When driving the newest addition of the family to see friends and family, your biggest worry should be ‘have I packed enough nappies?’ not whether or not your new born will actually survive the journey. Experts are now warning that new born babies should not travel more than 30 minutes in a vehicle, for fear of suffocating – worrying news for expectant parents hoping to travel to see family for Christmas.
Colin Fernandez, The Daily Mail, reports:
Scientists are advising that parents should not use car seats for very young babies for more than 30 minutes – as they could be at risk of suffocating.
Manufacturers advise that babies should not be left in the seats for more than two hours.
Fitting a car seat for the first trip home is a rite of passage for many new mums and dads – as Prince William showed when he picked up baby George and drove himself and Kate away in a Range Rover.
But doctors warn that very young babies whose neck muscles are not strong enough to stop their heads flopping forward could stop breathing.
This increases the risk they will be unable to breathe – with potentially fatal results.2
Doctors and charities are calling for all car seat makers to provide consistent information to parents to warn them of the dangers of long car journeys with very young babies.
Dr Peter Fleming, a paediatrician at Bristol University, carried out research previously highlighted by the Daily Mail, that shows newborn babies may be at risk in car seats.
He said yesterday that there should be separate advice for very young babies.
He said: 'If you can avoid a journey, it's probably better to do so, restricted to no more than half an hour or so.
'But try to avoid unnecessary car journeys with young babies.'
Research carried out by Dr Fleming and colleagues used a laboratory in a laboratory to replicate the effects of sleeping in a car seat during a car journey at 30mph.
After half an hour in the seat the amounts of oxygen in the blood of babies under two months old were found to have dropped 'significantly' while their heart rates increased.
The authors said their findings still mean babies should travel in a properly secured child seat during car journeys - as is required by law.
But they advise that an adult should sit next to the baby to make sure the infant is breathing properly.
The authors warn: 'There have been reports of deaths of infants who have been left in a sitting position, including in car seats - both on journeys, and when parents have used it as an alternative to a pushchair or cot for the infant to sleep in.+2
The Lullaby Trust's chief executive Francine Bates, speaking at a seminar on car seat safety, said: 'We believe that parents should be given informed and evidence based advice when they purchase car seats.
'There is a tendency to focus on how best to fit a car seat and strap a baby in, but information on the potential health risks associated with driving long distances is not usually offered.
'We advise parents that they should avoid travelling in cars with pre-term and very young babies for long periods of time.
'Ideally, a second adult should travel in the back of the car with the baby and a mirror should be used so the driver can keep an eye on the baby at all times.
“There have been reports of deaths of infants who have been left in a sitting position, including in car seats - both on journeys, and when parents have used it as an alternative to a pushchair or cot for the infant to sleep in” Bristol University researchers
'If a baby changes its position and slumps forward, then parents should immediately stop and take the baby out of the car seat.
'We are delighted that infant car seat manufacturers working with ourselves and the Baby Product Association have committed to producing stronger guidelines with us.'
Most UK hospitals require premature babies to complete a 'car seat challenge' before they are discharged from hospital.
Infants are observed for breathing difficulties or changes in heart rate while in a car seat.
But test does not take into account the more upright position in a car, or the vibration of the seat when the car is moving.
The NHS advises that young babies sit in rear facing car seats. They also advise parents only to take the baby in and out of the seat on the pavement – not in the road.
Rear facing car seats must not be fitted in front seats of cars fitted with air bags, as this could be lethal in the event the air bag inflates.
Ensuring you have a safe journey should be a top priority, and taking shorter trips in the car during the early months could make a world of difference.