Unfortunately, convenience and optimal wellness do not always go hand in hand. This is certainly the case with infant car seats, and it's not something that most busy parents take the time to consider. Below is a letter I received from my friend and fellow mom, Gitta Sivander, after posting my New Baby Checklist.
Thanks Gitta for this important info!
I loved reading through your baby check list, I like to add one comment on your car seat option. Since you are offering alternatives and are critical in your choices with most other things for babies, I like to bring to you and your readers' attention that regular [infant] car seats, where baby lies in a cocooned, rounded, or flexed shape are poison for the babies' development. Those car seats are well designed for being protective in the car, but are counter-supportive of a child's development, especially when too much time is spent in them.
Lay baby flat as much as possible
Below is the rest of the note I received from Gitta. It explains why baby needs to lay flat as much as possible – rather than hang out in a car seat or a sling, which flexes the body:
Baby's vestibular system [which controls the balance and equilibrium] develops from lying flat in the first months.
Growing capillaries in the brain need the proper amount of blood supply to develop well. The most of amount of blood will come to the brain when baby lies flat, meaning on tummy, back or side. The more upright, the less blood supply there will be to the brain, and the less the capillaries will develop, thus setting up baby for less blood supply to the brain through his/her entire life.
Baby has more variety and support for [learning to move] independently: when in a flat position, there are many options for how to lie: on back, belly, right or left side. Also, baby can start to roll and choose positions herself versus being trapped in a rounded shape.
Car seats should be used in cars only, and not taken out [to be used as a carrier, as an attachment on a stroller, or as a place for baby to nap].
Leave the car seat in the car and transfer the baby to a baby basinet [or flat lying stroller] when not in the car.
The best option, if possible, is to avoid using a car seat as much as possible for the first few months.
The first year and your baby's development
Gitta Sivander is a Developmental Movement Specialist with extensive training in a wide variety modalities from physical therapy, yoga, and fitness, to mind-body therapies for babies, children, and adults.
In our modern, busy lives we tend to opt for convenience and speed, often skipping steps in order to get to our final goals.
Development movement specialists believe that the first years of life are crucial to the proper development of both the baby's body and brain.
Babies should not be made to sit before they can sit on their own, nor allowed to walk before they can crawl. By taking time to allow and encourage your baby to unfold petal by petal, you ensure that no steps are missed to optimize your baby's physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Have any tips on infant car seat safety? Please share them in the comments below.
Very interesting information, but I would like to see more research to support. These statements don’t seem to support babywearing either.
Gotta agree with Chelsea here… I feel like there are loads of cultures that wore their infants upright (not horizontal) and they turned out fine. What is the REAL danger of a vertical baby? Or is this just another thing to make parents feel guilty for… Another thing to stress parents out about?
Hi Chelsea and Joanna – The main issue here is infant car seats. With baby wearing most moms (or dads) will naturally come to a point when they need/want to put the baby down. With a car seat there isn’t a built-in fatigue point so baby runs the risk of being in an upright position for too long.
That was my first thought too! I babywear whenever I’m out of the house.
I would be curious about baby wearing also. I just read an article about how flat lying AND car seat sitting are poor for their spinal cervical and lumbar development and head shape. They advocated baby wearing and holding. Thoughts?
I think what’s most important to remember here is that most things are okay in moderation…leaving a kid in the car seat, the sling, the crib, the mommy’s arms, etc for too long or only in that place will indeed have consequences. No first time parent needs to stress about a baby car seat and be made to feel like its dangerous. It’s meant for the car, so leave it there! If baby falls asleep in it, the. Leave baby in it for nap time, especially if they wake when removed. Nobody likes to wake a sleeping baby! Just like our body wouldn’t enjoy being fed the same meal over and over, putting a baby into a very restrictive car seat for too long will make baby uncomfortable and I agree, could cause problems.
I agree Courtney. Reasonable use of a car seat will not harm a child, even when used RESPONSIBLY for convenience.
I see many parents scared to death with barrages of “the latest”. It’s a weird symptom of society that we must live in a constant state of warning about everything. I’ve seen parents afraid to dab the gook off their baby’s face because they read some expert opinion that wiping the face with a cloth would cause abrasions. They buy $20 bottles because OMG!!! my baby might get an air bubble. Companies have learned to exploit the fact that many girls don’t help momma with the baby like they used to (experience), don’t have parents around to help and guide, and find themselves deathly afraid as new mothers. I hate those “you should be a good mother and buy our product” and the “because your kid deserves the best (our product)” ads, guilting and scaring the soup out of young mothers.
