Premature Babies and Babies with Medical Conditions | The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Car Seat Safety for Kids

Premature Babies and Babies with Medical Conditions

Even with the best prenatal care, sometimes your baby wants to arrive a little earlier than planned. If this happens, your hospital will want to make sure your baby can travel safely in the car. Usually, infants born earlier than 37 weeks will need a tolerance test, also known as a car seat test. Babies with other medical conditions or those who may not tolerate sitting in a semi-reclined position, such as a rear-facing car seat, may also need this test.

Car seat test

Car seat testing is usually done in the hospital within one week before your baby is ready to go home. You will be asked to bring in your baby’s car seat, which he will sit in for 90 to 120 minutes or the length of the car ride home, whichever is longer. During the test, the nurse will monitor your baby’s heart rate, breathing and oxygen level.

If your baby passes the car seat test, he will be able to use the car seat you have provided. If not, the hospital may repeat the same car seat test.

If your doctor tells you that your baby needs a car bed, it is likely because of concerns with your baby’s breathing and heart rate when he’s semi-reclined in a traditional child safety seat. The doctor may also order a home monitor to check your baby’s heart rate and breathing.

Car beds

Medical staff may require your infant to ride in a car bed rather than a traditional child safety seat. Car beds allow babies to lie down while traveling. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that medical staff monitor infants with the following indicators before their first car trip:

Your pediatrician may repeat the car seat test to find out if your baby is medically stable enough to use a car seat.

Car bed safety tips

Please follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your baby's car bed and these guidelines:

If you still have concerns about installing and using the car bed properly, you can visit a car seat fitting station nationally or in the greater Philadelphia area. Please visit Car Seat Checks to learn more.

Tips for using a traditional child safety seat for premature babies

If your pediatrician determines that it is safe for your baby to be in a semi-reclined position, follow these tips to safely position your baby in a traditional safety seat:

carbed-inline-200pxA properly positioned baby in a rear-facing child safety seat with a blanket roll on each side and at the crotch strap

For more information about traditional child safety seats, how to properly install and position your baby in a child safety seat, please visit Car Seat Safety by Age - For Your Baby.

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Four Key Safety Tips

  • Restrain your child on every trip, every time.
  • Keep your child in the back seat.
  • Use the best safety restraint for your child's size.
  • Use child safety seats and seat belts correctly.

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