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TRAUMATIC car rides - DESPERATE for help!!!

post #1 of 47
Thread Starter 
My DD (18 months) has developed serious issues with being in the car. She has absolute screaming, crying, thrashing meltdowns in the car to the point where she is almost hyperventilating before I have the chance to pull over somewhere and calm her down with breastfeeding, rocking her, etc.

The longer the trip, the worse it is. She even gets fussy/upset when someone is sitting in the back with her (Daddy or Grandma usually), but at least doesn't generally have absolute meltdowns then. Most of the time it is just myself and her in the car.

It is not practical for me to stay home 24/7. I have to get groceries, run errands, and sometimes just get out of the house for my own sanity. There is not adequate public transportation, either, and this is not a walking/biking friendly town as everything is very spread out with a lot of traffic.

Yesterday I went on a trip out of town (about 30 miles) to meet up with some other moms, but I got lost on the way. It didn't help things that DD had a severe meltdown - the worst I've ever seen her. She screamed so hard that it sounded like someone was TORTURING her in the back seat. I'm not exaggerating AT ALL. Imagine the loudest cry/scream you've ever heard from your young child (probably when injured), and multiply that x10.

It's not even SAFE for me to drive when she is screaming like that, nor do I want to. All I want to do is comfort her and try to figure out what is bothering her so much. But when I am on the interstate going 70mph in rush-hour traffic through a major city like I was yesterday, stopping is not an option.

I've tried everything. I make sure she has plenty of toys, books, etc to look at in the car, and I keep some up front in case she throws or drops them out of her seat so I can hand more to her if she fusses. Even though she is breastfed, in the car I sometimes give her a sippy cup filled with mostly ice and a tiny bit of water to help her with teething and to keep her cool b/c the weather right now is still ridiculously hot/humid even with the car A/C on full blast. Well sometimes she decides to throw that and then gets even madder, and I cannot safely reach it to give it back to her without pulling over.

I play music - she has a few different CDs with "kiddie music" on them that she loves, and she also loves Dave Matthews and some rock. All of these things will calm her for a few minutes at a time, but if she is tired enough or teething or bored or whoknowswhat, it won't last. I try singing to her. There is a song I used to sing to her that would ALWAYS calm her down no matter how upset she was in the car, but it no longer works. I try talking to her to let her know where we are going and that we will be there soon. It just makes her angrier.

I am at my absolute wit's end! I'm a very patient mother, but I almost lost my cool on that trip yesterday. I ALMOST screamed myself - not at her, but just out of frustration and helplessness.

There are a lot of events out of town that I want to go to, mostly birth professional things. There are a lot of places I like to go around town, too, but I don't even like to get groceries anymore without my husband b/c of how awful the car rides are.

Any suggestions, experiences, etc, would be helpful. At this point, I am DESPARATE! I am pretty much to the point where I feel like I cannot take her anywhere.
post #2 of 47


I really don't have any useful suggestions, but this is not really that unusual. My oldest use to do on almost every trip we took. It would take several minutes to get him into his carseat, because he would arch his back and refuse to let us buckle him in. He would scream at the top of his lungs, sometimes throw up all over himself and his seat on a regular basis and that was just for a 10 minute trip to go grocery shopping and stuff. I started not going anywhere I didn't have to and became very resentful of him, even though I didn't want to be. He got better at about age 2 which is when he outgrew the weight limit on RF on his carseat. I really don't know if the turning him around had anything to really do with the end of the tantrums, and don't recommend turning around a baby till you have to.
post #3 of 47
Has she always done this, or is it a recent thing?

Is she comfortable? Are her straps too tight? Do you have one of the more padded seats? (Sometimes kids hate the less padded seats like the Scenara).

Have you tried installing her seat more upright? Older kids don't need to be at a 45 degree angle, and can be as upright as 30 or 35 degrees depending on the seat (check your manual).
post #4 of 47
I know its not ideal, but could you disable the passenger side airbag and put her beside you when you're alone in the car? Maybe she'd be less prone to meltdowns if she was right beside Mama?
post #5 of 47
Robugmum, it isn't legal in Tennessee (which the OP specifies as her location) to have a child in a safety seat in the front seat.

OP- Have you gone over every inch of the seat with your hand to make sure there aren't any prickly, uneven, pokey places?

I hope you find some real solutions soon! That sounds awful for her and for you!
Jenne
post #6 of 47
Honestly at that point I'd be seeing if bribing with junk food worked. Suckers never fail to stop car freakouts over here. I know they're processed sugar junk, but I don't really care at the point where my kid is losing her mind and I just want to get home to put the groceries away before they melt.
post #7 of 47
I second double checking the seat. Definitely install more upright and put her by a window if she's in the middle to see if seeing out helps. Make sure there is nothing pokey in the car seat itself and that the straps are not digging into her. If you can, borrow a different seat from a friend you trust for a few days and see if that makes a difference.

Honey's idea is good too. We've used the yummi brand of organic lollipops on airplanes and it works well. They're fairly small, don't have too much sugar, all things considering, and nothing artificial. Of course, then you'll want to stash some baby wipes in the car to clean her up with afterwards!
post #8 of 47
Thread Starter 
The car seat manual (Britax Boulevard CS) says that you MUST keep the seat fully reclined in RF position, so that's not an option.

And it is definitely illegal in TN to put a child in the front (even with airbags deactivated) if you HAVE a back seat. If it's like a truck or something without a back seat, I believe it's legal (though not very safe), but that doesn't relate to my situation anyway.

