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While swaddles have some great benefits and have been used to calm babies throughout the centuries, they also come with some risks. Parents around the world use the swaddling technique for various reasons, but one common question that rears its head is if a swaddled baby can go in a car seat.
Do not put a swaddled baby in a car seat. It is extremely dangerous because it interferes with the effectiveness of car seat restraints. Instead, tuck your baby’s blanket or wrap over the top of a correctly fitted harness and restraint.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that swaddling, when done right, is an effective way to help soothe your baby because of the womb-like resemblance it has, other professionals advise against swaddling for numerous reasons including the likelihood of hip-joint misalignment. Whichever way you choose to go, you shouldn’t leave your baby in a swaddle when going for a drive and you can find out why below.
Can Swaddled Babies go in a Car Seat?
Under no circumstances should you ever put a swaddled baby in his or her car seat when going for a drive. We can’t reiterate this recommendation and advisory enough.
Though it’s not illegal and some swaddle brands even say it’s safe to use with car seats, professionals, certified car seat technicians, and children’s safety advocates disagree and are very clear on their point of view that swaddles in car seats are a no go.
- National guidelines in numerous countries and states do not recommend leaving your baby in a swaddle when in a car seat
- It is regarded as dangerous to have a child wrapped in any type of swaddle when placing them in a car seat with a 5-point safety harness with or without a Houdini stop
- It is also advised for parents not to swaddle their infants while in a pram or stroller
This isn’t what any parent or human wants to hear but to show you how serious this message is we feel it’s important to share. Unfortunately, a tragic accident in Queensland Australia left a family broken-hearted when they were in a car crash and their swaddled baby was killed.
Can I Keep My Baby Swaddled if I Have a Houdini Strap?
You should not have your baby swaddled in a car seat regardless of what type of safety harnesses and straps it has, even a Houdini strap.
A Houdini strap is designed to break apart in a car accident so that your baby doesn’t have too much pressure pushing on their chest in the crash. Houdini straps were mainly created to stop curious and daredevil babies from getting out of their car seats unexpectedly while on the road.
Why Are Swaddles Unsafe in Car Seats?
Swaddles, while great for keeping babies warm and secure, are not recommended to be used when putting a baby in his or her car seat because they are simply too dangerous.
Having your babies’ arms and legs tucked away in a swaddle means they are not safely secured behind the seat straps and therefore can come out if there were to be a car accident.
Even baby swaddles that don’t tuck their little legs in pose a risk to their health and safety while in a baby seat in the car.
Qualified car seat technician, Aimee Cajun, on the Baby Center Community forum explains that having a swaddle in a baby car seat puts too much fabric between the harness and the baby. In the event of an accident, the extra fabric would compress, and your baby would come out of the seat.
“Baby expert” and best-selling author, Tizzie Hall, came under fire in 2015 for having written instructions in her social posts on how to use a baby wrap and swaddle them under their restraints for the car seat. Her advice was described as dangerous by mothers and children’s advocates alike.
Some disagree with swaddles altogether for the following reasons:
- According to Web MD, Preventing your baby from stretching and moving their legs can increase the risk of them having hip joint problems causing dysplasia of the hips
- Incorrect swaddling can cause suffocation
- Swaddling while breastfeeding can cause your little one to overheat quickly
- Swaddling might suppress your babies voice so if they are in distress, it can be hard to hear them crying out for you
- Swaddles can easily be wriggled out of if not done correctly, and for those of you who have tried it you’ll know there’s definitely an art to it
- Web MD also suggests that swaddles could increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in babies because the lack of arousal can make it harder for them to wake up
If You Can’t Use a Swaddle, Then What?
We’ve established that swaddles in cars are a big no-no, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want your baby to be safe, warm, comfortable, and happy. It can be a very taxing drive for you if you’re worrying the whole time about your baby’s warmth and comfort, especially in colder months.
Luckily, there are other options to help put you at ease, and you might be surprised to learn that because babies generate warmth quickly, they probably don’t need as many layers as you think they do.
If you want your baby to be swaddled when in his or her car seat it is highly recommended that you take their swaddle off, strap them into the car seat, then re-swaddle them if you can. Otherwise, a blanket might be the better option.
Here is how you can be sure that your baby is safe, warm, and sound in their car seat:
- Secure your baby tightly in their car seat then put a blanket or swaddle over them and tuck it in securely
- Do not leave your baby’s winter jacket on because this will also cause too much fabric to be under the safety straps which can loosen in an accident causing your baby to be ejected from the safety of their seat
- Babies don’t need too many layers to keep warm, so as well as for safety reasons in an accidental crash situation, jackets and beanies aren’t necessary to keep your bub warm in the car
- Make sure arms and legs are properly sticking out of the harness in the right places so that you know your baby is safe in their car seat
- If it’s your baby’s discomfort that you’re worried about and they usually like to be swaddled, then take the extra time needed to wrap a blanket around the outside of the harness once your baby is safe in his or her place
- Keep in mind that if you do find yourself in a situation where you need to quickly remove your baby from the car seat, having a blanket or swaddle tucked over them will cause a slight delay in doing this
- Muslin or cotton onesies are warm, breathable, and cute
In conclusion, swaddles are for safe sleeping at home, not in the car.
Not all babies like swaddles and some parents like to use the swaddling method to stop babies from wriggling and to put them at ease. Although swaddling has been around for over 4,000 years, times have changed, and swaddles may now be outdated in the 21st century. It’s up to you as parents to do what’s right for your newborn.
There is a reason why 26.9% of babies died in their first year of life in the past and why today’s rate is much lower at 2.9% and it’s because hygiene, medicine, and health and safety practices are more advanced. Do your baby and yourself a favor and do not put them in the car seat with a swaddle.