Question 2-year-old complains of back pain in carseat

Beth Vollins

New member
Please help with technical advice. My two-year-old daughter (33 inches, 25 lbs) complains of back pain in every carseat. She has never had a successful carseat experience. As a baby, she had reflux. The curve in the infant seat was torture on her tummy. We moved her to a convertible seat, with some relief. For the last year she has complained of back pain in her seat. The doctor was no help. I've seen vests, harnesses and the Safego online, but I have no idea about the safety of these. Right now, she is sitting on a backless booster. This is not working either.


Senior Community Member
She is too young and too light for a backless booster.

Please, PLEASE get her back in a harness today.

Ideally, at her age and size she should still be rear facing, she might be MUCH more comfortable rear facing.

Try a very padded carseat like the Evenflo Triumph Advanced, and turn her back rear facing!

The MINIMUM for booster use is 4 YEARS AND Forty Pounds.

As a tech, I don't like to see kids in boosters full time until they are 5-7 years old, and NOT in backless boosters until they are at least 8 years old.

Your daughter is not safe in a backless booster.


New member
My son has the same issue, he has a bruise on his spine from the car seat. I figured out that the seat just isn't padded enough. He is rear facing still though.

For us we are going to buy a Maxi Cosi Priori as they look to be quite padded. You might just have to go through some trials of seats until you find one that doesn't hurt her, but you really should have her in some sort of harnessed seat.

I know its a big no no but maybe you could put a liner or a sponge ted in the seat and that might help.


Well-known member
ITA with Gypsy....

My son is about her size and still rf.

My older son use to complain all the time also. I ended up finding ways to distract him in the car and he moved passed it.


CPST and ketchup snob
Staff member
I know its a big no no but maybe you could put a liner or a sponge ted in the seat and that might help.

You absolutely should NOT put one of these in a car seat.

A more-padded car seat might do the trick, so might distraction. I let my kids take turns choosing what cd we listen to and they sing along, that keeps them from whining too much about other things a lot of the time. ;) So do car games (looking for things out the window, etc.)


Well-known member
You absolutely should NOT put one of these in a car seat.

A more-padded car seat might do the trick, so might distraction. I let my kids take turns choosing what cd we listen to and they sing along, that keeps them from whining too much about other things a lot of the time. ;) So do car games (looking for things out the window, etc.)

2 yr olds are smarter then you think. They catch that when they complain, mommy reacts so why not complain more....

Distraction is an AWESOME parenting tool that can work in many situations. LOL.


New member
Ditto the other posters. A 2 year old in a backless booster is nothing short of deadly, even in a low-speed accident.

She MUST be in a harnessed car-seat. What seats have you tried? Have you tightened the harness properly? If it's at all loose and she can 'slouch' that might cause pain. The harness should be tight enough that you cannot pinch any slack at the shoulders.

There are some very comfortable seats out there. If you give us an idea of the vehicle you drive, the budget you have and what you've tried all ready, we can give you some suggestions :thumbsup:


Admin - CPS Technician Emeritus
Staff member
I'm so sorry you're struggling with carseat issues and hope we can help you find a workable and safe solution for your little one. I want to clarify why a backless booster seat isn't appropriate for a 2 year old weighing 25 lbs. Others have stated it's not appropriate without elaborating, and I think it's important to provide more details. It sounds as though you realize the booster seat is not working, and we don't mean to scold, just to advise and inform.

Most backless booster seats have a bare minimum weight requirement of 40 lbs. and it's also imperative that the child be capable of sitting properly in the booster at all times without leaning, slouching or sliding down under the lap belt (technically called "submarining") or trying to tuck the shoulder belt behind them, etc. A child who is too small for the booster is much more likely to be out of position and suffer injury or ejection during a crash. :( This is why the bare minimum recommendation for using a belt positioning booster, and ideally a highback booster seat to provide more side impact protection over a backless booster, is 4 years old and 40 lbs. Even then, it's fairly difficult behaviorally for some kids aged 4 and up who meet the minimum weight requirement for a given booster seat to remain properly seated and positioned in the vehicle seatbelt. A 2 year old not only doesn't properly fit, but has an even lower behavioral likelihood of remaining properly positioned in the booster. My own 3 year old immediately tried ducking under the shoulder belt and escaping from a booster seat when I used her as a model just to demonstrate to my mom how her older sister's spare booster worked in my mom's car, and my 7 year old is incredibly fidgety to the point that even she still rides in 5-point harnessed seat in our primary vehicles. :)

Please post back with the details requested about carseats you have tried and your vehicle information, and we'll do our utmost to suggest harnessed seat options for you.
I agree with what everyone said, except the one who said add padding to your carseat.

