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Use your baby car seat safely this Christmas

Essential advice if you're in a car with a newborn

Newborn baby in santa hat with snowman

You want to keep your newborn protected this Christmas

Travelling with a newborn this Christmas? Make sure you know the latest advice about keeping your new baby safe in the car.

A recent study suggested newborn babies may be at risk of breathing difficulties when using a baby car seat in a too upright position when travelling in a car.

Term and prematures babies in the lab-based study showed ‘significant signs of cardiorespiratory compromise’ when seated upright at a 40 degree angle, and particularly when the movement of a car was simulated. 

This study led to advice being issued to not use a car seat for more than 30 minutes at a time for a newborn baby (up to four weeks old).

However the pilot concluded that a larger study is required to investigate the significance of the results.

Which? baby car seat reviews take into account the angle your baby is held in. Discover the best baby car seats.

Are child car seats safe for long journeys?

The study, carried out by Great Western Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in collaboration with the University of Southampton and the University of Bristol, looked at 19 healthy newborn babies and 21 premature babies.

They were monitored while lying flat in a cot, in a baby car seat at 30 and 40 degree angles, and again in a child car seat at a 40 degree angle with added vibrating motion, to mimic the effect of a moving car. The simulator was designed to reproduce the vibration similar to that of a rear-facing car seat in a car travelling at 30 mph. 

The research was funded by the Lullaby Trust, a charity that provides advice on safer baby sleep and raises awareness of sudden infant death syndrome.

Which? advice on babies and car seats

Which? child car seat expert Lisa Galliers said: ‘This pilot study supports the longstanding advice given by many car seat experts, that it’s best to avoid keeping babies, particularly very young ones, in car seats for any longer than absolutely necessary. 

‘Naturally, parents will need to take long journeys from time to time. Regular breaks are recommended in these cases – or you could look for a baby car seat which holds your baby in a flatter position.’

The Baby Products Association gives this useful advice to new parents:

  • Try not to use a car seat in the first four weeks of a baby’s life for periods of more than 30 minutes either inside the car or as a combined period of time as part of a travel system.
  • If it is essential for young babies of less than four weeks old  to be in a car seat within a vehicle for longer periods, it is recommended that an adult sits in the rear of the vehicle with the child to regularly check its comfort. 
  • On long journeys, take regular breaks, at least every 30 minutes, removing the baby from its seat for a short period of time before continuing the journey.
  • Do not use a car seat after the age of four weeks for longer than two hours inside or outside the car or for combined periods.

Baby car seats

Which? car seats reviews take into account the angle that a baby is held in. Any car seats that hold a baby too upright will have points deducted, and car seat manufacturers are already tackling this issue with car seat design. 

Kiddy-Luna-iSize 2

Kiddy Luna i-Size creates a lie-flat position in the car

Kiddy has launched the Evo Luna i-Size, which has a built-in recline so you can lie your baby in a flatter position while in the car. 

Cybex’s Cloud Q car seat has a similar function, but can only be used in a lie-flat position when it’s attached to a pushchair.  

The Jané Matrix Light 2 is a lie-flat car seat carrycot that allows your newborn to travel in a lie-flat position, then converts into an upright car seat once your baby is more than 10kg.

Britax Römer’s Baby Safe i-Size car seat can be used with the the i-Size Flex base. This base lets you adjust its angle depending on the angle of your car’s back seat, so you can create a flatter position for your baby.

The best child car seats, properly fitted, will help keep your baby protected and cushion a collision whether it’s frontal-impact or side-impact. The worst could leave your baby at higher risk of serious injury if you’re involved in a crash.

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