Help! My baby hates the car!

Help! My baby hates the car!

A dislike of the car is surprisingly common and can be extremely unpleasant for us as a parent. Some babies just hate the feeling of being restrained and may genuinely feel sick when travelling.

If this sounds like your baby, the first recommendation would be to always allow plenty of time to digest their milk or solids before a car trip takes place. If you feel it’s the restraining part that’s causing the bigger issue, placing your baby in the car when they are fully asleep or very close to falling asleep may be the answer. Car straps need to be comfortably secure, but not too tight.

So, what else can we do to make running those errands or frequent unavoidable car journeys more bearable without feeling like we cannot leave the house?!

Take a look through my tips below.


“look over there, did you see that cow?!” Even if it doesn’t make sense for your current environment, it may be enough to reduce that tantrum! 

Experiment with different sounds or styles of music. Unsettled babies respond to soft lullabies and calmer music over listening to the radio. However, some will calm down listening to a louder volume initially, so play around with what works.

Sing to your baby. They really do love to hear your voice no matter how you sound, I promise! You can even sing a made up song about how uncomfortable baby is making you feel in that moment, if they are young enough not to know what you are saying! White noise, an audio book or even a podcast may be preferred by your baby. If they have a favourite song, get ready to have this on repeat!

If you have a spirited child that feels the effects of FOMO (fear of missing out) or craves stimulation, as long as it’s not interrupting important napping time you can choose to add some entertainment! This could be through a built in DVD player or a device mounted to the back of a car seat. If you don’t want to start a possible favouritism towards technology in the car, try to have some interesting car toys that they haven’t seen before to enhance the interest!

Calm breeds calm

This goes for any suitation! Your baby learns from experience and is very in tune with your every move and mood! If you are feeling stressed, chances are your baby will feel that way too. A good idea is practice calmness even if you have to fake it until you make it!

Focus on giving positive praise when they are calming down or when they successfully manage a trip to without a tantrum. Keep the praise up once you get back home or when you arrive at your destination.

Break the cycle

If car battles are a regular thing you can try to disrupt the pattern of behaviour. Where possible, travel with a partner, relative or friend and plan for one of you to sit in the back. Show your baby something new that they haven’t seen before, keep them amused during the journey. It may take a few goes so don’t give up! Once you have a few more pleasant trips under your belt, you can try the solo run again.


Ensure there is enough fuel in the car to avoid that extra stop, cool the car down ready for a trip and make sure you have emptied your bladder! Have everything you need in the car already, or by the door so you can make a quick exit once your baby is sleepy or asleep. Settle them in the capsule prior to the journey if you have that option. If they have a car seat, make the straps as loose as possible before you attempt transferring so they don’t get a buckle in the back! Tighten the straps slowly in order not to wake them!

Add the journey into your routine

For long trips, aim for the trip to start 10-15 minutes before a nap is due. Let that time be the wind down. This hopefully allows for a smoother transition to sleep during the car ride rather than an getting overtired if it takes some time for your baby to nod off.

In the case of a 10 minute trip to the shops, aim for it to be in their awake time. Recreate the atmosphere to suit the time of day. For awake time, an interesting toy or book. Fun nursery rhymes may go down better than lullabies or no stimulation!

Keep it moving!

There is nothing worse if you hit red light after red light in the first 10 minutes of the trip! Keep up the momentum if you can, even if it means you take a slight detour to avoid the extra stops where possible. I know it’s hard but stopping the journey because your baby is upset is only likely going to delay the inevitable. Remember, even if you manage to calm them, you have still put your baby back in that car seat! Reassure yourself that you will provide all the comfort your baby is needing once you get to your destination.

Consider the car outfit!

Car seats and capsules are highly insulated vessels! If you add some distress and protest to the mix,  your baby is going to be one hot and bothered little cherub! Dress them in less than they will need once they are outside the car. No annoying accessories that they can pull over their face mid drive, being cooler is definitely better. You can always chuck a removable blanket over them once they are strapped in if needed.

Car environment considerations

  • Darken the car with window shades if you are aiming for some zzz’s
  • Allow some air flow through a gap in the window, which can also create some natural white noise!
  • Still too hot? Use a portable clip on fan to create some air movement and circulation back there.
  • Bring along their comforter or dummy if this is used at home for sleeping times.
  • Separation anxiety? Try a mirror so you can see what each other is doing!

Bonus section for those reflux babes

With babies with more sensitive tummies, it is essential to plan your car rides long enough after a meal (milk and/or solids) so your baby has some adequate digestion time. It’s a good idea with a sleep routine that baby is fed when they wake up rather than before a nap (or make this a smaller feed), which can allow for some essential rest and digest to happen. A nice calming massage to aid relaxation and encourage the release of wind before the journey may help during travel when freedom of movement is restricted in order to be a little more comfortable.

Knowing what we can control and how we can improve on the things we can’t, is the best we can do as a parent. We have to face the reality that even then, it may not result in a happy little traveller all of the time! Like a lot of aspects of parenting, it’s all about trial, error and practice. Hang in there!


Hi! I’m Jen, Internationally Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant, Registered Nurse for over 13 years and Mother to three beautiful children. I absolutely love supporting families to thrive and develop sleep confidence for themselves and their babies

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