Your baby won’t stop crying in the car and getting behind the wheel spikes your anxiety. Here’s what to do for yourself and your baby.
Though it may sound oddly specific, one of the most common things that can set off a mom’s anxiety is when their baby cries in the car.
You might be on a longer trip out of town or just merely hopping over to the grocery store but once your baby starts to cry, it can feel like game over.
Your heart rate spikes, you clutch the wheel a little tighter, and your thoughts start to spiral as anxiety takes over. “What if she doesn’t stop?” “I can’t hold her, what if she’s not ok?” “My baby always cries in the car… what am I doing wrong?”
And it can feel like complete torture when you can’t get to them to offer comfort in the same way you would if you weren’t driving.
There are many reasons why this can feel like such a vulnerable and nerve wracking experience. For starters, you can’t hold your baby or comfort them as you normally would. You are also stuck in a car with limited ways to regulate your own nervous system. Plus, you have to pay attention to traffic, road conditions and multitasking really isn’t something our brains are designed for.
So what do you do? How can you create calm in this stressful situation both for yourself and your baby? Here’s a breakdown below to calm the chaos when your baby cries in the car.
Things that are helpful for your baby:
When this situation arises, it can be difficult to think as your baby is screaming in your ear. For that reason, it’s best to have a game plan set up ahead of time. Have a quick brainstorm. What are some things you can do?
Many moms find that playing some calming music is helpful. Considering that in a car, there’s not much you can do, this is also one of the easiest and most effective ways to bring peace to a stressful situation. Consider acoustic, classical, jazz, soft indie or folk music.
I asked the moms in my Instagram community about music recommendations, and here are some examples that they shared:
- Lord Huron
- Ed Sheeran
- Spotify Morning Folk Music
- Peaceful Piano playlist on Spotify
- Taylor Swift
- Fleetwood Mac
Other things that you can try to calm down a crying-in-the-care baby could be: reach back and rub your baby’s head or foot; sing to them; turn on a mediation soundtrack; speak in soothing tones; and take a break and pull over if necessary.
And then of course one of the most common pieces of advice was to try leaving to go to places early so that time doesn’t become a second stressor.
How to help your own anxiety:
You’re going to hear me say this a lot because it’s true: when you focus on your own nervous system, and getting yourself back to that calm, grounded, state, your baby often follows your lead.
If you’re stressed, frustrated, angry, or flustered, your baby will pick up on that and regulated according to how your feeling.
That’s not to bring on any kind of blame or guilt (we have enough of that as it is!), but it is to say that if you give yourself the power, time, and space to bring your own mood to a calm state, then you will have more control over the situation. Pretty cool right?
So, how do you actually do that when you’re stuck in traffic with a screaming infant behind you?
Again, music can be a great tool for you as well. Play what you want. Turn on your favourite playlist (it doesn’t hurt to create one of your top songs for these SOS moments!).
Other things you can try that moms in our community shared:
- Roll down the window and enjoy the sun and breeze on your face
- Sing out loud to yourself
- Turn on a podcast or radio show
- Use a mantra for difficult car moments (She is safe and loved. I’m doing everything I can in this moment. This will pass.)
- Remind yourself that sometimes babies just cry and it’s unrealistic to expect these moments not to happen
- Pull over and take a breather
- Name the things that you’re seeing as you’re driving to stay mindful and in the moment
- Stop for a short walk together
- Mentally prepare and get into a positive, calm headspace before getting into the car. Being proactive where possible always helps. (This could look like a five-minute meditation, bringing a soothing tea in a travel mug, packing a scented hand lotion you love, or putting that extra five minutes into your routine so you feel your best.)
- Remind yourself that you already covered all your bases and that your child is okay.
What else would you add to this list? What else have you tried that has helped? Knowing your own self, your triggers and your anxiety, what’s one other thing you could try this week?
Sometimes there are moments in motherhood that are just inherently more difficult than others. Having a baby or toddler cry nonstop in the car as you try to get somewhere is one of them.
Knowing this, you can come up with some strategies and a plan A, B, and C if you suspect you’re going to be dealing with an upset little passenger. Before you leave for the grocery store, visit a family member’s house, or go to daycare, ask yourself: “What’s something I could do for myself before we get in the car and what can I do for her and for me when her crying starts?”
You’re probably hearing a lot about self-regulation these days. You know it’s important and you know that having the ability to regulate your own nervous system will impact the way you show up as a mom. And it helps your baby in stressful moments too!
But maybe no one is telling you how to actually do this. I’m putting together a resource, The Regulated Mom which teaches you how this works, why it matters, and how to practice it. Make sure to follow along on Instagram to hear when this new program is available.