Is it safe for my reflux baby to sleep in a car seat?

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Our reflux daughter was easily soothed when being held constantly. (Most babies are I guess) But her reflux meant I had to hold her in a specific position. Mostly I had her in a sling, almost upright, for moving around the house and on the school run, when I needed my hands free. But she was heavy and I developed backache. At one point we used a baby walker before our daughter was old enough (according the the manu. instructions), and squished her into it with cushions (which she was sick all over). It kept her upright, but she got hot quickly and I felt it wasn’t idea.

We found that her car seat seemed to be the only place she would settle and sleep for longer than half an hour. I guess I could be forgiven for the frequent sitting in the car quietly soaking up the silence, after a journey, because my daughter was asleep in her seat. It seemed to be the best place for her, so I began to put her down to sleep in the car seat, in her cot.

The car seat slowly came into the house to become a sleep positioner for naps and bedtime sleeping, a first high chair when weaning and play seat, and of course a car seat!  There was always the safety risk, using the car seat outside the car, unsecured. A car seat can tip over if placed on a bed or table. Even if a car seat is placed in a crib, a newly mobile baby can roll out, lean over or become trapped. There is also concern that prolonged use of a car seat can lead to spine and back problems and changes in the contours of the head, leading to a “flat head” and bald spot where the back of the head makes contact with the car seat so often. It is believed that a car seat actually puts more pressure on the stomach, causing more reflux episodes.

So, what if your baby with reflux sleeps and is content in the car seat? Here are some ideas to help keep your baby upright and safe:

Ask your Paed: Ask the Paediatrician for advice on positioning for digestion, play and sleep based on your baby’s age, developmental level, height and weight. Using a cot wedge in your baby’s cot is the most practical, cost effective way to aid sleep. Using a play mat wedge during the day is another good option, instead of a car seat.

Read the Manual: Make sure you understand how to safely use the seat according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Use the harness. Register your car seat, so you can receive important safety updates.

Check Weight and Height: The manufacturer will specify the weight and height limits for each seat.

Check Airways: Observe your baby carefully by day to make sure they can move freely and breathe easily in the car seat. A Snuzzler can be used to improve the angle of seating in a car seat.

Use the Harness: It is important to always use the harness and support system before leaving your baby in the car seat. Even for a moment. A baby can quickly slip down, roll or get stuck.

Mix Things Up: Maybe sleep your baby in the car seat during the day near you and in the cot at night on a wedge. Or feed in a high chair in the day and use the car seat at night for sleep. This way, your baby will be in a variety of positions throughout the day and the pressure on the spine is less.

It is always recommended to back sleep a baby, on a firm mattress in a cot. However, many babies with reflux cannot tolerate back sleeping or sleep poorly with frequent night waking when placed on their back. Parents use all kinds of sleeping arrangements and strategies to get some rest, some they admit to and some they don’t. As long as you ensure your baby is safe and not likely to come into harm, then trust your instincts and position your baby in a way that soothes their reflux symptoms.

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About Author

Rachel

Mum of three and co-founder of reflux sites - refluxSUPPORT, babyREFLUX and littleREFLUXERS.Gathered loads of experience and wisdom talking to thousands of mums and dads who have little refluxers. Campaigning to reduce the number of infants given prescribed drugs for reflux.Superb at parallel parking and eating biscuits.