Skip to main content

How to Make Car Rides With a Baby Bearable

First Time Mother, my beautiful daughter 'Quinn' born in September 2019.

Some babies hate car rides

Some babies hate car rides

Car Rides From Hell

As a first-time mother, I was under the impression that all babies love car rides. I know now that this is total 'boo-hockey'.

Sure, some bubs love the car, and some parents rely on it to put their little ones down for a nap. But most babies, at some stage or another, will hate their car seat and turn trips in the car into total nightmares.

My daughter has hated car rides from the beginning. Her trip home from hospital was fine. But the next time we tried to go out in the car, our troubles began.

From newborn age, she would scream relentlessly in the car. Sometimes she'd start to cry just being put in her capsule. During longer journeys, I'd end up stopping several times to feed. On one long journey, I gave up completely and pulled a 'go-go Gadget extend boob' and nursed her in her capsule whilst moving.

How to Make Car Rides With Babies Easier

My daughter is now a whole year old. We have a collection of tricks in our toolbox to improve our car travel, and I'd like to share them with you.

  1. Use Door Socks and Window Shades
  2. Aim to Travel When Bub's in a Good Mood
  3. Install Mirrors and Provide Toys
  4. Try Using a Phone or Tablet Screen

Things to Check For

  1. Is baby getting hot in the car seat? If so, you can underdress babies to help keep them comfortable during car rides. Turn up the air conditioning and consider a battery-operated clip-on baby foam fan for their seat.
  2. Are there loud noises? Babies get scared of loud noises. Keep this in mind and roll up the windows if traffic is noisy. Put some gentle music on if you think your engine is scaring them.
  3. Is anything making baby uncomfortable? Check the belt and seat for anything that could be poking into your baby or rubbing on their skin and causing discomfort.
  4. Is your baby wet or dirty? Check their nappy before putting them in the car. If needed, change them before traveling.

1. Use Door Socks and Window Shades

This is an easy place to start: Acquire some door socks or window shades for your vehicle's back seat. This will help stop the sun glare, heat and annoying flickers of light when passing through the shadows of trees or buildings.

Be cautious of choosing a shade with a cartoon or print on it. Motion sickness is often caused by the discrepancy between expected versus actual motion. So it's important that your baby can still see through the shade.

Door socks are especially great because you can still wind the window down! And they help keep bugs out of the car, too. They're also super affordable and easy to pull on and off.

2. Aim to Travel When Bub's in a Good Mood

Timing is everything. Gauge your child's mood and aim to travel when the going's good. That is typically either awake, alert and happy or when they're tired but not unsettled. I know this is difficult to do in the first few months, but I promise you'll pick it up with trial and error.

Plan car trips either not long after naps when baby is dry, fed and in a playful mood or when your little one's tired and you predict a nap coming on.

These are your windows.

Toys can help.

Toys can help.

3. Install Mirrors and Provide Toys

Car seats are typically rear-facing for the first 12 months or more, which is safest. However, it's not comforting for the baby to be facing away from you—and believe me, it's definitely not comforting for a parent not to be able to see their babe's face. That's why purpose-made mirrors are a must-have feature. Some even come with fun accessories to make them more stimulating.

Toys are generally helpful at keeping little hands occupied in the car. Changing them frequently and alternating different toys helps keep their effect. Be careful not to hang anything noisy, though, as you don't want to wake your sleeping babe (if you get that lucky) as you steer around a corner. And be sure all toys are secured so that, in the event of an accident, they don't become projectiles.

NOTE: If your child typically uses a pacifier, attach one to their straps so that even if you're driving you can find it easily and give it back to them.

Screens: the benefit might outweigh the risk

Screens: the benefit might outweigh the risk

4. Try Using a Phone or Tablet Screen

If nothing else is working to settle your little one in the car, use your telephone or tablet to entertain them with a cartoon or nursery rhymes. Whilst many parents might wish to restrict their child's viewing time, the benefit may truly outweigh the risk. So consider this option!

If you can afford the subscription, YouTube Premium is well worth it for the ability to download videos to watch later offline and ad-free.

I personally started with just a clear sandwich bag and elastic bands slung over the headrest to hold the phone in place. But after a while, I replaced the phone with a tablet and bought a Baseus mounting system. There is a variety of dependable phone and tablet mounts available for sale online, and they're quite affordable on eBay! Some even have great features like 360° rotation and extendable arms for different angles of viewing.

When to Forward Face

Children under six months of age should be in a rear facing car seat according to NSW legislation. It's safest. But unfortunately creates anxiety in our little ones because they cannot see their parent and aren't sure where you are and what's even going on.

Turning your car seat to face forward is a game changer for most parents. Car rides can be all that much better just for being able to see you and where they're going. But it's important for safety purposes to keep them rear facing as long as possible. Most car seats offer extended rear facing to as much as 30 months.

Important to know though that there's light at the end of the tunnel. Your child will grow to enjoy car rides eventually!

Good Luck!

I wish you all the best with all of your journeys, long and short. Drive safe and feel free to leave feedback or make comments. Suggestions and tips are highly welcome.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Stephanie Purser