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4 Reasons Your Baby Shouldn't Ride in a Car Seat

How to Keep Your Special Baby Safe

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Updated April 11, 2013

One of the first things we know we need to purchase once the reality of pregnancy has set in is a car seat. For most new families a regular, rear-facing car seat is all they will need until their baby reaches 20 pounds. There are reasons why you may not be able to use a regular car seat. Here are the most common reasons babies may need special arrangements in the car:

  • Prematurity
  • Breathing problems
  • Casts
  • Surgery

Even when your baby cannot fit in a regular infant car seat, your baby still needs protection in the car. Here are some guidelines and instructions on alternative safety seating in your vehicle:

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you talk to your doctor or hospital workers to help you select a car seat for your baby. Not all complications with your baby may require special seating.

  • Be sure the safety seating that you choose meets the federal standards of safety.

  • Special car seats can be expensive, do not be tempted to alter a regular car seat. Making changes to the regular car seats can actually make them less safe for your baby.

  • If you need help locating a specialized car seat or in funding the car seat check with your pediatrician, children’s hospital or other children’s health agency for help.

  • Before you use a new seat, read all of the instructions included with your safety seat.

  • Do not alter the new car seat or place things behind it or under it.

  • Be sure to stay up-to-date with what’s new in vehicle safety seating.

Car Seats for Premature Infants

Babies who are born early or who are less than five and a half pounds when being transported may have special requirements for a car safety seat. The main problem with the regular infant seat is that premature or small babies can have problems with breathing when they are in the car seats designed for a full term infant.

Before trying to use your regular car seat, your hospital will allow you to have your baby monitored in your regular infant seat. They will check your baby’s breathing rate, heart rate and other vitals to ensure that your baby can use the regular car seat. This should be done before you take your baby home.

To increase the likelihood of being able to use a regular infant seat you can look for a couple of specific sizes in the car seat. Car seats that are 5.5 inches from the car seat strap at the legs to the back of the seat will help ensure your baby will be positioning correctly and more easily. You can also look for car seats that have the lowest strap location less than 10 inches from the bottom of the car seat. This will help ensure your baby’s height in the seat is not a problem.

Car beds can be a good option for premature infants, particularly if they have trouble breathing in an upright position. They are also beneficial for other reasons. The car bed can be used for babies with poor muscle control, who have had recent surgery on the spine or other complications.

Your baby may eventually not need special seating. Work with your pediatrician to determine when and if your baby can move to a regular infant car seat.

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