New parents have been warned not to keep their newborns in car seats for long periods of time after a survey found more than two thirds did not know it can cause breathing difficulties.
Just 31% of parents said they were aware that long periods of time in a car seat can lead to problems with babies’ breathing and a higher heart rate, research for Churchill Car Insurance found.
A similar proportion did not know they should take a break of at least 15 minutes every two hours when travelling with a newborn.
And three quarters said they were not aware of advice that they should not travel for longer than 30 minutes with their new arrival.
The poll of 2,000 adults also found that younger parents were more aware of the risks than those aged 35 and older.
Professor Peter Fleming, from the University of Bristol, helped conduct previous research funded by the Lullaby Trust which found that newborns sat at a 40 degree angle for as little as half an hour can be affected due to their “scrunched up” position.
He said: “Although it is very important for parents to always use an appropriate car seat for young babies on car journeys, the baby should always be taken out of the seat and placed in a suitable sleeping place such as a cot or Moses basket after the journey.
“Car seats are not designed for longer periods of infant sleep.
“In the first four-to-six weeks after birth parents should try to avoid car journeys of more than 30 minutes for their baby, and whenever possible an adult should travel with the baby in the back seat of the car to keep a check on their position and well-being.
“If longer journeys are unavoidable, please take regular breaks in which the baby is taken out of the car seat as much as possible.”
Alex Borgnis, head of car insurance at Churchill, said: “Driving with newborns is usually unavoidable and parents shouldn’t be worried every time they need to do so – after all, the safest way for a baby to travel in a car is in a car seat, and it is also required by law.
“There are some simple steps parents can take to help reduce any potential risk. Avoid driving for long distances with a newborn baby as much as you can and if you need to, remember to stop regularly and, if possible, have an adult in the back of the car to keep an eye on your baby and check it isn’t slumping forward.
“It is also important to remember not to use car seats as sleeping aids, however tempting it may be to leave a baby sleeping.”