We went through a good two months of our baby girl crying when she was secured in her car seat at 8 months of age. I remember one instance when we were stuck in the rain in the middle of peak hour and she was screaming the house down, she was also over tired and it was nearly dinner time. The car was full of people and her grandma said “let’s just take her out of the car seat to calm her down”. I thought about it and the answer was a firm “No”. I would rather have a crying baby than an injured baby, she wouldn’t have any chance of protection outside of the car seat in an accident. After doing some research and trying lots of different solutions, here are our 20 tips to keep your baby happy in their car seat. I hope you find some of them useful.
First off, Is your child well?
1. Is he or she upset because of the car seat or is it something else? Do they have a temperature or are they unwell?
2. Is your child to hot or to cold? Car seats can get very warm due to the think material and foam, make sure your child is not over heating. Babies have trouble regulating their temperature and can overheat very quickly.
3. To keep your child at an ideal temperature they should be dressed in similar clothes to you.
4. Make sure they don’t have a air con fan or heater fan blowing directly onto their skin which could make them uncomfortable.
Is your child comfortable?
5. Is there material bunched up in the car seat that is making your child uncomfortable? If in doubt check the upholstery is flat behind your child’s back, if something doesn’t look right check the manufacturers instructions or post a question with a photo on the manufacturers Facebook page. I have found manufacturers to be very responsive in the past.
6. Is the harness to tight or to loose? The straps need to be firm but not tight to protect your child in a car accident. The straps should never fall of your child’s shoulders, they need to keep their shoulders secured into the back of the seat to prevent them from falling forward in an accident.
7. Make sure the sun isn’t in your babies eyes. A stick on sunshade or window sticker will help your baby with the glare.
8. In colder countries make sure you take your child’s jacket off before putting them in the seat so they don’t over-heat. This is also to ensure that that the seat belt is still comfortable and not too tight with their extra clothing on.
9. Has your baby just had a feed? They may have gas and need burping before being secured in the car seat. Gas can cause alot of discomfort especially when the car seat prevents them from wriggling around to naturally expel the gas.
10. Is your baby uncomfortable in a capsule car seat? If they have reached the minimum requirements of a convertable car seat ( 0 – 4 years) they may be more comfortable sitting rear facing and upright ( 0 – 2 years ). The distraction of looking at the window may also help to keep them calm. All car seats are different, make sure you check the manufacturers instructions to ensure they are age, weight and height appropriate for your baby.
Is your child still un-happy?
11. Sometimes it helps to give your child a simple choice, such as “Would you like to climb into the car seat yourself or have me pick you up?” This helps them feel more autonomous and can “save face.” Soon they will be able to latch them self with your help and you can let them chose that, too. If they still resist after you’ve given them a moment to begin doing those things himself, you may end up saying, “You don’t seem able to go in yourself, so I’ll have to help you.”
12. Comfort your baby. Let your baby or child know that you are there by singing or talking to them about what is going on outside the car.
13. Use distraction, talk about things are you drive past them “Look there is a bus, wow did you see the train?” “Look, was that a monkey swinging from the trees?!?”
14. Music. Play the soundtrack to your child’s favourite movie or play soothing lullabies in the car.
15. Establish familiarity. Bring your child’s car seat into the house and let them buckle up their favourite doll or toy.
16. Talk through the process of why all children need to use a car seat with your toddler or child. Toddlers can understand more than we think, make eye contact, nod and talk to them like they understand what you are saying. Give it a try, you have nothing to loose.
17. Plan ahead. Try to travel between nap times and consolidate trips (if you have three errands in the same area try to do them in the one trip rather than several trips over a few days.
18. Traffic. Try to avoid lengthy car rides by traveling in low peak traffic if you can.
19. Easy entertainment. Keep a special box of soft toys and stickers that you will use only in the car. Soft teddy bears would be a good start. If these are interesting enough they may hold his/her attention span for a short trip. Avoid hard toys because they could cause injuries in a quick stop.
20. Establish car safety rules; the car won’t start unless everyone is safe and secure in their car seat or seat belt. Everyone must wear their seat belts, including mum and dad!
21. For older children use a reward chart with stickers, while rewards may not seem ideal the main priority is make sure they are safe and secure for every journey they take in the car.
22. Remember that it is developmentally appropriate for older babies to not like their car seat, high chair or stroller. Basically anything that restrains them from exploring. If you child is well and the car seat is setup correctly it should only be a matter or time before they get used to being safely secured in their life saving, injury prevention device called their car seat.
Thanks to Flickr user Scott Sherrill-Mix for the great photo!
Do you have any tips on how to keep your baby happy while secured in their car seat? Share them us in the comments section below.
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Maree has over five years of experience in Occupational Health and Safety and in the development of safety standards, training workshops and improvement initiatives. She is passionate about health, safety and education. Maree, a mother of two children, has a Advanced Diploma in OHS and will be graduating soon with a B.Sc. (HSE) from Australia.