Car seat training

Of our 10 living children, we have only had 1 vociferous car seat objector: Parker.  The others took most of their naps in their car seats, rode happily wherever life took them, and enjoyed being able to watch life unfold from a vantage point provided by their seat on the table or counter.

Parker is different.  He hates his car seat.  He finds nothing soothing about a ride to town.  He yells as soon as we strap him in, cries himself to sleep if he has time, and wakes up ready for more.

No, I’m not putting him in a hot seat that has been left baking in the van.  No, the problem is not insufficient padding.  And the problem really isn’t that we expect a young baby to spend hours entertaining himself while we ignore him.  Hah.  I mock you.  I laugh you to scorn.

He really just hates being in the car seat.  He wants to be held, plain and simple.  The boy has us wrapped around his little finger and he knows it.

I’m reasonably sure this is because we have stayed home far more with him than with any of the others.  We’re living an hour from town and our 2nd car has been dead since some time before he arrived so he just hasn’t been forced to get used to the car seat.  The poor boy has become a homebody.  He’s my homeboy, mah homey.  He’s tense and unpleasant if we are away from home for more than a few hours, and he visibly relaxes when we get home again.

I’m sure the fact that he has 9 older siblings is also a factor.  When I had only little ones, the babies had to be set down frequently, and the car seat was my tool of choice.  The car seat made it easy to rock the baby with one foot when a toddler needed some attention; easy to move a sleeping baby from room to room with me so that the preschooler couldn’t practice her creativity upon the baby unsupervised; easy to set the seat up on a table top so the baby could watch the rest of the family doing school.

Now that we have so many sets of arms in the house, the baby need never be set down.  It seems easy to pass a demanding baby from one set of arms to another, but eventually it creates problems.  We’re learning this the hard way.

I have also moved away from the habit of putting our babies down for naps in their car seat.  Our first 9 babies took nearly all their naps in the car seat whether we were at home or abroad.  Most of them even spent the night in their car seat, next to our bed.  They took to it very quickly and seemed to find comfort in the semi-fetal position, surrounded by padding on 3 sides.  For some reason I didn’t start that habit with Parker, and now we’re reaping the consequences.

But I’m going to try to change that this week.  He’s going to spend a lot of short periods in his car seat this week, sometimes being entertained and other times being left to entertain himself.  He’s also going to be taking most or all of his naps this week in his car seat.

That’s Parker’s part of the deal.  The rest of us will work very hard at not pitching him, ourselves or each other over the rail of the deck.  OK, I’m exaggerating.  But we all know that stress levels can rise when there’s a cranky baby in the house.

So far, he has done surprisingly well.  I wish I had worked on this weeks ago.  He cries for much shorter times than in the van, quickly settling down to watch his toys and swat at them.  His naps are much shorter than usual, but at least he’s sleeping in his car seat.  That’s not usually on his list of  Things to Do on Road Trips.  Of course the real test will be our next outing.

And don’t worry – we’re taking him out for plenty of loving!  This little boy has 11 pairs of arms to love him.  His problem isn’t that he spends too much time alone.  He doesn’t know the meaning of the word.


  1. I’m trying this today, my son hates the carseat and stroller, plus I have a 3 year old that I like to take out an about, zoo, library, museum shopping, I’m putting him in the car seat for ever nap, I have him at the right angle and I check on him frequently. he’s 5 months old. did the training work for you? Please let me know.

    • We’ve seen a definite improvement – in fact, Parker is napping in his seat right now. I would say that I got a good return on the time invested, i.e. if I had worked more diligently I would have seen more improvement, but I worked at it until I was reasonably satisfied and then we slacked off. Now he’s much better on trips around town, but not as good as I’d like.

  2. Bought a pinwheel today and anchored to the back seat out of baby’s reach then cracked the window. My 3 month old was fine riding in her seat without us entertaining her for the first time in weeks. The spinning pinwheel is to thank!

  3. Just be careful, I read a mothers blog whose baby strangled in the straps. I have never used the carseat except for car rides and most of my kids have LOVED their seats. My 6th,however, screamed all the way home from the hospital and everytime she touched the carseat until she hit about 11 months when I finally broke the law and put her forward facing, solved everything. It was a long year though ugh. I hope your lil one learns to like the carseat sooner.

  4. Count your blessings he’s been your only one. I’ve been through it four times. Numbers one and six are our only ones who didn’t mind the carseat. Number three cried for four hours straight on a trip. He and I were the only two in the car. He was eight weeks old, it was midnight, raining, my wipers quit working, and he wouldn’t stop crying. I’m still patting myself on the back for not driving into a brick wall that night. And he’s seven now!

