‘ Health Fears over Letting Babies Sleep In Car Seats’
This was the headline in the newspaper today about a study that has taken place at The Great Western Hospital in Swindon, led by a scientist – Dr Peter Fleming. A comfortable baby asleep in a car seat would seem to be the most natural thing in the world, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. They are such convenient seats, easy to lift into the car and into the stroller chassis at the mall, without waking baby, then back into the car and home…easy !
Not so ! The study has shown that long periods sleeping in a car seat can be dangerous. The newborn slumps forward in the seat, blocking the airway and in rare circumstances can die. This is not scaremongering, particularly for us moms of twins and triplets who are likely to be particularly small in the newborn stage and this combined with no muscle tone to support their heads could make them potentially more vulnerable.
Car seats are designed to safely secure babies up to 22lbs, too big to secure a low birthweight or preterm baby where discharge weight could well be around 4-5lbs. However don’t be under any illusion that you can transport your babies any other way, it is the law that they have to be fastened securely in a car seat. They are still vastly safer being strapped into their car seats than being held in someone’s arms.
The researchers carried out studies on 19 healthy babies and 21 preterm babies. Their average age was 13 days, with an average weight of 5 1/2 lbs. They tested heart and lung functions on a 30 minute simulated car journey with the seat at a 40 degree angle. The seat was designed to vibrate as a car would at 30mph. The experiment was stopped immediately if any of the babies suffered ‘apnoea’ (struggling to breathe) during sleep for more than 15 seconds or if blood oxygen dropped below 85% for 20 seconds. There were trained personnel with resuscitation equipment on standby.
The results showed that whilst 30 minutes is a short period of time, the babies showed a significant drop in oxygen concentration in their blood and a heart rate increase. The babies heads flopped forward in an extremely flexed position during motion, raising their heads intermittently but unable to maintain this raised head position. The head and shoulders came forward despite shoulder straps.
Dr Peter Fleming said ” There have been reports of deaths in infants who have been left in a sitting position including in car seats, both on long journeys and when parents have used it as an alternative to a pushchair or cot for the infant to sleep in. Our findings suggest this kind of thing (death) could happen, although it would be a very rare event.”
Whatever you do, don’t ever use these seats as somewhere to pop your baby without fastening them in, they can wriggle down and completely occlude their airway.
Most UK hospitals require preterm babies to complete a ‘Car Seat Challenge’ where they are observed for breathing difficulties whilst sitting in the car seat, however this does not take into account the position of the car seat in the car and the motion of the car.
There are several options for ensuring your babies are safe whilst on a car journey. Of course if you are strolling with your baby in the car seat and you see that their head has flopped forward, you would adjust their head gently, which is perfectly fine, this study is when your babies are not being constantly observed, and the head has flopped forward.
The first I would suggest and this is something that I have never understood, why do you want to take your babies out in car seats when theyre so small? I have seen moms at the mall pushing babies around that are obviously less that two weeks old ! Why would you expose them to all the germs and noise? I suppose a single baby’s needs whilst out are way less than triplets ! I could never have taken mine out to the mall or car journey at such a young age, apart from the fact I didn’t have the time or the energy when they were so small. So the first thing really is to try and keep the time in the car seat to an absolute minimum when they are so small. My mall is 40 minutes away, thats too far.
The second solution would be that when your babies are being transported in car seats, that they are observed constantly by an adult sitting next to them and supporting their heads should they flop forward during the journey. This is fine if you have only one or two but trying to do this for three could pose problems.
The third option would be to use a head and neck support to stop your baby’s head flopping forward. One of these supports is the Brica Koosh’n Neck Rest. I would suggest though when you use one of these supports for the first time, that you monitor your baby in the car seat on the car journey to ensure that it is positioned correctly before you put your trust in it.
The fourth option is not to use this type of car seat. I didn’t use them with my triplets. I had regular car seats that had various reclining positions so my babies were laid back at almost 90 degrees so their heads couldn’t flop forward. They had supportive head huggers so their heads didnt sway from side to side. As my triplets got older, I could adjust the angle of recline depending on their age and particularly when I thought they were going to fall asleep on the journey, I would tilt their seats backwards so they could sleep and be safe and comfortable. I have forgotten on odd occasions and realising have had to pull over to recline one or other baby. These were not car seats that you could remove and clip into the stroller.
The other option is to go for the new lie-flat car seats which, of course, removes this issue completely and settles another one straight way too – that babies should not be left in the ‘bucket’ style car seats for longer than two hours because it is not good for their muscles and nerve development and should be laid flat as much as possible. Take a look at the Lie Flat Car Seats I feature.
The head cushions are here if you want to go take a look at them, sometimes your car may just not be big enough for the lie flat car seats, or they’re too costly, but the head cushions are much more affordable and will do the job well.
If you want to purchase the Brica Koosh’n Neck Rest, it is available from Amazon. Click on the link below for the UK or the US store.
If you want to read the full report, click on this link : Daily Mail October 4 2016.
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