If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know that Freddie has been through an incredibly fussy phase car seat phase. In fact, fussy is probably an understatement. For the last three months or so Freddie has screamed during every single journey, whether it lasted ten minutes or two hours. It was quite a shock considering for the first few months of his life he loved the car and it was my fail safe if he needed a nap and was refusing to sleep. We seem to finally be coming out of this phase and there have been a few things that helped whether that be a little or a lot. I know this is something many parents experience so I thought I would share a few things that have helped to make those tense car journeys a little easier.
Get your timings right
Through extensive trial and error (and lots of tears from both Freddie and I!) we have found that the best time to take a long journey is either straight after a nap or when he is really tired. The latter makes it more likely that he will fall asleep and the former ensures he isn’t cranky and overtired. For short trips I will always try and leave straight after his nap as that is generally when he is most amenable and likely to be happy to amuse himself.
Improve the environment
During the height of the car seat fussiness, I spent a lot of time manically googling solutions and one thing I hadn’t considered was that he might simply be bored. Let’s face it, the back of the car is really not a very exciting place! After a recommendation by the lovely Sophie from Amummything (link here), I bought the Taf Toys Feet Car Toy (link here!) that attaches to the back of the car seat. Although it wasn’t a magic fix, it did help to distract Freddie and he was especially enamoured with kicking the rollers with his feet. He also loves to pull the toys and stare at himself in the mirror- with a face as cute as his who wouldn’t. Definitely worth purchasing!
I know screen time can be a controversial issue and before I was trapped inside a car with a screaming, distressed baby I would have frowned upon it too. But the reality is, the iPad has saved us many times and if it is a choice between Freddie being so hysterical he hyperventilates and using an iPad I would much rather the latter! When Freddie was younger I purchased the Hey Bear Baby Sensory videos (link here) but nowadays he prefers the Go Jetters, Hey Duggee and the Octonauts instead.
Having something to chew on also seems to help and as always his beloved Matchstick Monkey (link here) does seem to ease things a bit. With Freddie, it’s about all about variety and I try to make sure I have lots of different toys to switch in and out so that he constantly has something new!
Around a month ago, on a journey to our little family getaway I brought an expressed bottle of milk ‘just in case’. Obviously whipping out a boob and trying to feed Freddie in his car seat wasn’t really an option so I thought this might be useful if he got really distressed. Sure enough, shortly after we set off he became really upset and I gave him the bottle. It really helped! He can hold it himself now and just the motion of sucking seemed to really calm him down. Whether bottle feeding or breast feeding if you are able to sit in the back with your baby, it’s a good option to have on hand just in case!
Consider changing the car seat
This hasn’t been a complete cure for us and it is an expensive option, but if your baby is still in their infant carrier it is worth considering switching to the next size up. Once Freddie got to around six months he was looking a bit cramped in the infant carrier and the positioning was not ideal for a baby who has suffered with silent reflux. After a lot of research, we decided to go with the Britax Romer Dualfix (link here). As well as having multiple recline positions, it be spun round so that you can easily put baby in as well as having super soft, padding. It is higher up than an infant carrier would sit and the angle means that Freddie doesn’t look as scrunched up. Again, it didn’t stop the screaming but it did increase the amount of time Freddie spent in it before getting upset. Which was worth the cost to us! It lasts until around four years old and can be rear facing or front facing until then. This is a heavy seat so it is not easy to swap between cars and obviously it cannot be attached to the pram like an infant carriers, so that is something to consider too!
Plan long journeys in advance
This is an obvious one but it has really helped us! During the really difficult journeys, the ones involving endless crying, the only thing that helped me to stay sane was knowing how long it was until we could stop and I could cuddle him. We made sure we always planned our route in advance to make sure that there were regular places to stop and being able to count down the minutes until that time gave me something to aim for.
The hardest thing to hear, when we were in the middle of car seat hell, was ‘It’s just a phase, he will grow out of it’. At the time, I really could not envisage a time where being in the car with Freddie would not result in us both in floods of tears. Those people were right and gradually, in combination with all of the things above, it did get better. The majority of our journeys are fairly stress free now and fingers crossed they remain that way! If you are currently experiencing challenging car journeys, I really hope these tips help you and your baby. Please do come and chat to me on my Instagram if you want to talk about any of them in more detail or just a sympathetic ear! Don’t forget to enter the giveaway in this post (link here), you could win some of Freddie and I’s favourite pouches and weaning equipment.
Thanks for reading,