The first stage car seats, also known as 'infant car seats' which are suitable from birth, might either be a Group 0+ seat (suitable from birth to 14kg) or a Stage One i-Size seat (suitable from birth to 15 months.) These are rear facing seats that are designed to keep your baby safe on car journeys. They may not be suitable for very low birthweight babies or those who have been born prematurely, so you should always check the lowest size or weight that they are suitable for.
These seats have head supports and side impact protection and padding, which positions your baby in such as way that, although they will keep your baby safer in the event of a crash, they may not be the best position for long use. They push the baby’s head forwards so that the chin is on the chest when the baby is asleep. Very young babies have poorly developed neck muscles and are not able to hold up their heads, which adds to this problem.
As we know there have been studies done to find out the effect on a baby in an infant car seat for longer periods of time. This post will break down more about the types of infant car seats and what you can do to mitigate any potential harm.
Sadly, there have been a couple of reports of babies dying, probably from being left in car seats for too long though there may have been additional causes. This has been when the car seat was being used in place of a Moses basket or crib for sleeping outside the car.
One of the study’s lead researchers, Dr Renu Arya, consultant paediatrician at Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Parents should not stop using car safety seats to transport their infants. Infants must be protected in moving vehicles, and UK law requires car seats be used whenever infants travel in cars."
What should I do when wanting to travel with a new baby?
If you have to take a drive of more than half an hour, make sure you take plenty of breaks. This will not only allow your baby to take a break and stretch but it will also give you the chance to take a breather too. Parents of new babies tend to be tired, so this is a good idea for you too. If your baby needs sleep and is getting distracted then you can give them a great environment for sleep by using a SnoozeShade for car seats.
For newborns, the half hour limit seems sensible in the absence of any further research but as your baby grows and their muscles become stronger, you can take longer drives. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents suggests that you should stop for 15 minutes for every two hours you drive regardless. If you're travelling, it's also advisable to check in advance for the individual country's or (if in the US) the state's car seat law, to prevent any problems.
If I have to drive a long way, what else can I do to protect my baby?
If you have friends or family that are quite a long drive away, or you have a holiday home you frequently drive to, you may want to think about how you transport your baby and make some different choices when buying a car seat. There are some lie-flat car seats on the market that allow your baby to lie down as if they were in a crib or Moses basket. This avoids the positional problems of normal car seats.
Do also take a look at our post on how long you should use an infant car seat for.