Keeping Your Baby Happy in the Car

By Jennifer Bright

December 31, 2019 5 min read

"Dashing through the snow/ in a one-horse open sleight. o'er the fields we go ..."

That sweet Christmas song took on a whole new ending once my sons, who hated being in the car seats, were born. Our new ending was "SCREAMING all the way."

Ironically, as teenagers, my sons are probably more likely to fall asleep in the car than when they were babies. Better late than never, I guess!

Here's what our mommy M.D.'s — doctors who are also mothers — do to keep their babies — and, therefore, themselves — happy in the car.

"In the car, my son had a stuffed elephant and lion that dangled from the car seat handle," says Sonia Ng, M.D, a mom of two sons, a pediatrician, and a sedation attending physician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Pediatric Care; the University Medical Center at Princeton in Princeton, New Jersey; and the Pediatric Imaging Center in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. "When he was older, we got him rattles that he could chew and a musical mobile. He usually fell asleep very easily in the car."

"It's maddening to be in the car and have a baby — or two babies — screaming," says Jennifer Gilbert, D.O., a mom of twins and an ob-gyn at Paoli Hospital in Pennsylvania. "The one thing that saves us is we have a DVD player in the car. That made a world of difference on long car trips. It kept us sane."

"On long car trips, my kids and I listened to books on tape," says Melanie Bone, M.D., a mom of four grown children, a gynecologist and the founder of the Cancer Sensibility Foundation in West Palm Beach, Florida. "Even before my children understood the words, at least I was entertained."

"Two days after my older son was born, my husband left to go back to school in another state," says Carrie Brown, M.D., a mom of two sons and a general pediatrician who treats children with medical complexities and specializes in palliative care at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock. "My mom had come to help me with my baby, and two days later, we packed up and drove to meet my husband in our new home. Most new babies are good car riders. They sleep most of the time. The only challenge for us was that we had to stop along the side of the road in the middle of winter so I could breastfeed. Other than that, the long drive was uneventful."

"When our daughters were small, I drove north to work, but their dad drove a half hour south to my parents' or his parents' house, so the girls could stay with their grandparents while we were at work," says Siobhan Dolan, M.D., MPH, a mom of three, advisor to March of Dimes, and professor of obstetrics and gynecology and women's health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center, in the Bronx, New York. "To keep the babies happy in the car, we had every kind of string-thing invented to keep the bottles, pacifiers, sippy cups, and snacks within the girls' reach. In the car, they'd listen to kids' music like Raffi and adult music like Steely Dan. Now that our daughters are older, they have fond memories of their commutes with their dad. It was good bonding time for them."

Dr. Rallie's Tips

"My babies were usually pretty happy riding in the car when they were newborns. In fact, they were probably much happier than I was. I didn't like not being able to see them while they were in their rear-facing car seats and I was driving. I got one of those mirrors that you put on the headrest of your backseat, but that was to keep me happy, rather than my babies."

"They couldn't care less if I could see them, because they couldn't see me when they were in their rear-facing car seats, and that seemed to worry them a bit. I found that my boys were happiest in the car when they could hear my voice. I had one-way conversations with my babies. I told them about my day, or I ran through my to-do list with them. When I ran out of things to talk about, I would sing — badly. But they loved it! As long as they could hear me, they were happy little passengers! — Rallie McAllister, M.D., M.P.H., mom of three, co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year," nationally recognized health expert and family physician in Lexington, Kentucky

Jennifer Bright is a mom of four sons, co-founder and CEO of women- and veteran- owned custom publisher Momosa Publishing, co-founder of the Mommy MD Guides team of 150+ mommy M.D.s, and co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years." She lives in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. To find out more about Jennifer Bright and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: voodoovood at Pixabay

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