Driving and Puking

Elliot hates the car. I am not sure how to put this, really. Everything I write here sounds like an exaggeration. But it’s that bad. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Here’s the situation. He tolerates the seat just fine and has sat in it, NOT moving, for a bit without so much as a fuss. But as soon as the car starts to go, he screams. And it’s not a normal scream. It’s a terrible, nonstop cry. It’s the kind of cry with no sound at times. It’s a deep sob filled with hysterics. He cries so hard he vomits. It’s freaking horrible. I can’t say it enough, horrible.

Thankfully, we live in a city where driving isn’t necessary. So he’s only ever taken four roadtrips. Both trips were to my parent’s house in South Jersey. And both times he screamed and vomited the entire time he was awake. (He slept for an hour each way, so that’s good.)

We’re not sure why he’s doing this. Toby thinks it’s motion sickness and I’m starting to believe him. I don’t think it’s just that he wants to be held. (He loves being held!) You see, he does this thing with his bottom lip when he’s in pain. I’ve only ever seen it four times. Once when he was a newborn and they drew blood from his heel; once when he had his first (and only, so far) vaccine; once when I took off the tip of his thumb while cutting his nails (He looks like Edward Scissorhands because I am NEVER doing that again); and once in the car while puking and screaming.

He doesn’t get sick on the subway. He is perfectly ok with the subway. Toby jokes that he’s a true New Yorker: hates driving, prefers public transportation.

He doesn’t have to drive much which is good. But we’re supposed to go to Rhode Island in July and there’s NO WAY I’m driving with him in that state for four hours. NO WAY. So we’re faced with taking the train to Providence and renting a car from there. (The house we’ve rented is about 45 minutes from Providence.) But that means lugging with us two car seats and goods for a family of 4. The other option is to have Toby take him on the train and Emory and I drive and pick them both up in Providence. That way we can bring a bunch of toys with us and the car seats aren’t an issue. Honestly? I don’t know what to do. And I’m not sure why I just shared all that meaningless information with the Internet!

Has anyone had this happen before? Did your little people outgrow it? Someone said it might be acid reflux, but then wouldn’t he feel that way in the seat without driving? The whole experience is freaking awful and it breaks my heart to see him that way. If he’s sick or in pain or whatever, I don’t want to force him to do it. And I haven’t even begun to explain how it makes Emory feel.

Any information on this would be helpful. I’m at a loss here.


  1. No baby experiences (obvs) but my cousin was like that when she was little and she never outgrew it. (She was also prone to passing out during choir concerts.) As an adult, she has to be the driver or else she *still* gets motion sickness.

    Do they make baby dramamine? Can he learn to drive, and fast? Seriously, though, is there a way to block the motion in his line of vision? I know I get car sick if I try to read or play with my phone with all that stuff going by in my peripheral vision.


  2. I think it’s probably motion sickness. Unfortunately it might not get better until you can turn his carseat around at age 1. :(


  3. Is that a legal thing? The rear facing until 1 or now two? Because part of me wants to try him front and if he doesn’t scream, leave it that way. I know it’s not safe, but neither is crying hysterically for hours and puking.


  4. My niece and nephew (related) both screamed while riding in the car seat. Toys as distractions made things a bit better. My little guy is fine in his, but does tend to spit up on occasion while riding in it, which is not typical for him otherwise. I sort of wonder if it’s the angle of the seat putting pressure on his belly. I suppose that along with the vibration from the vehicle could be causing your little guy to reflux a bit when he’s riding in the car. Do they make seabands for babies? I suppose you could try that if it really is motion sickness. Have you tried putting a mirror or toys on his seat as distractions? Will he take a pacifier? The sucking and swallowing might help. What about trying a different seat with a more upright angle? If all else fails I think your idea of TobyJoe taking the train with Elliot and you and Emory driving and picking them up in Providence is a great one – I vote for that. This too shall pass…


  5. Is he in an infant or convertible seat? If he’s not in a convertible seat yet, that could be your problem. Many many babies (including my first–god, it was awful) hate those “buckets” bc of the angle and the confined space. Put him in a Britax Roundabout or the like (if you haven’t already) and see how he does! Totally solved the problem with my older daughter.


  6. Molly: tried that this last trip. Didn’t help. :(


  7. This happened with my oldest son and it was SO awful. I remember nursing him in a moving car for an hour once because I was so desperate to stop the crying. Another time I drove for two hours with one hand on the wheel and the other hand IN HIS MOUTH just so he had something to bite on. It did get much better once he was front facing so there is hope. I am really sorry you’re dealing with this and I hope you can find a solution.


  8. Oh man. Have you asked your pede? Maybe you can get a script for motion sickness? I get sick in cars if I cant see the road–but never on trains. Buses only very occasionally. Poor little guy! Poor you guys :-(


  9. PS: Am wondering if baby benedryl would help since regular benedryl helps with nausea? And if it made him go to sleep in the car, wouldn’t be the worst thing…


  10. Monica if I could favorite your comment I would. Yeah, I totally had every finger in his mouth this last trip. During a crawling traffic jam I held him. I had to! It was just awful.


  11. My daughter was like that. We live in the city, so don’t use the car much at all – she’s a total transit kid. She refused Gravol (the Canadian equivalent of your anti nauseant med). What we ended up doing is avoiding any dairy for about 3 hours prior to car rides, which helped matters some. She still gags when she gets into the car, but doesn’t vomit. She is now old enough to be forward facing and since she’s tall enough to see out the front window, that helps too. You could see if they make those sea-sickness pressure point wrist bands small enough for tots. Those helped me make it through my pregnancy. Worth a shot. Good luck and it does get better.


