By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of Gentle Baby Care
Some babies fall asleep almost before you’re out of thedriveway, but others won’t spend five happy minutes in their car seats. Usually, this is because your baby is used to more freedom of movement andmore physical attention than you can provide when she’s belted into her seat.
Hearing your baby crywhile you are trying to drive is challenging. Even though it’sdifficult to deal with, remember that you and your baby’s safety are mostimportant. Parents sometimes take a crying baby out of the carseat, which is extremely dangerous and makes it even more difficult for thebaby to get used to riding in the car seat. Some parents make poor drivingdecisions 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 tryto do both.
The good news is that a few new ideas and a little timeand maturity will help your baby become a happy traveler. (I know, because threeof my babies were car-seat-haters!)
The trip to car seat happiness
Any one (or more) of the following strategies may helpsolve 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 fussyat home, too, your baby may have an ear infection or other illness. A visit tothe doctor is in order.
Bring the car seat in the house and letyour baby sit and play in it. Once it becomes more familiar in the house, she may behappier to sit there in the car.
Keep a special box of soft, safe cartoys that you’ll use only in the car. If these are interesting enough, they may hold her attention. (Avoid hardtoys because they could cause injury in a quick stop.)
Tape or hang toys for viewing. You can do this on the back of the seat that your baby isfacing or string an array of lightweight toys from the ceiling using heavy tapeand yarn. Place them just at arm’s reach so that your baby can bat at them fromher seat. (Don’t use hard toys that could hurt your baby if they come loose ina quick stop.)
Make a car mobile. Link a long row of plastic baby chains from one side ofthe backseat to the other. Clip soft, lightweight new toys onto the chain foreach trip. Make sure they are secure and keep on eye on these so that theydon’t become loose while you are driving.
Hanga made-for-baby poster on the back of the seat that faces your baby. These are usually black, white, red and bold primarycolors; some even have pockets so you can change the pictures. (Remember to dothis, since changing the scenery is very helpful.)
Experiment with different types ofmusic in the car. Some babies enjoy lullabies or music tapes madeespecially for young children; others surprise you by calming down as soon asyou play one of your favorites. Some babies enjoy hearing Mom or Dad sing, morethan anything else! (For some reason, a rousing chorus of “Rudolf the Red-NosedReindeer” 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 canmake a recording of your vacuum cleaner!
Practice with short, pleasant tripswhen your baby is in a good mood. It helps if someone can sit near her and keep herentertained. 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 behappier. Just make sure it doesn’t present a choking hazard, and keep to small,soft toys.
Hang a mirror. That way your baby can see you (and you can see yourbaby) while you are driving. Baby stores offer specialty mirrors madeespecially for this purpose. When in her seat, she may think that you’re notthere, and just seeing your face will help her feel better.
Putup a sunshade in the window. This can be helpful if you suspect that sunshinein your baby’s face may be a problem. Use the window-stick-on types, and avoidany with hard pieces that could become dislodged in a quick stop.
Try to consolidate trips. Trip-chaining is effective, especially if you avoid beingin the car for long periods of time, and you don’t have many ins-and-outs.
Make sure your baby hasn’t outgrown hercar seat. If her legs are confined, or her belts are too tight, shemy find her seat to be uncomfortable.
Try opening a window. Fresh air and a nice breeze can be soothing.
If all else fails . . . take the bus!
This article is an excerpt from Gentle Baby Care byElizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003)
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