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How Long Can a Newborn be in a Car Seat? (2 Hour Rule)

Newborns face multiple risks when they are asleep and not lying flat on their backs on a comfortable surface. Due to the developing nature of their airwaves, spine, and other body parts, it is vital that they are kept in a suitable posture at all times.

At a given time, running errands and attending to other aspects of life necessitates that parents and caregivers move with their newborn from one place to another. When traveling, one question that many people ask themselves is how long a baby can stay in the car seat on long journeys?

infant car seat
Credit: Consumer Reports

It is vital for one to research on the different rules governing newborns in a car. For starters, it is a must for one to have a child passenger restraint system that is appropriate for the child. At the newborn stage, the rear-facing car seats are recommended and are mandatory.

To guarantee a newborns comfort and safety while riding in a car seat, the caregiver ought to understand the various rules that will keep the child safe. Some of the safety points that a parent or caregiver ought to consider when they have a newborn who they will drive around with are;

Buy the appropriate car seat

There are different types of car seats in the market. They are designed to be age, weight, and height specific. For newborns, the suitable car seat is the rear-facing models. Until the child attains a certain age, mass, or height, they are to be in a back-facing child restraint system during all times. One should ensure that the brand they opt for their child meets or exceeds the standards set by the various regulatory bodies in this sector.

If one is using a car seat that is not new, certain precautions must be undertaken to ensure that the child’s safety is assured. The first thing to ask the owner of the used car seat is how long it has been in use?

Check the expiration date of the seat as recommended by the manufacturer and when in doubt call them to confirm if it is ideal for your newborn or not — child seats with missing parts or those with signs of wear and tear are to be avoided.

Also, one has to sign the registration card that comes with the product and provide accurate information so that they are notified in case of a recall.

Install and position the car seat and baby correctly

A car seat must be installed well if one is to guarantee the safety of their child. The user manual that accompanies the product outlines the steps that one ought to take to ensure that the seat has been set up correctly. Other than the guidebook, parents and caregivers are expected to attend a safety class when practical demonstrations on how to set up a car seat are provided.

An expert can be consulted once the car seat has been installed to certify that it is in the correct position. The ideal spot to place an infant-only car seat is the middle of the back seat.

This rule can be altered if the car seat does not fit in this spot securely. The child restraint seat should, however, remain in the back seat. Not more than two point five centimeters of movement should be allowed in any direction.

Once the seat has been installed correctly, the child can be put in. Infant seats come with a five-point harness that must be tightly strapped over the baby. The straps and clips must lie flat on the baby for maximum safety. Also the baby should be in comfortable clothes that allow the straps in the crotch area to snap into place correctly. The baby should be covered over the secured straps and not under.

The infant car seat in use must be reclined at an angle set by the manufacturers to keep the baby’s head from flopping forward. Newborns have no control of their head and neck movements making this action necessary. The baby should always ride in a semi-reclined position to ensure that their airways are clear. Always use the angle indicators and adjusters to make sure that the baby is in the right place.

Follow the two-hour rule

Car seat companies recommend that a baby should only sit for two hours in a car seat within a twenty-four-hour timeframe. The semi-reclined position although recommended; is not ideal for a newborn baby.

Restricted airflow to the lungs of the baby may cause respiratory problems especially when they fall asleep while in the infant car seat. The baby’s developing spine will also strain and if the car seat is used regularly and for long hours it may lead to severe damage.

The 2-hour car seat rule age is not specified, but it should be followed until the baby is at a phase where they can sit upright and control their head and neck movement.

Avoid long journeys

Parents and caregivers are advised to avoid planning long trips until their baby is ready to withstand traveling for long hours. Other than long-distance travel, traffic in one’s city must be factored in to keep away from being stuck in one with a newborn baby in the car.

When long journeys are unavoidable, breaks should be scheduled in between hours to give the infant child a chance to relax before proceeding with the trip. Alternative means of transport that are fast should be considered before driving with a newborn baby.

Bottom line

Lie flat car seats are an alternative solution to driving around with a newborn. If one has a car that can fit this type of car seat, then they should get it instead of the regular infant restraint system.

It is also essential for one to consider that a child experiences breathing problems in just thirty minutes of being in the semi-reclined position. Regular checks must be done on the newborn for safety purposes. Another essential aspect that one needs to have in mind is that infant car seats should only be used in the vehicle.

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