I don't give her lollipops or candy, not just for the junk factor, but because they are choking hazards. I'd think the choking hazard would be increased in the car. Yikes! When desperate I have given her bits of food in the car before, I'll admit, but definitely not candy.
post #9 of 47
One of the carseat experts will have to confirm, but I'm 99% sure that the 45 degree recline is only for newborns. That's the advice I've seen on these and other carseat boards for all brands including Britax.
post #10 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ninetales View Post
One of the carseat experts will have to confirm, but I'm 99% sure that the 45 degree recline is only for newborns. That's the advice I've seen on these and other carseat boards for all brands including Britax.
This is true. You must keep the Britax in the reclined position (where you pull on the bar by the foot of the seat and click it to be more reclined vs. upright), but when you install the seat in your car, put more of your weight near the front part of the seat (where your DD's feet will be), to get the seat installed more upright. It can be as upright as 30*. 45* is necessary for newborns and young babies without good head control.
post #11 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by filiadeluna View Post
I don't give her lollipops or candy, not just for the junk factor, but because they are choking hazards. I'd think the choking hazard would be increased in the car. Yikes! When desperate I have given her bits of food in the car before, I'll admit, but definitely not candy.
Would you feel safer if you had a mirror to keep an eye on her while she was snacking? if you have removable headrests in your back seat, you can get a mirror that snuggly wraps around the headrest so it's not a projectile risk. Having a tasty snack in the car goes a long way keeping my DS happy!
post #12 of 47
When I first responded I assumed that you were already trying to bribe her with snacks. Food is like magic! You have to vaccuum out the seats fairly often, but it is worth it.

If you are worried about choking, you can try the toddler puffs that just melt in the mouth. I agree that I probably wouldn't give an RFing child a sucker or hard candy, but we do crackers, granola bars, cheese, etc.
post #13 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by mama2soren View Post
This is true. You must keep the Britax in the reclined position (where you pull on the bar by the foot of the seat and click it to be more reclined vs. upright), but when you install the seat in your car, put more of your weight near the front part of the seat (where your DD's feet will be), to get the seat installed more upright. It can be as upright as 30*. 45* is necessary for newborns and young babies without good head control.


Unfortunately a lot of kids go through stages like this where they just hate the car and nothing can stop it. I was one of those kids (screamed bloody murder the entire drive non stop until I was about 4 no matter what my mom did).
post #14 of 47
My youngest had troubles with driving for a bit he really didn't like travelling.. we ended up letting him have snacks and found comforts ( blanket paci) that worked well.

For long trips we have a dvd player for the kids
post #15 of 47
We turned ds1 around at about that age. He'd been a screamer since day 1, and at that point I decided it was worth a try... so we flipped him around and the screaming stopped. Immediatly. We also always did lots of snacks (annies cheddar bunnies were especially a big hit for a while), and sippies with water. Good luck!!
post #16 of 47
At that age we use snacks and sippies of water, and car toys.
post #17 of 47
I also vote for turning her around. Rear facing is not safer in this case. Another option is an osteopath, but a chiro might also help. My first was like this from the beginning, and it was not safe for me to drive at all. I bought an old steel tank, and put her in the front seat (which you can't)- but most of the issues went away when she was able to be forward facing in the back. I didn't hear about the chiro / osteo possibility until afterwards. Statistics are difficult things to analyze- this board wants everything to be safest. I know so so so many people whose lives are ruined by sugar addiction. I don't know a single person whose life was ruined by a legal carseat adjustment, nor do I know anyone whose toddler was killed in a car wreck. It was very hard for me to make the decision to put my baby and toddler in socially unacceptable seating, but we did it, stayed off the highway of course, and were able to get to the store without almost dying every time.
post #18 of 47
Honestly are you sure shes comfortable back there?
My youngest started screaming hysterically in her carseat around 20 months. I thought she was just upset because she wanted to play, it went on for about a month before I figured out why. One time (and I will remember this for a really long time) the screaming stop, I got worried and had DH pull over because she never stopped screaming. She was so hot in her seat she was passing out from the heat. We came close to taking her to the hospital because I was that worried about her. Luckily she cooled off some, nursed and seemed fine after that. DH turned her carseat around so she could be cooled off by the AC (we have a two door car right now with no AC vents in the backseat, even front seat we sweat when it gets hot) and we won't turn her back around until we get a bigger car (we might be leaving the country in less than 2 months, we aren't sure yet so we can't buy one until we get the word whether we are staying or going). Rear facing is the safest way but if for some reason its causing problem (like my DD and the heat) then obviously you need to find a safer alternative. If its making you distracted on the road and she isnt' screaming forward facing then its something you need to consider.
post #19 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by provocativa View Post
Rear facing is not safer in this case.
Yes, it still is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by provocativa View Post
nor do I know anyone whose toddler was killed in a car wreck.
Then you are very, very lucky. Sadly I cannot say the same.
post #20 of 47
Thread Starter 
*sigh*

I think I figured out part of the problem. The crotch strap is short/tight/awkward, and it digs into her poor chunky thighs when it's tight enough to be considered "safe".

So I am going to have to get her a new car seat (she's almost outgrown the 35lb RF limit in this seat anyhow). I want to get her another Radian. We had one before, and she seemed quite content in it, although it in an accident so we disposed of it.

I do notice that on some particularly hot days when I take her out of the seat her back is sweaty. But I'm not going to FF her before 2 (minimum) just because she's sweaty. If it's that hot out I just won't be able to take her anywhere.
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