As a child safety expert I am often asked which is more important the child's health, or the child's safety?
Hmmm, no brainier, both are equally important. A new baby is born without the benefit of a crystal ball into its health. Lets first look at premature babies.
One of the last organs to fully develop are the babies lungs, so to have the baby sitting in a semi folded position is completely unnatural. Lets say we sit a baby in an upright position, up to and around 5 or 6months old, without support the baby will fall down flat on its back so we must respect that this is the natural position that the baby wants to adopt, simple! It's airways are complete open.
(Professor Kito from the Kobi University in Japan sums it up perfectly. Sit on the sofa, bring your knees up to your chin, allow your head to fall forward and to the side then try to breathe through a straw. This is what it is like for a baby in a car seat) he also says that children who lie flat for the first six months of life can be up to 30 % healthier and more intelligent than a child that sits in a car seat. (it's all about oxygen)
Next, lets look at family history. Common family ailments, If there is a history of asthma, psoriasis, eczema, then there is a fair chance that your baby will have some form of allergy that may or may not require parental or medical monitoring.
The unfortunate thing in all of this is,that from birth, your baby, must sit facing rear facing in a child restraint when travelling by car, it's the law . This makes it difficult to constantly monitor the child whilst driving.
So how long in a car seat is safe?
Some Midwives and other medical professionals say that 2 hours is acceptable some say 1 hour is possibly a safe-period, I say, and agree with the majority of pulmonary experts that for a newborn baby possibly the safe period is around 20 minutes, this is until you get to know your babies strengths and weaknesses, as I said we have no crystal ball.
A shocking statistic during a Canadian survey was that more babies die of S.IDS. ( sudden infant death syndrome) in car seats than in cot deaths. Now this could be that in America and Canada, babies travel further in car seats due to the greater distances that parents must travel with their babies in cars.
So what is the solution?
By all means go out and buy your travel system as it is important that you are prepared for the arrival of your baby. Now this is very important. In most circumstances your chosen travel system will offer a choice of car seats that compatibly fit on the chassis of your chosen system and God willing under normal circumstances you will give birth to a happy healthy baby.
It is therefore worth considering that if your baby requires a little respiratory assistance you should be able to change your chosen car seat to suit your babies needs, it is not the be and end all that it attaches to your chosen wheels, (remember babies health is equally as important as babies safety)
There are many alternative seats that can lie in more favourable positions even seats that lie completely flat in the car, this type of alternative seat may just suit your babies needs, so please take professional advice and spend a little extra time talking with the in store child safety expert.
The company that you buy your chosen travel system from should be able to offer advice on the type of system and car seat that will suit your lifestyle and of course your babies needs. It is also important that should your baby require a little extra help, you are able to change your car seat to suit your babies needs.
Good independent nursery retailers will work with you on this, although perhaps a little more difficult if you have made your purchase online or at a multiple, always best to ask the assistant in advance that if should you require to make a change will it be possible. It is also important to note that no retailer will accept a car seat return for any reason whatsoever if the packaging has been opened, so please wait until baby has been born and assess babies needs before opening.
Quick reckoner. Babies born around 6 or 7 pounds in weight should spend no more than 20 minutes in the car seat. Then add 5 minutes for every pound that the baby gains in weight. When the baby reaches 14 pounds in weight (3 months) then under normal circumstances it can endure much longer periods of the in the car seat without any difficulties.
Always use a mirror focused in particular on the babies lips, should they change colour remove the child from the car seat and lie the baby completely flat, then take appropriate action. During long journeys the baby should always lie completely flat, if this is your lifestyle choose your car seat accordingly.
It is also important to note that the time spent in the car seat includes the car seat being used on the wheels as well as in the car.
Child safety expert
Jan Stewart Pram and Nursery
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