Is it a good idea for babies to sleep in a car child seat?

Should we let babies sleep in the carrycot known as the Maxi-Cosi child restraint system while traveling?

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Should we let babies sleep in the carrycot known as the Maxi-Cosi child restraint system while traveling? Is it a good idea to use the child seat or carrycot for newborns in the car to avoid the risk of positional asphyxia? Here we give you all the tips. 

First of all, you should be clear about the functions of each one:

  • The ‘Maxi-Cosi‘ is specifically designed as a child restraint system. Today we see many moms using it daily on their walks. However, its use is recommended for just a couple of hours and it is primarily geared towards ensuring the child’s safety during car journeys. Even so, it is still the best option for safe car travel.
  • A carrycot is much more appropriate for walks with a baby buggy, especially during the first few months of life. In this case the baby is lying down in a much more natural position which is better for its back. However, it is less safe in a car due to weaker anchoring and its lateral positioning. To go in a vehicle, a Group 0 or Group 0+ baby seat is much more suitable, known as a baby carrier or Maxi-Cosi.

Why does positional asphyxia occur? 

Positional asphyxia or positional suffocation can occur both inside and outside the car. Babies are not strong enough to stay in a seated position which is why it is recommended that they sleep and remain lying down. 

If you position them wrongly in a child seat, their body tends to bend forward. In addition, you have to take the weight of the head into account, which is much heavier than the body. When this happens, the baby experiences breathing difficulties. 

A study by the magazine Pediatrics shows precisely how oxygen saturation decreases in babies who have been sitting in approved seats for sixty minutes. The decline was greatest in premature babies. Another study also shows the difference between sleeping in a child restraint system and sleeping in a crib or bed. Clearly, the oxygen saturation was much better in the latter case.

This does not mean that they cannot fall asleep in the child seat, simply that it should only be for a limited time and always under supervision. 

Tips to avoid positional asphyxia and achieve greater support when traveling by car:

  • It is especially recommended that child seats (Maxi-Cosi) are only used to transport little ones safely in cars. We recommend they are not used for longer than one-and-a-half or two hours, as indicated by the different manufacturers.
  • If you have to choose between a carrycot or a child seat, the best option for safe travel in cars is the CRS Group 0 or Group 0+ (R44/04) or a CRS ‘I-Size’ (R129) specially for babies. 
  • In the case of long trips, it is advisable to stop frequently so the baby can lie down and change positions. Take the baby out of the chair, feed him or her, lie them down, etc.
  • It is very important that the baby is properly secured in the car seat. Seat belts must be adjusted correctly. The restraint harness should adapt smoothly to the baby’s body, holding the shoulders close to the chair. This will help to prevent the tendency to lean forward. Equally, the head must be in line with the body. It should not fall forward. This also means adjusting the tilt of the CRS optimally. 
  • The baby must be positioned straight in the seat. Its body should never be twisted.
  • Feeding the baby while in the car seat is not recommended, since its position is not ideal, far less if the car is in motion.
  • Use reducers for greater support. 
  • Make sure the seat is well anchored, either using the ISOFIX system or with the seat belt anchors. Follow the manufacturer’s directions to get it right. Use the guides and color codes to follow the instructions.