I am thinking you need a more padded carseat. What kind of carseat was your little one in before the backless booster?

I would check out these seats and definetly try to rearface your child, if not rearface at least get her out of the backless booster.

*Evenflo Triumph Advance (sold at babies r us, target, walmart)-runs around 130ish at walmart goes from 5-50 pounds, RF to 35 pounds
*Saftey 1st Avenue-79.99 at K-mart goes from 5-40 pounds. RF to 35 pounds

Those are cheaper prices seats with lots of padding.


New member
Thank you Jean for clarifying for the OP.

Sometimes we forgot our words can seem harsh even when they are not intended to be. OP, I do apologize if I came off scolding :thumbsup:

Beth Vollins

New member
Thanks for your replies.

Distraction is not an option for us. The carseat hurts her so much that she actually complains randomly through the day even when she is not in her seat.
When we put her in the seat, she screams hysterically. She will either tuck her left hand behind her back or lean forward against the straps. We have to take coats and extra layers off before she will even consider getting in the seat. Sometimes if I give her a lollipop or something to eat, she will calm down.

I'm really at a loss here. It has really created an unsafe situation for everyone in the car.



New member
Just FYI, she shouldn't be wearing coats or extra layers in the car seat, so you're on the right track there :thumbsup: The reason for this is that they can create a false sense of harness tightness, but in an accident all that fabric can compress, leading to head or neck injuries, or even ejection.

If you can answer some of the questions posed, that will put us on the right track toward solving your dilemma :thumbsup:


Senior Community Member
My DS used to complain about back pain in his car seat and I figured out that it was from his legs dangling uncomfortably and putting strain on his back. It was fixed by making sure he had a footrest of some sort. I stuffed a large comforter in a garbage bag and shoved it in the vehicle where his feet are for him to use as a footrest. I know that sounds strange, but it works fine and isn't a possibly harmful projectile. In your DD's case, it could be fixed by simply turning her back to RF in a harnessed seat. Good luck! I hope you find a solution!
I just thought of something else. This happened to my nephew, before I realized she had him in the carseat wrong. He was complaining about his back.

If your child is Rearfacing the straps should be at or below her shoulders.
If your child is Forward facing the straps should be at or slightly above the shoulders.


New member
I'm curious, has she been evaluated by a pediatrician or chiropracter for scoliosis?

this is great advice! assuming you are doing everything right, and especially if there is any bruising on the spine from the carseat, this is likely the cause.

those here who know me from the old babycenter board know that this is why Damian was (though he wasn't voicing it as extremely) first never happy with his back comfort in a carseat and always had bruising on it from about age 2 and then, went on to not be able to remain upright in a booster when falling asleep even at age 6 (to the extent his head would be in his LAP)

I not only put him back in a more padded harnessed seat (the Regent), which cured the discomfort, had padding which prevented the bruising, but also had a harness, which kept him in a perfect posture position... and I also tried to ensure he didn't slouch or do things that would worsen the problem at home, but this was the crucial period where, after a car ride, you'd see an increase in bruising and/or he would seem to have more of a curve going on. In addition, he was examined by his pediatrician and referred to an orthopedist who confirmed the scoliosis I suspected for some time and the pediatrician had not been able to see for the past two years. (To help the ped be able to notice it during the Adam's test (where they check the spine as the child touches his toes with straight legs), I had taken an extra 30 minutes of driving with him in his booster first... he was 6 and past 40lbs, so otherwise fine to use one.

Anyway... the orthopedist said while they can't officially recommend it, as it is expensive and not every scoliosis is severe enough to warrent prescription seats, that harnessing is definitely the way to go to prevent it and to keep it minimal or keep the spine straight so the child can outgrow one that has been caused by poor positioning of the spine.

