Car seat tips for tiny babies
The law requires that you bring your baby home from the hospital in an infant car safety seat. But the federal government’s standard for car seat safety has no minimum weight limit. It also does not take into account some of the special needs of your preterm or low-birthweight infant.
When choosing a car safety seat for your preemie or low-birthweight baby, keep these tips in mind:
• Choose an infant-only car safety seat with a three- or five-point harness system. Convertible car safety seats with a point-point harness system are also good.
• Don’t pick a car safety seat with a shield, abdominal pad or armrest. Your baby might have trouble breathing behind the shield or may hurt his face and neck in a sudden stop or crash.
• A car safety seat with the shortest distance between the crotch strap and the seat back is best. Ideally, pick one with a crotch-to-seat back distance of 5 1/2 inches. That way, your baby won’t slip forward feetfirst under the harness. You can also place a rolled diaper or blanket between the crotch strap and your infant. This will help keep your infant from slipping.
• Car safety seats with multiple harness-strap slots are also good. They offer more choices than other seats and are better for small but growing infants. It’s best to pick a car safety seat with harness straps that can be placed at or below your infant’s shoulders.
Read this important article for information on placing your premature baby in a car seat, recommend safe angles, what to do for head support, etc.
Preterm and low-birthweight infants in car safety seats have a higher chance of slowed breathing or heart rate. Because of that, your NICU staff may suggest they watch your preterm infant in his car safety seat for 90 to 120 minutes before you leave the hospital. They may watch your infant even longer if your travel home after discharge is more than 2 hours. If you have any questions at all, check with your NICU staff.