Parents’ car seat ignorance ‘putting newborns at risk’

Parents’ car seat ignorance ‘putting newborns at risk’
Parents’ car seat ignorance ‘putting newborns at risk’

Millions of parents could be unwittingly risking the health of their newborn babies by leaving them in car seats for longer than they should.

A new study has found that more than two-thirds of parents (69 per cent) are unaware that leaving a very young baby in a car seat for more than half an hour can cause health problems.

A 2016 study funded by the Lullaby Trust found newborn babies seated at a 40-degree angle in a car seat for as little as 30 minutes can experience increased heart and breathing rates and lower blood oxygen level due to their ‘scrunched up’ position.

The report recommended that children younger than six weeks should not be left in a car seat for more than 30 minutes but new research by Churchill Car Insurance has found that many parents are unware of the advice and as many as 22 million – two-thirds of parents – have driven for longer than this with a newborn in a car seat.

The research also found that as many as 10 million have left their baby sleeping in a car seat when not driving, rather than put them in a cot.

Suitable sleeping place

Professor Peter Fleming, from the University of Bristol was part of the team which conducted the research funded by the Lullaby Trust.

He said as well as thinking about choosing the correct child seat, it was important for parents to consider how long their child spent in it.

Read more: The car seat mistake that could cost you £500 and injure your baby

He said: “Although it is very important for parents to always use an appropriate car seat for young babies on car journeys, the baby should always be taken out of the seat and placed in a suitable sleeping place such as a cot or Moses basket after the journey. Car seats are not designed for longer periods of infant sleep.

“In the first four to six weeks after birth parents should try to avoid car journeys of more than 30 minutes for their baby, and whenever possible an adult should travel with the baby in the back seat of the car to keep a check on their position and well-being. If longer journeys are unavoidable, please take regular breaks in which the baby is taken out of the car seat as much as possible.”

The University of Bristol study recommends that car seats are not a suitable substitute for a cot or Moses basket. (Photo: Shuttertstock)
The University of Bristol study recommends that car seats are not a suitable substitute for a cot or Moses basket. (Photo: Shuttertstock)

Generation gap

The Churchill study found large generational differences in knowledge of the recommendations.

Younger parents, aged 18-34 were most likely to be aware of the advice, with 59 per cent saying the knew of the potential health risks, compared to 39 per cent of parents aged 34-54 and just 12 per cent of parents now aged 55 or older.

Read more: Are booster seats illegal? How to know if your child’s car seat meets safety standards

Alex Borgnis, head of car insurance at Churchill, said: “We understand that new parents face numerous challenges and have to make many decisions about what is best for their baby. Driving with newborns is usually unavoidable and parents shouldn’t be worried every time they need to do so, after all, the safest way for a baby to travel in a car, is in a car seat and it is also required by law. There are some simple steps parents can take to help reduce any potential risk.”

Tips for driving with babies:

  • Make sure you have a car seat which is designed for your baby’s age and weight and is fastened properly in the car
  • If you need to travel long distances, take at least a 15-minute break for every two hours driving
  • Where possible, have an adult sit in the back of the car with the baby for longer journeys
  • Try not to travel for longer than 30 minutes with a newborn baby, but if it is necessary, take regular breaks and take the baby out of the car seat when you stop driving
  • If the baby changes its position and slumps forward, then stop the journey and take the baby out of the car seat for a period of time
  • Do not leave a baby sleeping in their car seat after a journey
  • Do not use a car seat for anything other than transport – they should not be used as sleeping aids

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