    Regardless, he sure is a cutie!

  5. Tami-Thank you for “the rest of the story”. I am glad to hear it all worked out well. : ) Best wishes to Mr. 19 and what a wonderful year he should have! Happy traveling to Lucy! It just gets better from now on. God speed to you all!

  6. I don’t know….good luck not melting and then picking him up when he flashes that adorable, precious little smile, like the one in the bottom picture. If you can resist THAT (!!!)……….well then, you’re a stronger woman than I am!! 🙂

  7. Jamie – my 19 year old travels just fine now. Really, he was a pretty good traveler once we put him in the forward-facing toddler seat at 5 months. He just hated the baby bucket. He leaves for Argentina next Wed for the school year – he loves to travel and will go anywhere.
    My baby Lucy was not at all impressed with the rear-facing convertible seat. We put her in it when she was just a few weeks old, thinking she might be more comfy. Also, since it had a 5 point harness rather than a 3 point like the baby seat, she couldn’t get herself scrunched up so badly from all her screaming. She eventually ran out of ammo, so to speak, when she began to eat solid foods – it just isn’t the same as a totally breast-fed baby, so I guess she just gave up.
    She stopped the worst of the screaming when she was probably a year or so old and we could finally talk to her and reason with her somewhat. She also travels well now (she’s 8), as long as there are books, game boys, and computers to keep her busy. She hopes to travel to visit her big brother (along with the rest of us) at Christmas.

  8. Oh dear – been there! Last three babies (boys!) did this. Newest little man just turned 5 months and vastly improving. He LOVES us to sing – it distracts him just enough and sometimes he ACCIDENTALLY falls asleep. :o) Now we just have to work out how to get him to fall asleep at home without being rocked in the pram …. (I don’t admit that to many people) !

  9. My kids were both fine in their car seats–a definite blessing! What I really wanted to say, though, was that my son had the ‘I Love My Mommy’ onesie, too. Those pictures make me miss my sweet little baby boy. He’s a rough-and-tumble three year-old now. sigh

  10. he is just the cutest little guy!
    i think he would have a hard time finding out the meaning of “alone” around here too–except you can’t see the sweet face so well when you’re HOLDING the baby! 🙂

  11. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    Something to remember — even without turning the child face forward, when they can hold their head up on their own, you can adjust the angle of an infant car seat/rear facing convertible to be more upright (All the way up to 30 degrees for most seats, 35 degrees for the True Fit). What you do not want in an infant is their head drooping down to touch their chest, blocking off their airway before they can lift their own head to breathe. Thus the extreme recline in the early days.

    Also, a child can be moved from the infant car seat to a rear-facing convertible if that helps the problem. Some kids just don’t like the buckets — but plenty of parents choose to skip the bucket and go directly to a convertible.

  12. Acctually no one is supposed to leave his kids to long in these kind of seats. The lungs crumble and they don’t get enough air- it is also not good for their body, they are to young for this kind of sitting. In Germany your are told frequently, that you are only supposed to use the car seat in a CAR and have to take the child out of it regulary.

  13. My youngest does not like car seats either. My middle child had TERRIBLE car sickness as a small child. I remember her throwing up 4 times on a trip from Padre Island to Austin. We finally just turned her around even though she wasn’t quite a year (she weighed 23 lbs). We tried all the natural remedies, but nothing worked until our doctor told us to give her a teaspoon of binadryl. As long as she takes it every 4 hours or so on a trip, she doesn’t throw up!

  14. Sounds like my son was in his early months! I don’t know if the angle of the seat bugged him or if he just demanded to be held (he really did NEED constant holding/touching from mama). I have heard anecdotally that little boys might be more like this than girls, but I dunno.

    My neighbor’s second child, a girl, screams her head off in her car seat, too.

    I’m not sure if training them will actually help or if it’s something they just have to grow out of on their own.

    My son (now 20 months) was fantastic for our 400-mile trip to Indiana.

    So good luck!

  15. lois groat says:

    The ONLY thing that kept my nephew from screaming bloody murder in the car, like you were torturing him, was cheetos cheese puffs. The soft kind. My brother-in-law handed one to him when he reached for it in the car, when he was about 5 months old, and he magically stopped crying. After they discovered that it always worked, they never traveled without cheese puffs again (for a few months his diet consisted of mother’s milk, and cheese puffs), until he was 2 1/2, and moved to a booster type seat, without the high sides. (This was 20 years ago, when they went to booster seats sooner.) For some reason he traveled just fine when he was no longer in the higher, confining seat.

