When the Baby Hates the Car Seat...
Unlike my firstborn, baby sister abhors the car seat. Here's what we're doing to help her work through what she considers torture.
As a parent, the worst sound you could possibly hear is your child screaming and crying her blood-curdling wail. And there is nothing you can do about it. You feel helpless. It causes you anxiety and grief, like you’ve failed your child somehow. Most of the time, this is exactly what happens when I place my newborn daughter in the car seat.
Actually, for the first couple of car rides, like the one home from the hospital and the first trip to the doctor, Olive was fine. She just fell asleep and could care less. But since then, it has been awful. We’d get to our destination, either my mom’s house or the doctor, and Olive would be exhausted and sweaty. All I wanted to do was cry when I was finally able to get her out of the seat and I’d look at her face to see defeated and red, puffy eyes.
After the first time it happened, we thought it was a fluke. She needed her diaper changed. Or perhaps she was hungry. But subsequent jaunts in the car led to the same outcome. Over and over. I started to wonder if we’d ever leave the house again. It was too much for my brain to handle, and I didn’t want to put Olive through what she thought was torture. What kind of parent would I be if I purposefully put her in a situation I knew made her so upset?
I started feeling like we were going to be very recluse for the duration of my maternity leave, save for the visits to the doctor we knew we’d have to make. And this made me sad.
Was there anything I could do to quell this behavior?
After looking online, I tried a few solutions. First, I took out the newborn padding in her seat. It was just an incubator, making my baby hot. Then, we tried giving her a binky, but she just kept refusing it. I’d sit illegally in my mini-van while my husband drove, trying to get her to take the pacifier, but she wanted nothing to do with it. We sang songs to her. We sh sh sh’ed her. We put her in fewer clothes for the car ride to avoid her overheating. I even made sure to feed her and change her diaper right before we left. Still, the screaming ensued. None of this helped.
Eventually, I remembered a friend told me about white noise apps. I quickly downloaded the app and had it on hand for the next car ride. But (of course) I forgot the cord I needed to plug my phone into the car speakers, so there I sat in the passenger seat, bent with one arm outstretched behind me, trying to get the noise as close to Olive as possible. It worked. Well, sort of. She only cried for about half of our 10-minute drive.
The next time we ventured out, I made sure to not forget the cord. Olive could care less and began crying before we even walked out the door. But once in the car, I got the app blasting some extreme pouring rain through the speakers. When we got going, her cries died down, and for most of the ride, she was fine! It felt like magic to help my girl feel comfortable and secure.
It’s not a perfect science, though. There are times when she still cries, but the duration of the wailing has gone down tremendously. There have even been a couple times when we listened to the radio in the car instead of making the whole family deal with the white noise (something we’d rather hear than Olive screaming), and Olive would be fine. In these moments, I’d have visions of us being able to go for longer rides than 10-15 minutes, but then we’d get back in the car only to have her start crying uncontrollably and the white noise taking a bit longer to calm her down.
I have hope that Olive will outgrow this. It helps me to know there’s some way my little girl can feel comfortable and secure when I’m not holding her tight—even if it’s just for a few minutes. We have big plans for little road trips over the summer as a family of four, so we’ll keep trying. But for now, the soothing sounds of a rainstorm are music to my ears as we venture out into the world.
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