That said, there are plenty of folks out there who are just flat out lazy and I’ve seen ’em do stupid things like leave a kid in the car seat all day long. Other have been scared silly to put their kid on the floor because there might be some dust there because they saw an article somewhere. So putting some information out there on it isn’t a bad idea, but it should be caveated again with moderation and being reasonable and responsible.
Please, can we get some experts out there who don’t use the ‘your baby’s brain won’t be right’ scare tactic or at least know how to use the words “reasonable” and “responsible”? Scare tactics might publish faster, but as we can see from the dissenting opinions here, they don’t help the writer’s credibility as an expert.
I’m just reading this now and I agree with your comment. I’m a first time mom who was dealing with depression from being overwhelmed and feeling like an insufficient mother for my daughter because I felt like everything I was doing was wrong and was causing damage to my perfect little newborn baby. The stress was robbing me of my joy. My daughter wouldn’t lay or sleep on her back unless she was fast asleep next to me in our bed (and don’t get me started on the stress and guilt of co-sleeping either). She has been to a chiropractor as well. In addition to that, I wasn’t able to exclusively breastfeed her because she had undiagnosed tongue tie that wasn’t corrected until seven months. Now at nine months she’s a nursing champ. Studies and information are important, but you can’t do everything perfectly according to the latest study every time. There is also advice that too much time on their backs can cause flat head. I agree, everything in moderation. If putting my daughter in her jumperoo for 15 min so she can have fun and I can do the dishes decreases my stress, then I think it’s okay. And if she stays in her carseat because she is sleeping and it’s impossible to transfer her without waking her up, then she’s going to stay in her carseat. Too much stress.
what is the “car bed”? That does not sound safe…
Car beds are for use only by babies who have a medical need to lay flat. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a baby (even a 4 pound preemie) who can tolerate sitting in a semi-upright position should ride in a rear-facing safety seat, not a car bed. A car bed is a safe option for babies for whom there is no other option. A rear-facing safety seat offers better protection than a car bed for a baby who can tolerate sitting semi-upright. Rear-facing safety seats have an excellent track record in all real world crashes of providing the best protection in any type of crash. In a rear-facing safety seat, the shell of the safety seat does a tremendous amount to absorb the crash forces and distribute them on the strongest parts of the baby’s body–the baby’s entire back. A car bed’s shell is not able to do as much, especially in a side impact. Babies who fail the car seat test and leave the hospital in a car bed should have a plan in place for when they will be retested in a rear-facing safety seat.
Via The Carseat Lady
Ohmygoodness on this post. Off to do a total hairflip and unlike.
Aftermarket car seat covers (like in the photo above) are a big no no. It can interfere with the harness among other things.
What about babies who have infant GERD and cannot lie flat on their backs, cz that’s when the acid reflux is the worst?
Ashley B says
Emily, please reconsider this post. It contains very dangerous information. The good information of limiting time in car seats for young babies is completely lost and invalidated by the car bed suggestion. Keep it fact based. Using a car bed for non-premature or special needs baby is a very unsafe option. Car beds should only be used in very extreme circumstances where a baby cannot tolerate a properly reclined rear facing car seat (infant seat or convertible).
Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death for kids 14 and under. Limiting time in the car, especially for a newborn is a great goal, but being as safe as possible while in the car is even more important.
The picture shows gross improper use with the aftermarket seat cover, which is a big no-no as well as illegal in any state that contains a “proper use” clause in its child restraint laws (most states).
This post needs to come down, have a major re-edit, or a giant disclaimer regarding the dangers of the car bed suggestion.
What she said ^ very dangerous advice here. I also understand limiting carseat usage when not in a vehicle, but your source is gravely misinformed. Recommending car beds for healthy newborns and infants, showing graphic with aftermarket carseat cover, …. 🙁
People need to slow down and get the point here, MOST (non crunchy) moms use those darn click or carry carseats instead of a 5 point combo seat. They like the ease of taking a new baby in and out of a store or whatever without having to unbuckle them and needing to cover up or wrap them. Often, the baby stays in said seat while shopping or visiting unless someone else is along to hold the baby…that is the point. Moms have babies and still feel the need to be independent of their new baby, and this click or carry carseat enables it! When I had my 1st daughtet, I did not even know that they made “big carseats” for newborns, I now swear by britax as they go from 5lbs upwards, one carseat is all that is needed! When I took my 3rd child home from the hospital, the nurse didn’t even know how to inspect my carseat because she had no clue a baby seat could stay in the car permanently!
New moms, skip the click or carry seat, buy a GOOD combo seat (notice which brands always seem have recalls, and which ones do not) and get a moby for that precious newborn)