Mom putting her baby in a car seat.


What to Know About Baby Motion Sickness and Car Seats

Everyone needs to leave their house at some point or another. Depending on where you live, this may mean using public transportation or even walking to your destination, but in many areas driving is the preferred method of getting around. This is especially true when you have children. While you might stay home more often during the newborn phase, as your child grows, you’ll begin to return to a more normal routine. Many parents find the process of getting ready to leave the house daunting, but for some, the driving itself can be a hassle. If your baby or child experiences motion sickness, getting in the car can cause a lot of anxiety. To help you manage this issue and prevent unpleasant messes, here’s what to know about baby motion sickness and car seats.


Why Do Kids Get Car Sick?

Motion sickness can affect people of all ages, whether they’re babies or senior citizens. It happens when the brain starts to receive mixed signals from all of the different receptors. Your eyes don’t tend to “see” the motion, your body is at rest, but your inner ear senses movement. This creates a disconnect that can lead to feelings of illness. Unfortunately, this tends to happen quite suddenly and without warning, but results in some serious discomfort. In severe instances of motion sickness, many individuals (adults and children alike) may vomit.

Unfortunately, some people tend to feel the effects of motion sickness more than others. It occurs most commonly between the ages of 6 and 12 years old, with a peak between about 9 and 10 years old. Frequency of car sickness seems to decline with age, especially after puberty. There isn’t a clear reason why some babies or children experience carsickness more intensely, but there are things you can do to help prevent it.


Signs of Motion Sickness in Children

Although many parents don’t realize that their child is car sick until nausea or vomiting occurs, there are usually some signs that happen first. It’s important to keep an eye out for these, as they can be subtle (especially in young babies). Parents with children who experience frequent motion sickness will likely pick up on these cues quickly, making it easier to handle future periods of illness. Some of the most common symptoms that precede nausea include a feeling of general malaise, irritability, a sensation of fullness, dizziness, and drowsiness. If not remedied, motion sickness in children often results in vomiting.


10 Ways to Handle Motion Sickness in Children

Preventing car sickness is possible, but it will take some trial and error. Every child is different and what works for one, might not work for another. Each instance of motion sickness may also vary and, depending on severity, require different remedies to handle car sickness before it progresses.

1. Choose the Right Car Seat

There are some car seats available on the market that advertise their ability to help mitigate motion sickness in babies and children. If getting a new car seat is in your budget, it’s a good thing to consider. The different latches and harnesses can help reduce any unnecessary movement that may trigger carsickness. Some models also allow for various positions (all safe) that you can test out with your baby. Unfortunately, car seats can be expensive so if it’s not in the cards for you, don’t worry. There are plenty of other options to try.


2. Increase Airflow

Fresh air can do wonders for children and adults alike. The crisp feeling of air that comes with cracking a window while driving can actually help prevent the onset of nausea and queasiness altogether. If it’s too cold outside, you can achieve the same effect using a small fan or air conditioner. Some children may not respond to improved airflow, but it’s worth a shot. 


3. Avoid Rear-Most Positions

The back of the car is where the motion is felt the most, so never put a car sick prone child in the rear-most positions. Try to keep them in the middle seats if they’ve outgrown their car seat. Otherwise, you should follow the age-appropriate safety recommendations for newborn car seat use and placement.start your order

4. Encourage Distractions

Distractions, in this sense, should be things like music or a nice game of “I Spy” out the windows. Screens, books, or games that they have to focus on could lead to higher feelings of car sickness, as they’re looking at a motionless object rather than the road ahead. Motion sickness-friendly distractions include sing-a-longs, listening to music together, or even just having a nice conversation. If your child is old enough, try to have them looking out the front windshield rather than the side windows to help get the body re-oriented with the mind. 


5. Drive with a Settled Stomach

You should never give your child a big meal immediately before getting in the car. It’s also advised against eating in the car, as the motion mixed with digestion can further irritate nausea. If you’re going to be traveling short distances, just wait until you’re at your destination to eat. When taking a longer road trip, stick to smaller portions and bland food (i.e., crackers) to help keep the stomach settled.


6. Make Frequent Stops

Although it might take you longer to get somewhere, making frequent stops while you’re driving can help you avoid the mess of carsickness. Try to pay attention to when your baby or toddler starts to feel sick. Some mothers notice that they cannot go more than 30 minutes without having their children experience motion sickness, while others note that it happens inconsistently.

Regardless, taking the time to give your baby a break from the movement can help their body and mind get reoriented. This can help you avoid the onset of motion sickness and the potential nausea that comes with. Breaks don’t have to be too long—about 10 or 15 minutes should be enough to help your baby reset before continuing on. If you’re taking a road trip, try to plan these stops ahead of time to make the most of them. 


7. Check for Early Signs of Infant Motion Sickness

After the first car sick incident, you may want to spend some more time trying to understand your child’s warning signs. Many of these include paleness or a flushed face, fatigue, or even signs of sweating and irritability. When you can easily identify these factors before the nausea sets in, it gives you a chance to find a place to safely pull over and take a break. This can help reduce the panic that’s often associated with vomiting in children and lower the risk of having a messy car to clean up.


8. Use an Ice Pack

Applying an ice pack to the back of your baby’s head for about 10 minutes seems to have positive effects for many families. You may want to continue doing this, switching from on to off every 10 minutes, for the duration of the drive if it’s effective. A cool washcloth could also be used.


9. Consider Medications

Some children experience terrible motion sickness, regardless of what you do. This can make it difficult to navigate daily life, especially if you’re taking a trip somewhere. Consider talking to your pediatrician about child-friendly car sickness medication. Some options include antihistamines, dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), or diphenhydramine (Benadryl), but it’s always best to speak to your doctor beforehand. If cleared for use, you’ll want to give the medication to your child about an hour before you get on the road and follow the dosage instructions closely. Some medications have more noticeable side effects than others, with the biggest effect being drowsiness. However, if you’re taking a long drive, a little sleepiness may work out in your favor.


10. Be Prepared for Anything

You can take every precaution in the book but sometimes, accidents happen. Try to be prepared for the worst by carrying a small bucket or big pieces of Tupperware in the car. This gives your child somewhere to be sick without the risk of suffocation (plastic bags) or excessive mess (vomiting into a bowl).

Although it might not be the cure to ending car sickness in your kids, finding the right car seat can help. You can do this during pregnancy to make sure that you’re prepared. In the process, don’t forget to order a breast pump! Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, new and expecting mothers are eligible to receive an insurance covered breast pump with zero out of pocket costs from Byram Healthcare. To browse your options and find a breast pump that works with your lifestyle, visit our breast pump comparison guide and begin your order today.