Babies, sleep and car seats; how long is too long?
This is a question that we see crop up lots with first time parents. Travelling with a new baby can be stressful even before you take into account how long your journey is and the car seat.
- Take regular breaks to keep baby safe
- Babies should not be in a car seat for too long
- Research suggests the angle of the seats can inhibit oxygen levels
There is research that was conducted over the past few years that suggests that there is a risk to babies if they are left in car seats for too long. However, car seats are the safest place for your baby to be if they are travelling on the road. However, they should not be seen as a seat that is suitable for your baby if they are not in the car.
Research conducted by Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Swindon, the University of Southampton and the University of Bristol says that babies who are left in car seats for too long may have problems breathing. This is because first stage car seats sit the baby quite upright, at about 40 degrees, yet the baby’s head may fall forwards when they are asleep.
This can place pressure of the throat and lead to problems with your child being able to get enough oxygen. The study used a rolling road to simulate how the child would travel in a car with the baby left in the seat for a period of time and then their oxygen saturation levels checked. 40 children were involved in the sturdy, some of whom were premature and others who were born at 40 weeks.
What did the tests on oxygen saturation rates show?
The results showed that if a baby was at this angle for half an hour, their heart rate increased and their breathing quickened. Their blood oxygen levels dropped. This suggests that babies may be at risk of a lack of oxygen, which might have health problems such as developmental and brain problems. It might even put them at risk of their breathing stopping.
Because of this, parents are advised not to travel for long distances with very small children in car seats. For newborns, they should only be in a car seat for very short stretches of time and though there is not yet a definitive amount of time that is recommended, this should perhaps be lower than 30 minutes. If you need to take longer journeys, you should take regular breaks and get your baby out of the car seat. A short break will help the driver get a chance to stretch their legs and perk themselves up a bit too.
You can also read our post here explaining what you need to know about infant car seats for some more helpful information on this tricky topic.