    They had borrowed that car seat from us. It was forever stained orange.

  16. our first born screamed bloody murder in her car seat from the first time we put her in on our way home from the hospital until she was 20 months!!!!

    She hated that car seat soo much Poor girl! What made her stop was when our second born was born and she was happily sleeping in her car seat, I guess our first born notice that it’s ok to relax in a car seat LOL

    Baby #2 and #3 are loving the car seat 🙂

  17. I’m wondering if Tami’s 19 year old still screams in the car…I don’t even want to think about the daughter’s tricks…
    Of course Parker is supposed to be held all the time. That’s the way God intended it by making him the youngest of so many loving arms. Now it’s time for a little gentle training–however, you already know that.
    He certainly is a cheerful looking soul!

  18. Two of my four, the first and the last, absolutely hated their car seats. The first one screamed all the way home from the hospital on the day he was born, and he screamed every other time we ever put him in one, for the duration. It didn’t matter if we were going to the grocery, or to Indiana, he balled up his fists and screamed. The first time we took him to see my husband’s family, a 6 hour drive, it took us two days to get there. We drove for 20-30 min, pulled over, got him out, nursed him, and calmed him back down. By the time we got to our friends’ house (who lived half way, thank goodness), he had bursed a blood vessel in his eye from screaming so hard. The whole weekend every relative we had asked us what was wrong with his eye. It was just a nightmare, and we didn’t make that trip again, or any other, until he was about a year old. When he could finally almost sit up, at about 5 months, we put him in a forward facing toddler seat, and then he got much better. He is 19 now, rules for carseats were different back then – you only had to keep the baby backwards until they could sit up.

    Our 2nd and 3rd were much better. They didn’t always scream, and occasionally even went to sleep, but the car better be moving and not stop. They certainly never napped in the car seat in the house!

    Our 4th was even worse than our first, she had more tricks up her sleeve. Whenever we strapped her in, she not only screamed, she blew out her pants. I learned very quickly never to dress her when we went out. I put her on a hand towel in her car seat in her pjs, and brought along her day clothes, wipes, washclothes and water, and a plastic bag for the damage. We usually stopped to change her screaming little self before we were even out of our neighborhood. The thing that really made me crazy though, was the other three kids, who all felt like they needed to tell me, “Mommy, Lucy’s screaming – make her stop!” I just imagined that I was driving a police car, the kind with the glass window separating the front seat from the back. It was much harder with her, as the car seat rules had changed, and she was supposed to stay backwards until she weighed 20 lbs. She was about 18 months by that time. Again, once she was able to sit frontfacing, she was much better. I have always wondered if they were just over sensitive to moving backwards. I still am amazed when I see little babies asleep in their car seats in restaurants – none of mine ever did that!

  19. He is just gorgeous! What a sweetie.

    I have often wondered, with my newbies, if letting them sleep by our bed in the carseat at night was acceptable. So thanks for giving me permission-ha! But my youngest is now 7 months old and will.not.sleep.through.the.night. He WAS sleeping 10 -12 hours until he was 5 months old. Ever since he rarely sleeps for more than 4 hours a night. Any recommendations, since you’re a pro???

    I think it’s a great idea getting Parker used to the carseat – thanks for sharing.

    • Shannon,
      I’ve had a few that regressed like that, especially during growth spurts. I just keep doing what I did originally: make sure the baby isn’t going to fall back to sleep on his own, then make nighttime feedings brief, dark and non-social. No talking, no playing, no lights, and no falling asleep while nursing. As soon as the baby slows a bit the feeding is over and it’s Back To Bed. They usually go back to sleeping through the night pretty quickly.

  20. I agree… car seat happiness is something that takes training and doesn’t necessarily come naturally.

  21. Sounds like my number 5! She screamed and screamed everytime she was in her carseat. We live in Az and she screamed all the way to California when we took a vacation. I was very tempted to leave her and her carseat by the side of the road. Just for a few minutes of quiet…She now happily sits in her seat. She’s 5 and by law doesn’t need a seat anymore, but I feel she needs to make up for the years of screaming she put us all through. I will be praying you all maintain your sanity. Sure wish I’d of thought of doing some car seat training. Good job!

  22. Oh he is SO cute!!!!!!!

  23. Our fourth child did this. He screamed the entire time he was in it. He’d scream all the way to Medford and back (45 minutes one-way).

    When we stopped at a gas station, we drew a crowd. “What ARE you doing to that baby?”

    Nothing at all. He just hates the car seat.

  24. He is just too precious for words!

Don't just think it: say it!

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