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Whether it be holiday season or just an ordinary day, if you have a little peanut to travel with, you need to do it safely. Most people think that if they just spend a huge amount of money on a car seat, they are good to go and don’t need to do anything else.

What if I am here to tell you that you are wrong? There is so much more than just finding the right car seat and going for a drive.

I mean, at what age should children travel for longer periods of time? Should you let your child sleep in a car seat? What about when they are hungry? Is it safe to feed your munchkin in their car seat? How about a jacket? Can you put their jacket on while they are in the car seat?

There are so many questions! I am hoping that you will feel more at ease or have a little more education on the safety of traveling with your little one.

The Two-Hour Rule

I want to start with what is called the two-hour rule. It is not a well-known “rule”, but I have been becoming more educated with the research that has been coming up.

The rule of thumb is an infant should only be in their car seat – whether in transit or not – for a maximum of 2 hours per day.

The reasoning behind this is that doctors and other researchers have found that prolonged periods that infants are in that position can cause irreversible issues with the spine.

The other big issue is that infants do not know or cannot use their head and neck muscles properly. The child will most likely have their chin close to, if not resting on, their chest which can cause an airway blockage. And we all know what could happen when anyone has restricted airways.

As your child gets older and can hold their head up and speak their needs, they can safely travel for longer periods of time. If you need to travel for longer than a couple hours, take frequent breaks.

A New Concept

Yes, this is deep stuff. I have children and can honestly say this is a new concept for me.

My kids range from almost adult to not old enough to go to school. So, with my oldest, we had a completely different set of “rules” and “regulations” for raising a child than with my youngest.

My favorite saying from people is when they tell me they raised their children a certain way and they turned out just fine, so they are not going to change anything.

My thought (and I hope this will make you all think differently as well) is that when new information to help people is found, why would we ignore it?

If a medication to cure cancer comes out, wouldn’t a cancer patient take it? If new technology in a vehicle assists you with avoiding accidents, wouldn’t that be amazing? So, when research shows that limited time in a car seat can prevent irreversible issues with our child, why don’t we believe it and change our ways?

Proven Facts

On that note, I will discuss cold weather clothes and aftermarket items for the car seats.

Years ago, you bundled up your peanut and put them in the car seat just like that. It is cold where I live, and you definitely do not want your little one cold! However, there are now proven facts which show that anything excess in a car seat can cause adverse reactions in an accident.

If your child is wearing a jacket or snow pants while in a car seat, the risk of them being ejected out of their car seat is much higher than if they were wearing just a regular shirt, sweatshirt, etc.

The reasoning behind this is even when you pull those straps as tight as possible, the jacket will always add bulk to the child and therefore create extra room to move in an accident. Just as if you buy a car seat with strap pads already with the car seat, you are fine versus buying them afterwards at the store. The reasoning behind this is when manufacturers do their crash tests, they use the padding the car seat comes with so they know exactly what will happen.

I have now transitioned to either starting my vehicle much earlier and wrapping my munchkin in a blanket to go to the car, or I use a fleece-style poncho with a hood. It is warm enough to get to the car and you can either take it off or flip it up over the straps so your little one can stay warm in the car.

Baby’s Safety is Priority

So, what about when people say “Do not wake a sleeping baby”?

Do not leave baby in the car seat to sleep.

Yes, it is very convenient and we all need sleep, but there are just so many unfavorable health implications that could happen with a sleeping baby in a car seat. It all goes back to the airway, spine, and what we have talked about earlier.

The safest position for a baby to be is on their back, and the safest place to sleep is on a flat surface such as their crib.

Again, this does not mean that just because you have never had a bad experience allowing your child to sleep in a car seat, you can go ahead with it. I personally would not want to take that chance. Without sounding like a broken record, I will say that the same thing goes for feeding an infant in a car seat. Take baby out to feed them, hold them, and bond with them.

So, there are travel systems for newborns that come with bases for different cars, a car seat, and stroller. You can pull that car seat out of the car with baby in it and hook it right into the stroller and go on your way.

I mean think about other things than the issues with the spine and airway. Imagine you are in a 5-point harness, unable to wiggle or turn for a long period of time. That cannot be comfortable! Or what about babies with sensitive skin getting pressure sores?

Be That Voice

Be that voice for your peanut. Be that voice for education for others.

By standing up and providing education to someone else whom you see putting a child in harm’s way, you could save their precious little one’s life. They may not be happy with you right away, but hopefully they will accept what they have learned and pass it along to others.

I was approached by a lady when my youngest was a newborn. She was very blunt and abrasive towards me because I had my daughter in a jacket in her infant car seat. I did the same thing with my almost adult child when he was an infant. I was instantly defensive and got upset with her. I was polite and professional, but I was angry with her.

I thought, who does she think she is, coming up to me and telling me how to parent my child! Now, I think of that as an experience of a concerned parent trying to educate me. I do not know her experiences or why she was so passionate about the jacket, but now I have learned to speak up.

Make a difference even if you only think it is a small one.

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Jillian Robinson - one of the Stuff4Tots editorial team
Jillian Robinson (RN)

Jillian is a registered nurse and mom of two.  Her eldest being a teenager and her youngest a toddler.  The wide spread of ages, coupled with her medical background, give Jillian a unique insight into the challenges and joys families and parents face at each stage of life's journey.