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Is it advisable for babies to sleep in their child seat?

Should babies be left to sleep in a car seat?

01/02/2017

In a carrycot such as a "Maxi Cosi", is it alright to let babies have a nap in the child restraint system while traveling? It is advisable to use the child seat or carrycot for very small babies in cars to avoid positional asphyxia? You'll find all our advice below.

Firstly, we need to clarify the specific functions of each product:

  • The seat known as the "Maxi-Cosi" has been specially designed as a child restraint system. Nowadays you can see a lot of mothers using them on a daily basis when out walking their babies. However, you should remember that their use is only recommended for a couple of hours and it is really designed to guarantee babies' safety when traveling by car. It is the best option for traveling by car safely.
  • A carrycot is much more suitable for strolls with a pram or buggy, especially in the first few months of life. In this case the baby is lying down in a much more natural position which is better for its back. However, it is not as safe when traveling by car as it is not as firmly secured due to its sideways position. When traveling by car it is much better to use a Group 0 or 0+ child seat.

How does positional asphyxia happen?

Positional asphyxia, also known as postural asphyxia, can happen in or out of a car. Babies do not have enough strength to keep themselves upright and for this reason it is recommended that they sleep and rest lying down.

If you position them incorrectly in a child seat, their body tends to flop or bend over. You also need to consider the weight of the head, which is much greater than their body weight. This can lead to breathing difficulties.

A study in the journal Pediatrics shows clearly how the oxygen saturation level drops in babies who were placed in approved child seats for a sixty-minute period. The drop was greater in premature babies. Another study also shows the difference between sleeping in a child restraint system for babies and sleeping in their cot or bed. The oxygen saturation level is quite clearly much better in the latter case.

This does not mean that they shouldn't fall asleep in their child seat, but simply that they should only do so for short periods of time and always under supervision. 

Advice for avoiding positional asphyxia and ensuring better support on car journeys:

  • We strongly recommend that Maxi-Cosi child seats are only used for carrying babies safely in cars. Ideally they should not be left in the seat for more than one-and-a-half or two hours, as recommended by the different manufacturers.
  • If you have to choose between a carrycot and a child seat, the best option for the safest car travel is a Group 0 or 0+ child restraint system (R44/4) or an ‘i-Size’ CRS (R129) designed specifically for babies.
  • If you need to go on a long journey, it is advisable to stop frequently so your baby can lie down and change position. Take the baby out of the seat, give him or her something to eat, lie them down...
  • It is very important that your baby is properly secured in the child seat. The seat belts must be regulated correctly. The security harness must be able to adapt easily to the baby's body, securing the shoulders so they are held firmly against the seat. This prevents the tendency to fall forward. Also, the baby's head must be aligned with its body. It should not be able to fall forward. To ensure this, you should also set the inclination of the CRS at the correct angle.
  • The baby's body should be straight in the child seat. It should never be twisted.
  • We do not recommend feeding your baby while he or she is in the child seat as this is not the ideal feeding position, far less if the car is actually moving.
  • Use reducers for better support.
  • Make sure the child seat is properly anchored, either by the ISOFIX system or the fittings of the seat belt. Follow the manufacturer's instructions. Use the guides and color codes to ensure you adhere to these instructions.

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