What to Do When Your Baby Hates the Car

Most parents have anecdotes about how a car ride has saved the day for a fussy, upset, overtired, or otherwise inconsolable baby. And indeed, for many babies, the car is a magical, mobile crib that soothes and calms and lulls them to sleep.

But what if your baby didn’t get that memo? What if your baby screams when you strap him in his car seat? What if she wails as you’re driving down the highway? What if your baby hates the car?

At Daily Mom, we’re all too familiar with this (very unfortunate) situation — and we’re here to help! Here are some tips to help your baby — and you — cope with car crying.

Get Comfortable

First thing’s first: make sure baby is comfortable. Dress your baby in light layers, and make sure the car is at a comfortable temperature. Oftentimes, infant car seats can run hot, especially with those extra support cushions for the smaller babies. Remember: no bulky coats or outerwear, which is a safety hazard, and can also make your baby too hot. 

Crying Baby 2 DM

And, of course: make sure your baby is securely and correctly fastened in his seat before leaving the driveway.

Help Baby Feel Connected

Your baby might be experiencing separation anxiety back in his rear-facing car seat. Try installing a car mirror, so you can safely check on him. Another option that’s worth a try is taping a picture of yourself in front of him, so he can have a visual of you within sight. If possible, have a sibling sit next to him to entertain him, provide toys, or hold his hand during drives.

Car Seat Switch Up

Depending on your baby’s size, she might be uncomfortable in the infant car seat — or simply not a fan of riding in a lying down position. For older babies, you could consider making the switch to a convertible car seat. A convertible car seat can be positioned both rear and forward facing, and some even transition to booster seats — hence their name. Convertible car seats also sit upright, which may be more desirable if your baby likes to look around while riding.

While it might be tempting to have your tot face forward if she’s reached the correct height/weight, it is much, much safer to keep her rear facing as long as possible. There are some really great options for extended rear traveling, which may also help your child be more comfortable!

Incorporate Toys

Put some favorite toys in the car. Attach them to the seat with rings so he doesn’t get mad when the toys inevitably fall on the floor. Avoid anything too big or hard, which could cause injury in the event of a sudden stop. Lamaze makes some really fun, interactive toys for babies that fit the bill.

Play Music

Here’s a trick: try playing music at home (whatever you like) during playtime, to establish a positive connection to the tunes. Then, see if playing the same music in the car helps calm your baby. If that doesn’t work, there’s always classical music, which can be soothing for some. Or, the “Rockabye Baby” CDs which feature instrumental versions of favorite artists.  If all else fails, try singing. No one cares that you’re not Mariah Carey — it might just help your baby to hear your voice!


Set yourself up for success by taking control of the variables that you have control over! Try to schedule trips right after nap time, so your baby’s not overtired. And not to state the obvious, but make sure she’s been fed, burped, and changed, as well!

Also — be strategic. Consolidate trips when possible, or put errands off for the early morning or after the kids are in bed.

Stay Home!

Obviously, this isn’t always possible, but if you minimize errands during the week, you may free up a few days or afternoons where you can just stay home. Consider signing up for grocery delivery and/or Amazon Prime so you don’t have to haul a screaming baby to the store for milk or toilet paper.

If you have older kids, stock up on craft supplies, books and outdoor toys to make staying home more fun! Consider setting up a garden or compost bin for a fun, ongoing outdoor project. If you live close to parks or a downtown area, perhaps invest in a jogging stroller so you can walk to more places.

Talk to Your Pediatrician

While the car crying is probably just one of your baby’s quirks, it could be a sign of something more serious. Be sure to talk to your pediatrician, who can offer any other suggestions, and rule out medical issues like reflux or ear infections.

Remember: this too shall pass! Your baby is crying because she loves you so much — so take heart in that, and try out some of these tips!

To read  about some of our experiences driving with our (not always cooperative) babies, check out Our Car Seat Journeys!

Photo credits: JeffCarlos Blanco, Kat Rowland, Sarah McCosham.

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Sarah is a yoga practicing, mostly vegan, coffee chugging, Jack White-loving, stay-at-home-mom to three kids 4 and under in Cincinnati, Ohio. In her free time, she does freelance work for Cincinnati Parent, Dayton Parent and Indy’s Child, and blogs about her adventures with three kids in the Queen City.

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