  12. My son did this (he’s now almost one). He screamed for the 26 hours it took us to drive to the OBX last summer (why did we decide to go when he was 3 weeks old?)- a theoretically 9 hr trip. I dangled a breast over him while my husband drove. Still, he screamed. Bloody murder. We canceled all trips for the next three months. He magically outgrew this tendency around four months old. I couldn’t even take him to the grocery store. I hope there’s a cure for you!


  13. I think it is the pressure inside the car hurting his ears. That is the type of crying I’ve heard from babies during take-off and landing in airplanes. We should try him in another car.


  14. So sorry you have this issue (too). No real solutions – we tried the center seat, full stomach, empty stomach, pacifier, nursing, pulling our own hair out- I think my back may be permanently ruined from the contortions. I hate when people do not believe me when I said we can’t visit because the car rides feel like war. One time the grandparents were with us & after that they said “never visit us again.” I felt vindicated. Now we just try and take trains, subways whenever we can. If we have to drive, we have had some luck driving at night. More sleep and less traffic. Or stopping very frequently and planning on double the travel time…. I feel for you guys, this is terrible.


  15. P.S. He doesn’t cry when sucking on “bappy” or finger because it takes the pressure off of ear drums.


  16. I had suggested reflux to you via Twitter, but I think that if he is fine while in his seat but not moving, it’s not reflux. My daughter would vomit every time we hooked her into her seat…something about the angle of it.

    With regards to rearfacing, I think it’s a state law, but here you have to be 20 lbs AND 1 year old before you can turn around (meaning that a 20 pound 6 month old can’t turn around, and an 18 pound 1 year old can’t turn around). Look up the laws for NY, but I’m pretty sure Elliot won’t be big enough yet to legally forward face.

    When you guys are on the subway, is something wearing Elliot, or is he in a stroller?

    Benadryl is an option if your pediatrician oks it and gives you the proper dosing.

    For your long trip, I would think that having one parent take Elliot on the train and having the other parent drive Emory would work the best for all involved.

    Good luck. This really stinks for you guys!


  17. I have struggled with motion sickness my entire life. I fell horrible in a car unless I’m driving (I certainly can’t read or look backwards to check on the kids as a passenger), I feel sick on a boat unless it is moving (sitting there anchored bobbing up and down is torture), I get sick during turbulence on an airplane and on descent and I get sick on underground transit *if I am riding backwards. To be honest, nothing helps, not even medication. I haven’t tried those pressure bracelets though. I would mention that it is exaggerated if I am in the far back of a vehicle and if I can’t get a straight look out the front of the vehicle. Good luck!


  18. Camels? Donkeys? We’ll take a donkey to Rhode Island.


  19. Mine did this until turned around. My son was never very “floppy” so we turned him around at about 10mo, my daughter was way floppier – so we waited until 13mo with her. Not that this information helps you, but may give you some hope.

    As for car sickness, being rearfacing is a problem.. I did some research, and there was a general consensus that a high protein snack would help before the trip. To young for food yet in July?

    I think splitting the driveing and train is your best option at this point. Although not a great one, a reasonable compromise until he gets older.


  20. Yeah, Toby has agreed to take the train with him and I’ll take EM and all our stuff in the car. He is technically still young for solids. But I’m all for breaking rules.


  21. I knew he was a little young for solids, but maybe he wanted to start early (my son started @4mo, he did not care for the bottle or milk or formula much, so the doc had me start food early. The only thing is, you would have to practice before you did your trip, so now you are introducing very early.

    Even at that – I doubt the baby food jars would count as high protein. I used to take chicken and cook in the crockpot and then grind it up to crumbles, and then add to applesauce, which he would always eat. Dark meat – babies need fat.

    Good luck!


  22. My older daughter hated the car as well and we live in L.A. where we HAVE to drive. Every outing was a nightmare, especially if we got stuck in traffic. She would scream and scream and scream, never fall asleep, just scream. She never threw up, but I’m thinking that’s just because she doesn’t do that easily.

    Once she was eating solids I was able to pass Cheerios to her as I drove and that definitely helped things. Basically, until she was 18 months old and able to face forward, the only cure was snacks.

    But for those first 6 months, I just had to turn up the radio and try not to go insane.


  23. I’m so sorry it’s so hard on him…and you! The train sounds like a great option. I’m sorry I don’t have any advice…no kids here yet but I’m thinking of you.

    Just wanted to say Yay! that you’re moving up my way (I live 30 minutes from Providence and used to live in Providence!) and drop me a line if you need restaurant recommendations or just a friend in New England! Best of luck with the car issue and the move.


  24. The same thing happened with my son and I was convinced it was motion sickness. It ended immediately once he was able to sit forward facing in the car…which I know that doesn’t help now but at least you can hope there is an end in sight.


  25. My daughter was the same way and it was AWFUL. So first, I’m sorry- I know your pain and I’m cringing thinking about it.

    Out of sheer desperation we moved her into a convertible car seat when she was around 10 weeks old (OK’d with our ped first). Obviously she was still rear-facing and we purchased a seat that was targeted for babies 7 lbs and heavier. I was really nervous about doing this, but it helped a lot. Riding in cars wasn’t fun, but it was much much better for all of us.

    Good luck!!


  26. I second the Benadryl comments… ask your doctor. If it’s motion sickness, it should help. It calms nausea & it will put him to sleep.

    (Here in California, the new law for forward facing is 2 years regardless of weight. Don’t rush to turn him around. I swear I’m not a “crazy car seat lady” but babies & young toddlers are so much safer rear facing. I’d rather have an annoyed baby than an internally decapitated one if, God forbid, something were to happen.)

    Loving your blog! Just found it from Amalah.


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