How long can a baby be in a car seat for?

September 20, 2021 @ 8:25 am
Zoe Kirby
Zoe Kirby

Author

Babies and Car Seats

Having a baby in a car seat for a long time is not something that any parent would force upon their children.

Why would you?

But how long can a baby be in a car seat?

Sometimes you find that you have got home from the shops and your little angel has fallen asleep and it’s the perfect time for them to have a nap.

Or you decide to go on a family holiday that requires a lengthy drive and are worried about how long you should be drive before stopping and taking a break then we have outlined it all for you here.

What is the two hour rule?

Leaving your baby in a car seat for too long is potentially life-threatening. There are roughly up to 10 deaths per year of infants under 2 years of age that were reported to have been in their car seat for too long.

A study conducted by the University of Southampton and the NHS found that you should not keep your infant in their car seat for more than 2 hours at any one time.

Why it’s important to follow the two-hour rule

Why is it 2 hours and not 3 hours or 1 hour? This is because when young children fall asleep in moving cars, which they tend to do because of the relaxing vibrations, they can end up in a scrunched position. The vibrations from the car, which initially helped them fall asleep, then makes this position slightly more dangerous for the baby. Researchers carried out an experiment, using forty babies in their car seats, where they replicated the vibrations from a 30mph journey which led to the discovery of significantly increased heart and respiratory rates. All of this was whilst the car seat was at the typical 40° angle. On top of the increased heart and respiratory rates, they also discovered that the children had decreased oxygen saturation. Before you go and throw away your car seat and sell your car, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use one at all. It’s just best to avoid using a car seat as a regular sleep pattern device and any long-haul trips should be broken up by taking a break at least every two hours. This is also helpful for the parents, as although car seats are very safe and put through rigorous testing its always best to keep your wits about you as a driver and stopping at least every two hours for a coffee or a toilet break can help avoid any accidents due to tiredness.

Car seats are only used to transport babies

Using your baby’s car seat to transport other things might seem like a good idea at the time, save you time removing it in the first place before picking up your shopping or taking the dog to the vet.

But car seats should only be used to transport babies. This is because a simple change in the straps or adjustments to the car seat can cause serious injury or in some cases, be fatal.

Infants as young as 1-month-old have been known to suffocate from the straps covering their faces due to not being properly positioned.

Important tips to help avoid risk of car seat cot death

  • Its researched that new born or premature babies should never be in a car seat for more than 30 minutes and older than that should be no more than 2 hours at any one time. To help avoid, risk of car seat injury or death, stick to these as a general rule of thumb.

 

  • If you do need to do a longer journey and they isn’t a suitable place to stop (unlikely) you should invest in a lay flat car seat to help keep your babies heart rate down and oxygen levels up.

 

  • Never use a car seat as an alternative to a cot or Moses basket as a routine place to sleep. If your baby falls asleep in the car, you don’t have to wake them up but be sure you be vigilant about how long they are asleep in the same position.

 

  • Plan your journey in advance if you know you will be travelling for more than two hours and map out your stopping points before you leave.

 

  • If you are using a car seat that can go straight onto your buggy try not to keep your baby in the car seat for too long. If you know that you’ll need to have them in there for a prolonged period of time, consider switching to a lay-flat seat or a carrycot.

Conclusion

If you are looking for the best car seat, then you need to consider making sure your little one is safe and secure. Consider looking into a convertible car seat to save money and invest in a lay-flat or carry cot if you know you are going to be doing regular long journeys.