My baby hates the carseat!

Now what??

Leaving the house with a newborn is hard enough.  Not only do you have to get yourself ready, but your baby as well.  Someone who is much less likely to give you notice that they need to eat.  Or poop.  Right NOW.  This makes just getting out of the door a bit exhausting.  But what if your little person despises the carseat?

All of a sudden a situation that is already challenging has turned into something stressful and anxiety-inducing.  

Let me assure you that this is not uncommon.  Carseats are designed to restrict baby's movement.  This is necessary for safety, but probably a little bit scary for a baby that has no idea what is happening.  The good news is, like most things when it comes to babies, this will get easier with time, patience, and practice.  The first few car rides may be very hard... On everyone.  Listening to a screaming baby is not only stressful, but can also lead to distracted driving.  Mix that with sleep deprivation and you have a dangerous combination.  

There are some things that you can do to help your little one get adjusted to the carseat.

Once you make it home from the hospital and you feel ready, it can be very helpful to start acclimating the baby to the car and the carseat simply by taking short trips.  Try getting baby loaded up and just driving around the block a few times.  You do not have to have a destination in mind at all.  Over several days (or weeks), slowly start increasing the distance that you travel.  

If that is too much for either of you to handle right now, try taking walks using a snap and go stroller or a travel system that utilizes the carseat.  Set a goal to make it to the corner or the closest playground, whatever you are comfortable with.  This will allow baby to still be sitting in the carseat, but hopefully they will enjoy it more simply from the distraction of being outdoors.  

On the days that you do have a doctor's appointment or a specific errand to run, leave plenty early so that you can stop as necessary to comfort or feed or change your baby.  You could even make a planned stop at a cafe or shop along the way to treat yourself for being brave enough to get out the door!  This will also allow baby a break to escape the carseat for a little while. 

Try some comfort measures.  Consider the car a great time to make use of a pacifier if your baby takes one.  Hopefully baby knows how to hold onto it by now because you definitely do not want to be reaching around in the backseat to find it.  A little music or white noise can be very helpful on a car trip as well.  Create a playlist of songs just for the baby that can be used in the car.  This playlist could also come in handy at bedtime!  Yes, your own brain may turn to mush after listening to "Twinkle, Twinkle" fifty times.  But it is better than listening to an angry baby.  (This is also a great excuse to download some cool new baby-friendly songs by your own favorite artists.)

If you are tempted to use a small mirror near the carseat so that you can see your baby while you drive, take note that their use is not recommended by carseat safety technicians.  Any objects in the vehicle can become a dangerous projectile in the event of an accident.  However, you may find the comfort provided by having visual contact with your baby is worth the risk.  Chalk that up among the many times that you will have to weigh risks and benefits as a parent.  

So, if you are getting filled with anxiety at the mere thought of trying to leave the house with a baby that is miserable in the carseat, try some of these tips.  Or contact us!  You do not have to do any of these things alone.  A postpartum doula can even accompany you to your appointments with baby.  Take comfort in the fact that it will get better.  

By: Kirsten Ludwig