10 Simple Solutions if Your Baby Seems to Hate the Car Seat

Don't let car trips stress you or your little one out. Learn how to get your baby to like a car seat so that you can have a smooth ride!

Published October 27, 2023
Father fastening seat belt of son in car

Most of us have heard the stories about the parents who drive around the block over and over to get their sweet babies to fall asleep, but what do you do if the baby hates car seats? This is a conundrum that can make even short trips to the store or pediatrician extremely difficult.

We have some simple solutions to this frustrating problem that could turn your trips into a terrific experience.

Solution #1: Confirm That the Car Seat Is Positioned Correctly

If you're asking yourself why your baby seems to hate the car seat, one of the most common reasons is discomfort. As of 2018, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 59% of parents were using their car seat incorrectly. These misuses could not only affect a child's safety but also their general comfort. 

Issues That Could Be Causing Car Seat Discomfort 

If you're not sure when the last time was that you made any adjustments to your little one's seat, it might be a good time to check. Common problems include: 

  • The Car Seat Is Not Level: That bubble indicator on the side of your child's car seat is there for a reason. If the seat isn't at a 45-degree angle, it's unsafe for them to ride and it can cause younger riders with less neck control to have to strain to keep themselves upright. 
  • There Is No Space Between the Car Seat and Front Seat: When the car seat is pressed against one of the front seats, it can make for a bumpy ride. This can cause car sickness and general discomfort for your little one.  
  • The Straps Are Not Set at Shoulder Level: Every few months, it's important to check that the shoulder straps line up with your child's shoulders. If they don't, this can cause discomfort and pinching in the leg and groin region and it can force them into a slouched position. 
  • The Headrest Is Not in the Right Position: Just like with the shoulder straps, the headrest needs to be adjusted as your child grows. Your baby's ears should be centered between the head cushions. If the headrest is too low, it will not properly protect your baby in a crash and it can put pressure on their shoulders. 
  • The Chest Clip Is Not Positioned Over Their Chest: This is not only a major safety hazard, but it can also cause a bit of discomfort, especially on a full tummy. Imagine a hard piece of plastic digging into your stomach!

All of these misuses can cause your little one to start screaming the moment the buckling process begins. By regularly checking your car seat and making adjustments as they grow, you can keep them safe and comfortable in the car.

Solution #2: Consider Their Temperature 

Babies have trouble regulating their temperatures. Another easy way to make your little rider a bit more comfortable is to dress them in light, breathable clothing and make sure that some of your front air vents are directed back to your baby.

If it is cold outside, you can also keep a blanket in the car to drape over their legs once they are safely buckled. Better yet, buy them a blanket with tags to keep in the car. This can help them engage their senses and distract them from their car seat woes. 

Need to Know

Dressing your baby in lots of layers and then buckling them into the car seat can also cause discomfort. Since babies overheat easily, these extra layers can make them feel hot quickly, bringing on bouts of fussiness. Coats and layers are also a safety hazard. They create space between the safety straps and your baby. In a crash, this can cause them to be ejected from the seat.

Solution #3: Play Soothing Music

Distraction is a quick solution in moments of distress. If your baby hates car seats and suddenly starts screaming during the middle of your drive, but they are dressed comfortably and the car seat is properly aligned, then consider turning on some soothing music to help them focus on something else.

Quick Tip

You also have the option to simply talk to your little one throughout the ride. They say "out of sight, out of mind," but this doesn't apply to babies and their parents. If they can't see you, then they're prone to get upset, so hearing your voice can help.

Solution #4: Reposition Your Car Seat Mirror

Speaking of seeing Mom and Dad, how does your car seat mirror look? You can see their face, but can they see yours? If your baby is wailing away and you find yourself at a stoplight, look through your rearview mirror and call their name. Once you get their attention, make happy faces and get excited! This can help to reroute their rude attitude.

Solution #5: Give Them Something Amusing to Look At

Mother Buckling Her Babies Into Carseats for Roadtrip

Spiral car seat toys are great for when you are at the store, but many manufacturers require that the car seat handle stay down when the car is in motion. Thus, look for soft travel toys that you can hang from your back seat headrest rods or the grab handles on the ceiling of your vehicle. These can also provide ample distraction without impacting your baby's safety. 

Solution #6: Add Relaxing Scents to Your Air Vents

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "the essential oils of lavender, clary sage, neroli, and chamomile are relaxing, reducing agitation and stress and promoting calm." This makes them another potential solution for your agitated baby! Just make sure to look for a diffuser that uses real essential oils and not chemical fragrances. 

Solution #7: Consider the Timing of Your Trip

We all have busy schedules, but if you just fed your baby or if they haven't eaten at all, a drive can cause a lot of tummy trouble. Avoiding car trips during these times can help to prevent this type of problem.

Another consideration is if your little one just woke up from a nap, they may just be eager to get up and move around and that pesky car seat is preventing them from doing just that! Sometimes the anger that coincides with car seat time is just a simple moment of frustration, which will only be remedied when your little one gets what they want.

Solution #8: Turn Up the A/C or Open a Window

Toddler girl sitting in car seat and looking through window

If tummy trouble is the culprit and your drive time is unavoidable, consider opening their window or shooting some cold air their way. This can help lessen their nausea and even give them another form of distraction. 

Solution #9: Consider Your Elevation

If your sweet baby seems fine on short trips around town but hates the car seat on long drives to visit family in far-off destinations, elevation changes may be the problem. Many people don't realize that just because you aren't traveling through the mountains doesn't mean that there aren't topography changes along your route. When you experience these drastic rises and drops, it can cause pressure to build up in your baby's ear.

Since they don't know how to pop their ears on their own, it is important for parents to take frequent breaks on these types of trips. Also, consider scheduling your feedings during periods when the elevation is expected to change more drastically. The frequent swallowing that occurs when they suck on their bottle can help to naturally pop their ears. 

Solution #10: Have Someone Sit With Baby

When possible, another simple solution is to have one parent ride in the back with the baby. This can allow you to engage with them throughout the drive and it can even give you a chance to better evaluate what may be causing their distress. 

Be Patient When Your Baby Hates Car Seats

Being a parent is hard, and there will be many hurdles along the way. Try to remind yourself that your little one has no control and cannot clearly communicate how they are feeling. If your baby hates car seats, there are simple ways to help, but if they don't seem to do the trick, know that things will get easier with time. Also, it never hurts to talk to your pediatrician about other safe solutions to prevent car sickness.

10 Simple Solutions if Your Baby Seems to Hate the Car Seat