When a car trip is over, many new parents are apt to leave their sleeping newborn in a carseat - even carrying the seat into the house - to avoid waking the infant.
But now researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston are warning against this. A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics finds that newborns who spend time in carseats have reduced oxygen saturation levels - meaning that not all of their red blood cells are fully loaded with oxygen.
In spite of this, parents should always use carseats when they transport their child, stresses the study's author T. Bernard Kinane, M.D., a specialist in pediatric pulmonary medicine. The reduced oxygen saturation levels (which were at less than 95 percent for a significant amount of time in the babies studied) are actually a very minor risk, he says.
"I think the take-home message that we want to emphasize is that transport devices should be used for transport," Kinane says. "If one parent stopped using carseats because of this, that would be a tragedy."
Kinane speculates that the problem with carseats is that the baby's head falls to the side or forward, inhibiting breathing. The problem with car beds, he says, is in the tightness of the harness keeping the baby in place.
Because the oxygen saturation levels got worse with time, the best way to reduce the risk, he says, is to reserve carseat use for trips in the car, and to take the baby out of the seat as soon as the trip is over.
The study's findings will likely lead to design changes in carseats. "It will evolve," Kinane says, "and a study like this is going to push it to evolve."
- Christina Elston is the contributing health editor for United Parenting Publications. Read more health tips and updates in our Health Notes Archives.