any form or fashion. This means getting anywhere with a fussy baby can drive us crazy. So here are some tried and true ways to calm your fussy baby in the car and help save your sanity.
Tips to Calm A Fussy Baby in Their Car Seat
1. Start Fresh
One of the best ways to start the car ride out well is to make sure baby has a fresh diaper and is wearing comfy clothes. If baby looks adorable but feels uncomfortable, you are setting yourself up for failure. They can look like a Baby Gap model AFTER they get out of the car seat. But for now, take their fur boots off! And put on the stretch pants. And yes, you can put on some too!
2. Cool Them Off
Some babies get overheated in the car seat. You may not feel hot, but your baby may be sweating from all the material and cushion around them—especially if they’re crying. So make sure they are getting proper air circulation. You can even try connecting a portable fan to their seat. They may enjoy the stimulation and distraction in addition to the cool breeze!
3. Do the Sway
If baby is fussy before you click them in their car seat base, gently (and securely) rock their seat in the air, emulating a swinging motion back and forth. Typically, all babies will calm down with the motion. Then, once they are settled, click them in and don’t wait to get moving. Typically, starting happy gives you a better chance for success.
4. Portable Sound Machine
When we put our babies to bed at night, we use sound machines because they calm and soothe. So, it’s also important to remember that these sounds can be soothing on the road. Finding an app with soothing sounds is easy, but I love the Cloud B Sleep Sheep for fussy babies because it can sit in their car seat with them. My sons loved it.
5. Explore Different Styles of Music
We often assume that babies want to listen to lullabies or nursery rhymes. So we play their sweet lullabies and they cry. (If your baby likes them, keep at it!) But sometimes, they need something distracting and worthy of grabbing their attention. That’s why I like playing audiobooks for kids. Sometimes, a crying baby likes listening to the sound of someone’s voice. But my all-time favorite is Broadway music. My sons love the Wicked and Hamilton soundtracks. Something about how Broadway music sounds instantly grabs a child’s attention and keeps their mind stimulated and distracted. If you have never tried something like it, I encourage you to do so.
When they’re old enough to eat, giving them something to munch on while riding can help distract them from the task at hand. If you would typically have just done snack time a few minutes before, wait for the car. I know some moms want no food in the car, but this can be a lifesaver for transitions!
7. Toy Basket
This is so simple and almost not worth mentioning, except I’ve had several moms stop me and tell me it’s a good idea when they see my basket in the car! I always keep a basket of toys underneath my child’s car seat on the floor. If they are not enjoying one toy, I can easily access something different to keep them entertained. This not only helps keep them happy but makes me happy because the floor of my car remains clean.
8. Window Rolled Down
Babies love sound machines. When my babies were crying, I found that slightly cracking a window worked similarly to a sound machine. Something about the loud noise, especially on the freeway, seemed to always distract my sons from crying.
9. Objects of Interest
This is probably my biggest mom hack for kids (12 months and older), and it works like a charm for my kids. Instead of handing them toys for entertainment, I give them intriguing objects that keep them busy. Some of my favorites are keys, empty makeup bags, old bracelets . . . anything that can’t turn into a choking hazard but still seems intriguing to them. It may seem odd, but it is so effective. So, I encourage you to get creative and think outside the “toy” box.
Tips to Keep Mom Calm
Before I close, I want to address tips for helping moms who have tried everything but still have a screaming baby! Because let’s be honest, it is STRESSFUL when you have to put the baby in the car to go somewhere, and you cannot calm them. Nothing raises my blood pressure more and makes me feel like a distracted driver, which is unsafe for mom or baby! So here are three tips to help you:
1. Take a few deep breaths where you practice breathing out your stress. Then imagine inhaling calm. Repeat to yourself, “Peace begins with me.”
2. Second, buy a pair of headphones (with no guilt) if you need to drown out the noise. This is not to dismiss your baby. Instead, it’s ensuring you are relaxed enough to keep them safe. As you relax, you are better equipped to calm them. So feel no shame in headphones, especially if you have to drive in traffic.
Note: We know and understand that wearing headphones and listening to music on your headphones while driving can be dangerous and cause you not to hear the sounds of the other vehicles and people around you. Make sure you are aware of your surroundings and drive safely if you choose this option.
3. Pull over if you are becoming overly stressed. Step out of the car for fresh air, stretch, and tend to your baby.