Study: Car Seats Cut Off Air Supply

08.25.09 Experts emphasize that infant seats should be used only in vehicles and not as cribs

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Health experts are warning that infant car seats should be used only when traveling, not while sleeping or inside the home for long periods, ABC News reports. Car seats save lives in traffic accidents, but they should not be used as a substitute for a crib, say Massachusetts and Slovenia researchers who found mild respiratory problems in 20 percent of healthy newborns placed in the seats.

The new study in the journal Pediatrics found that sitting upright in a car seat—the recommended position—could compress the chest and lower the oxygen level for babies to breathe. The researchers studying the 200 participating newborns measured and found the oxygen level in a hospital crib was at 97.9 percent saturation vs. 95.7 percent in a car seat. They noted in the study that the airway obstruction of an infant, even if it's mild, has been linked with behavioral problems and lower IQ.

The experts also agree that the new warning by no means diminishes the message that car seats are crucial in protecting children from injury during a car accident, just like seat belts protect adults. Earlier this year, Crib Notes reported on an inquiry into car seat testing problems that called into question the rigor of standards for infant seats. (You can check the report's database for test results on certain seats.)

If you're expecting and starting to think about registering for gifts, remember that a car seat is one of The Big Four that you will need for your little one. Plus, the hospital won't let you drive home without first securing your new baby in a car seat. Buying a car seat can be easy and fun, but installing one can be a challenge. Check out our tips on how to do it correctly. Also, some of our expert tips on which seat to choose and when.

Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor.