Car Seats Risky for Small Babies

The problem with most car seats is twofold. Most are not designed for babies that weigh under 7 pounds, which means smaller babies can slip out of the protective harness. The upright position in a car can be particularly tough on a premature baby’s breathing.

Premature babies, which account for at least one in ten births, are particularly at risk of stopped breathing and slow heart rate because of immature respiratory systems and poor muscle control. In an upright position, their underdeveloped neck muscles can cause them to slump, cutting off their oxygen supply.

"What we don't want to see is the baby in a forward tilt or 'C' position because that will compromise her airway," explains Englewood Hospital nurse Mary DeRitter.

But a new test can help. For the past year, Englewood Hospital has joined other birthing centers across the country in offering a quick test, recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, to ensure that premature and low-weight babies are ready for life and the road.

The 30-minute test continuously monitors a baby's oxygen level and heart while they sit upright.

"The purpose of this test is to assess premature babies that are at risk for bradycardia and apnea--periods of nonbreathing while sitting in a car seat," says DeRitter.

Not all hospitals perform this car seat test. Call ahead to see if your maternity ward offers it. Also, make sure your car seat is a small enough for a premature or low-weight baby.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a detailed list of steps for safe transportation.

For more information go to the American Academy of Pediatrics
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