Not very often you hear someone say that a baby is safer OUT OF their car seat. But there, I said it.
Obviously I don’t mean during car journeys. Your baby should always be securely and safely fitted in a well tested and well trusted brand of car seat when travelling. I’m talking about when you’re out and about, on the high street. I always turn my head and sigh when I see a dear new little life in a car stead buckled onto a pram chassis. Many new travel systems come with attachments so that a car seat can quickly clip onto the chassis, so when baby is asleep in the car (or if you just fancy it) you can get baby straight out of the car and straight onto the pram without moving the baby at all. How convenient! Some don’t even come with carry cots but just a car seat attachment onto the buggy! Our first buggy was like this. Luckily we had it for less than a week before we invested in a lovely Silver Cross 3D.
BUT many new (and actually quite experienced) parents are not aware of the harsh dangers of keeping a baby in a car seat for too long. While it seems tempting to not disturb that sleeping bundle of cute, you could be doing more harm than good.
One of the reasons that a baby in a car seat for long periods of time can be dangerous is because baby is not held in a natural position. Their spines are more curved and may place a strain on their delicate developing spine, Their chin may rest upon their chest and shoulders bend inwards, creating less room for a babies lungs to function to their best possible ability. Basically, it can make it hard for them to breathe.
Over 300 babies sadly die of SIDS each year, and while we are unsure of why this happens, we know what can increase the chances of this happening. While it seems common knowledge that unsafe sleeping positions, poor temperature control and unsafe loose bedding are a huge problem, it is less known that keeping a baby in a car seat for too long is also very unsafe.
it is advised now that a baby spends no more than 2 hours in a car seat at any time. Its easy to see how soon this time runs out when using a car seat on a buggy.
Imagine I take a drive to a big shopping centre, it may take me 20 minutes to get from my house to Milton Keynes. I arrive at the shopping centre and baby is asleep (Get in! more shopping time for me!). I quietly lift baby out of the car (still in her seat) and clip her onto the pram. I shop for an hour and a half. Baby is still asleep. The white noise of the shopping centre and the swaying motion of my buggy, coupled with the tight womb like feeling of a car seat has kept my baby asleep (Win!). Oh, its feeding time. Coffee for me! Off I pop for a skinny latte and a chocolate twist. Time to carry on shopping. I’m in the changing room trying on clothes, agh, baby is awake. I shouldn’t have stopped! I’m half naked and in a tiny box. God I’m sweaty. I’ll just prop her bottle up on a folded muslin (Don’t laugh, I’ve also seen people do this) and carry on shopping. Baby is back to sleep (YIPPEE! Baby’s do sleep a lot and more so when on the move… remember all those comfy motions). Gawd, im knackered. Better go home. Pay and display ticket has nearly run out. I get to the car, Baby is STILL asleep. I lift her off the chassis and back into the car. CLICK! She’s awake. Typical! 20 minute drive back home. She’s awake but not much I can do about it when I’m on the A509. Get home, click her out of the car, get in the house, leave her in the car seat for ease while I take my coat off and flick the kettle on. Phew wats that smell?! Eugh, nasty nappy. Out you come, little lady. Where’s my wipes….
Its a typical story, and one that’s very realistic. But how long was baby in the car seat for? 20 mins drive + 1.5 hr shop + 20 mins coffee + Another 1.5 hr shop + 20 mins home + 5 minuets while I take off my coat once I’m through the door = 4 hours, there abouts. Oh dear. Not good mummy. That time goes so quickly.
Its also worth remembering that too much time in a car seat can cause hip dysphasia and flat head syndrome. Babies also very easily over heat, and the added snuggles of a car seat can make a baby’s temperature rise rapidly. Think about layers, removing coats and hats when indoors and choose layers that can easily be removed or added when moving from different environments. Babies who suffer from Acid reflex may be more prone to vomiting when in a car seat because of the position that they are held in, and as a result vomit may block airways. Make sure that you or a passenger can always see baby clearly.
So, the safest place when away from the car, is in a flat position on a carry cot style attachment to a new born pram, or when at home in their baskets or cribs for nap times.
Remember they don’t stay little for long, get them out and give them a cuddle. Its the safest thing that you can do!
For more information from the experts, visit the very useful page for The Lullaby Trust promoting safer sleep for babies and supporting families.
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