Guard the bub: Essential advice for parents driving with a newborn

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

Embarking on the journey of parenthood can often feel like you're taking a crash course in a foreign language.

There are a lot of do's and don'ts when it comes to transporting babies and the safety risks you may inadvertently take.

Here are some great tips from RACQ to help guide you through.

1. Bump guard the bump – Between the boobs, bump and extra bits that delight during pregnancy there's nothing more uncomfortable that an ill-placed seatbelt putting pressure on all the wrong spots.

Put the shoulder strap in the centre of your chest, in your cleavage, and the lap strap under your bump. That way you're both comfortable (semi-comfortable, it's pregnancy after-all) and protecting yourself and your baby in the event of crash.

2. Six weeks off for a c-section – If you deliver your pride and joy via c-section, settle in to a six-week sabbatical from driving. Unless you get special clearance from the doctor, it's best to get your partner or a family member to take the wheel. If you do drive and have a crash, aside from possible injury, your insurance policy may be voided.

3. Car capsules for short stays only Car capsules allow you to lift a sleeping baby out of the car and place the unit into a pram or on the floor of a café without her waking up.

Bonus. But there's a sinister side to this incredible convenience. Because of the neck positioning, a baby's airway can be compromised so it's not recommended they remain in it for longer than two hours. For newborn babies this time limit is even shorter, so it's best to double check with the car seat manufacturer.

4. Seat = no swaddle – Swaddling is tricky to master at the best of times, but no matter how perfect your burrito-like muslin wrap is, remove it before you put bub in the car seat. His chubby arms and legs need to be properly secured by the harness, because  otherwise he could easily slide out in a crash – it's a disturbing thought.

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5. Backwards baby – While law stipulates you must have your baby rear-facing for the first six months, RACQ experts recommend you leave them facing backwards for as long as possible. If you crash your bub is better protected if she is facing the back. Only turn them around when their shoulders have reached the upper shoulder height marking on your car seat.

6. Car seats aren't flat packs – Research shows around 90 per cent of child seats are installed incorrectly, and it's usually done by a parent or caregiver. Read the manual very carefully or pay to have it professionally installed – just make sure whoever installs it takes you through the process, so if you have to take the seat out you're not left with no idea how to safely put it back in.

Use the pinch test on the straps; if you can pick up some of the strap with your fingers it isn't tight enough.

7. Bowsers and babies don't work – If that fuel light comes on after you've finally got the baby to sleep in the car you are going to blow your top. Truly. You should never leave your baby unattended in the vehicle – even if it's just to duck into the servo and pay for fuel.

Cars heat up in seconds and it's just not worth the risk. Plan ahead (we know, newborns shirk plans), ask your partner to make sure the tank is full or download a pay- at-the-pump app so you don't have to leave your vehicle.

8. Nope, not even to bring the groceries in – We're serious. There's no safe amount of time babies can stay in a car unsupervised as the temperatures can climb quickly.

RACQ tests reveal temps can reach 40 degrees inside a car in as little as seven minutes. If you have a carload of groceries bring the baby inside first and place her in a safe spot like a cot or play pen and go back for your bags.

9. Channel Mary Poppins with an 'everything car bag' - Keep a spare set of clothes, nappies, wipes, swimmers, towel and sunscreen in the boot of your car for any surprise trips to a beach, sprinkler or mud puddle. Also include a change of clothes for yourself. Trust us.

10. Double trouble – if this is not your first baby rodeo you'll often be loading two or more children into the car. The rule of thumb is easy - the most mobile of the kids goes in first and comes out last. The oldest child should get into the vehicle first before you load baby in.

When you arrive, it goes the other way, and the older child should be taught to get out on the kerbside and put their hand on the side of the car while they wait for you.

Tip – tell them 'touch the car, don't go far'.

11. As Beyonce says 'to the left' – Install your car seat on the left-hand side of the vehicle, on the back-passenger side, so you've never got your back to oncoming traffic.

12. Mirror mirror – Put a mirror on the headrest of the car seat so you can have a quick glance in your rear view rather than turning your body and taking your eyes off the road. Once you install it you'll never look back. Except while using the mirror of course.

13. No keys please – never give your baby the keys to play with while you're loading things into the car. One push of the button will see them locked in the car and you locked out.

RACQ patrols rescue on average three babies every day of the year in Queensland from being accidently locked inside the car. It can be terrifying for mum and bub. If there's ever any concerns for the baby's health while waiting for roadside assistance to turn up, call Triple Zero immediately.

14. One crash car seat – car seats usually have a one crash lifespan. If you have a car crash your child restraint could no longer be safe. The integrity of the restraint can be compromised because it's designed to absorb the impact and physical forces in the event of a crash.

The damage may not be visible to the naked eye. Check your insurance policy, it usually covers a replacement car seat if you make a claim following a crash.