At least, that is what I was always told. I heard countless stories from friends about how the only way to get their newborn to sleep was to go for a car ride.
And then my baby arrived. And guess who hated car trips? Yeah, this guy right here:
He would scream and thrash so badly during even 10-15 minute trips that I spent much of the first 6 months at home because I dreaded going anywhere. I specifically remember this one time I needed to go grocery shopping and I went to a specialty store 30 minutes away. He screamed so hard the way home that I stopped five times to try and soothe him, nurse him, get him to fall asleep etc, and nothing worked. I was crying just as much as he was because I couldn’t bear it! In fact, this sour attitude and general loathing of car trips/car seats lasted until he was well over a year old. This is how we handled it:
As a Baby
From months 0-6, I did avoid car trips alone. If Mr. Pen and I were going somewhere together, it was easier to combat the inevitable scream-fest if I was able to sit in the back with J. I would often pump before we left or right away in the car so that I had a fresh bottle for him and that would always soothe him. I actually started keeping a small electric pump with extra batteries in the car just so that I would always be able to pump. Giving him a bottle was also the only way he would fall asleep in the car, as he nursed to sleep until he was 6 months old.
I started to plan doing errands such as grocery shopping as weekend trips because I would have Mr. Pen’s help. During the week if I needed to get out, I would strap J into the beco baby carrier and take a walk. At the time we lived within walking distance of a few shops so that was my relief from the house without having to deal with emotional breakdowns (both baby and myself).
Once he was 4 months, J became more interested in toys and books and would cry less when we entertained him in the back seat, but he still was not independent enough to play on his own. His favorite toys for 4 months+ were his Skip Hop cloth book, Animal Planet owl, Indestructibles book and random hanging toys from his play gym.
As his sight got better he realized he could see us in the front seat from the mirror on the back seat. This then became part of many games we would play. In the passenger seat looking back at him, we would play peek a boo, sing songs and hold hands. Although it wasn’t a cure-all; once he hit 6 months and realized we were there and he could see us, it became easier. Not perfectly ideal, but easier.
As a Toddler
This is when it got easier, not because his attitude changed, but because he became more alert, aware and engaging. Once he was about a year old, I started doing more things outside the home with him. He slowly acclimated up to 15-20 minutes in the car without tears.
We have started to keep a small toy and book collection in the car. He gets excited being in the car when he sees that his special “car-only” toys are there for him. These are only toys that he gets to play with when we are driving. His favorites are his play phone, animal picture book, toy piano, and his My Little Word Book. What I like about these toys is that the noise toys aren’t very loud, they are easy for him to operate on his own and they are (somewhat) educational as well as fun for him.
In addition to car-only toys, we keep car-only snacks on hand. He only gets puffs and food pouches in the car. He loves both and it’s a nice way to break up a car trip.
For longer car trips, I pack him a lunch. If Mr .Pen is with me, I can spend a good half hour chunk of time feeding him a meal in the backseat.
Although I do try to limit screen time, our iPhones have come to the rescue more than once during car rides. I made a youtube playlist of mostly Laurie Berkner and Elizabeth Mitchell music videos that Jacobi loves. He isn’t all that interested in TV shows unless they are music-heavy. He could sit and watch this playlist over and over again if we allowed it. For longer trips this playlist will entertain him for however long we need. For future road trips/plane trips, we do plan to purchase a DVD player along with the Laurie Berkner DVD’s.
Once he hit about 15 months we reached a turning point: he realized that a car was a means to an end. It was like a light switching on in his brain that was so visible to me, it was amazing to watch the transformation. He realized that if he spent a relatively short amount of time in the car, he would go somewhere new and fun. He is 17 months now and let me just say that I can finally breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy taking him places!
We can now depend on him napping in the car if we go somewhere at nap time and pack his blanket and pacifier. And we do still keep his toys in the car as a way to keep him content for as long as possible. The journey to this point was not easy and ridden with a lot of guilt and feeling like I was doing something wrong, or guilt over taking him in the car when I knew he hated it. It’s easier now to talk him through his car meltdowns than it was a year ago. I will end this post by saying that I’m so happy we’re over that 12-15 month car-loathing phase!
Did your baby like the car? Or did he/she detest it as my child did?