Car seat crying means an uncomfortable child.

Why Would a Child Cry While Riding in a Car?

by Patti Richards

If your baby cries when you even think about putting her in her car seat, you're not alone. Babies and car rides don't always mix, and your child's constant car crying could make you want to turn over your keys and hand in your driver's license. Discovering the reason for your child's aversion to all things automotive may be just the ticket for solving the problem and creating peace on the road.


Getting your infant to ride in the car without crying can be as hard as getting a toddler to sit still. Infants up to 2 months of age are still in the newborn phase of life. Their tiny nervous systems haven't had time to catch up to all the new experiences coming their way. This means lots of things about riding in a car - the feeling of car seat straps, the smell of the car, and the motion - can make her nervous and uncomfortable.

The Car Seat Lady, published by renowned car seat experts Debbi Baer, R.N. and Alisa Baer, M.D., recommends making sure your newborn's straps are tight enough since snug straps mimic swaddling and provide comfort. During the first few months of life, try to schedule car rides when she's almost ready for a nap or at her happiest times of day. She will get used to car rides eventually. Until she does, picking times for car rides that fit her schedule can keep you from pulling your hair out.


Toddlers in the car can be just as challenging as infants, only now you're working with a little person that is struggling to get her own way. Experts at the website, Parenting with Presence, suggest that when toddlers are restrained in car seats, it may bring up scary memories of other times they were restrained, like at the doctor's office for a check-up or immunization. At other times, your toddler may be angry for being interrupted in the middle of play.

As with infants, choosing times for car rides that coincide with your toddler's schedule can cut down on crying. Taking a favorite toy, talking to him about going in the car, and occasionally have a special treat at the end of a car ride can help him associate car rides with pleasant things other than just being restrained.


Preschoolers and car seats often don't mix. Your preschooler usually has her own ideas about what is fun. Car seats may represent going somewhere she doesn't want to go, and you're the one driving her there. Car seats for your older preschooler might make her feel like a baby, and that can cause anger, frustration and an all-out meltdown when you're headed to the grocery store.

The Baers at The Car Seat Lady suggest giving your child clear behavior expectations and consequences before getting into the car, reinforcing the behavior you want through frequent praise, and giving rewards for a good ride. They also suggest saving a favorite toy or book just for car rides so she has something to look forward to.

Growth Spurts and Safety

Children grow fast! If your child has outgrown three pairs of shoes and all of his clothes in the past three months, chances are, he has outgrown his car seat or strap adjustments. Just like that pair of high heels you have that are a size too small, his car seat can feel uncomfortable and cause crying. But unlike your shoes, an ill-fitting car seat can be dangerous. Parenting educator Elizabeth Pantley for, says too-tight car seat belts can be uncomfortable, and it's a good thing when your baby or child lets you know it.

Remember, your child should ride in a rear-facing car seat until he has reached the weight and height limit recommended for the car seat or until he is two-years-old. If you are unsure about the size and fit of your child’s car seat, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends finding a child car seat inspection station in your area for a free inspection.

About the Author

Patti Richards has been a writer since 1990. She writes children’s books and articles on parenting, women's health and education. Her credits include San Diego Family Magazine, Metro Parent Magazine, Boys' Quest Magazine and many others. Richards has a Bachelor of Science in English/secondary education from Welch College.

Photo Credits

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