Parenting books, blogs and experts that say babies shouldn’t be left to cry for more than six minutes are having a laugh aren’t they? If like me you have a baby that hates the car, there will be a lot more than six minutes worth of crying on an average day.
My beautiful nine-week-old baby Leo has had to cry for up to 40 long minutes on car journeys and it is simply awful for both of us. I avoid driving where possible but if I want to see friends, get groceries or attend appointments, there are times when only the car will do.
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Our first-born son Toby, who is now six years old, was exactly the same. A rampant ball of screaming fury each and every time I turned on the car engine.
“But babies love the car,” friends said. “It should send him off to sleep!” Like hell it did.
I began to dread leaving the house. I’m not proud but sometimes I would scream back at him. Sometimes I would turn up the radio and sing over the top of the noise and other times I would weep at his clear distress and my feelings of frustration and overtiredness.
When my husband Jules and I were in the car together the tension was worse as we not only dealt with our own stress, but each other’s. I remember one particularly challenging car trip to Bluey’s Beach in New South Wales. We stopped frequently to feed and calm him but nothing worked. I cried, we fought over silly things, and the idea of going on a road trip ‘holiday’ with a three month old suddenly seemed ridiculous.
I consulted health professionals, checked his seat was fitted correctly and spent hours Googling the phrase: ‘baby hates car?’ Day to day we tried everything to soothe him; calming lullabies, neck cushions, mirrors, dangly toys, shade cloths, singing, sitting in the back with him, yet none of it worked. He carried on crying and complaining until he was around five months and eventually he just stopped altogether at 12 months old.
The memories of those hideous car journeys came bursting back into my life with the arrival of our long awaited baby number two.
Leo’s first couple of weeks started out well. He seemed to love the pram, the carrier and even the car. We celebrated with a trip out the Hunter Valley for lunch one day and he slept all the way there and back again while we congratulated ourselves on having a car-loving baby.
As with all things baby however, you should never be too smug as just when you think you’ve nailed it, they switch it up. By about week three, car journeys were not quite so simple. Sometimes he would cry, sometimes not.
By the time he was five weeks old, I was sad to admit that we had ourselves another card-carrying car-hater.
Nearly every journey to the mall or to meet friends now has a soundtrack of screaming baby. By the time we arrive anywhere poor Leo is a red-faced teary-eyed sweaty mess. While I am less anxious than first time around, I now have to deal with Toby’s emotions as an understandably resentful big brother who doesn’t enjoy sitting next to a wailing baby.
While many friends and family members had babies that fell asleep on every car journey, I know reassuringly that I am not alone as a parent of two car-hating babies.
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There are little people making car journeys hell everywhere, and as distressing and mysterious as it is, there is little us parents can do other than stay calm, stay safe and keep long car journeys to a minimum until they grow out of it. I also have a set of headphones and iPod at the ready for Toby to use when little bro begins to bawl.
Leo is otherwise a beautiful, happy, healthy baby who sleeps okay in his cot, loves the carrier and tolerates occasional outings in the pram. The car and car travel is definitely his kryptonite. I look at Toby now and reflect that we all survived those miserable car journeys six years ago. Sadly we’ll just have to deal with it again, knowing that like many tricky baby phases, it will thankfully pass.
Is your child going through a tricky baby phase?
Feature image via iStock.