Sure enough, when he outgrew the seat, he didn't have the problem in the booster anymore and has since seen his scoliosis decrease and now have it gone.

But before we assume that.... do check the following

1. take the carseat and pull the cover up... feel it to be sure there is nothing caught under the cover or in the cover and be sure that the part of the seat along his back is smooth.

2. when you install it, make sure that there is no twisting in the seatbelt or latch (assuming he is forward facing, this could cause the problem) strap.

3. when you place him in the seat, NO bulky clothes, coats, etc. Be sure he sits all the way back and sits up good and straight. If he is rearfacing, the straps come from at or below the shoulders and if forward facing, at or above.

4. Make sure the straps are nice and straight and tighten them until you can no longer pinch any slack in them at his collar bone (after pulling all the slack up into the shoulders, unless he's in an evenflo triumph... then you would check at his hips and pull slack down into the lap straps and tightening the straps). Position the chest clip at armpit height.

I do suspect it could be positioning, as you referred to a curve in the infant seat. Infant seats are straight... just as any other seat... the only bend or curve is where the child's bottom goes (seat crack in the seat crack).

He really canNOT use a booster at all as he is far too young and far too little to be mature enough to sit in one and/or have the seatbelt fit him properly.

But assuming all that is already done, then here is another, though a little scarier, possibility for the pain, since you describe it as being far more severe than a typical scoliosis would be.

He could have a tethered cord... as explaining what that is and the symptoms would make this even longer, I'm providing a great link.


New member
Can you get the phil & teds car seats over there? The Bebe recline, the tott & the tott xt are all approved for use & tested with the sponge ted, so that would make it ok to use right?


CPST Instructor
My #2 is my unhappy traveler - the only thing that worked when she was little was fianlly switching to a Britax Boulevard, it was a lifesaver and made the car ride bearable. She still did (does) not like the car much but she does not scream the entire time she is in the car. She has now outgrown the boulevard and is in a regent, which is an acceptable second seat, but she still would prefer the boulevard if she had a choice. It took trying several seat (borrow them for a week or so from friends if you can), to find one that worked.


Beth Vollins

New member
Good Morning all,

First, thank you so much for all the great support.

When the triumph did not work for us, we bought the Britax Marathon. We used the Marathon forward facing.

Gracie has been evaluated by her pediatrician, but not a specialist. She has had an x-ray and ultrasound. The next medical step would be an MRI.

We have double (triple) checked positioning and padding. Straps are untwisted and set at the right position.

Her complaint: The carseat "ows my back." She points to the small of her back. She cries at the thought of sitting in the seat. When put in any carseat she twists her arm back to put her hand between her back and the seat or she pushes forward against the straps.

My investigations have ranged from reflux, sensory integration to spinal/kidney issues. The bottom line is that I can't ride safely with her in the car - either because I am making changes to carseat configuration or because of her screaming.

Does anyone out there have a similar experience? Or, a suggestion for a seat? I will turn the Britax Marathon rear-facing today.


Car-Seat.Org Facebook Group

Forum statistics

Latest member

You must read your carseat and vehicle owner’s manual and understand any relevant state laws. These are the rules you must follow to restrain your children safely. All opinions at Car-Seat.Org are those of the individual author for informational purposes only, and do not necessarily reflect any policy or position of Carseat Media LLC. Car-Seat.Org makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis. If you are unsure about information provided to you, please visit a local certified technician. Before posting or using our website you must read and agree to our TERMS.

Graco is a Proud Sponsor of Car-Seat.Org! Britax is a Proud Sponsor of Car-Seat.Org! Nuna Baby is a Proud Sponsor of Car-Seat.Org!

Please  Support Car-Seat.Org  with your purchases of infant, convertible, combination and boosters seats from our premier sponsors above.
Shop travel systems, strollers and baby gear from Britax, Chicco, Clek, Combi, Evenflo, First Years, Graco, Maxi-Cosi, Nuna, Safety 1st, Diono & more! ©2001-2022 Carseat Media LLC