Traveling with Preemies
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Traveling with Preemies

Even with advances in medical care, a premature birth is still nerve-wracking. Just when you think the days of endless visits, medical speak and tests are over, you’re faced with a new problem: How are you going to get the newest member of your family home? Your baby’s small size and their undeveloped heart and lungs means he or she can’t use a conventional car seat, requiring unique equipment and help from your medical staff to ensure a safe trip.

Car Seats and Beds

When it comes to seats, a premature baby is broadly defined as any baby with a weight below 5.5 lbs. Seats designed for infants this small may not be available at your local department store, but they can be found at specialty retailers.

These seats are also designed to help keep your baby’s head stable, placing your baby at a 45-degree angle. This all but requires them to be rear-facing. However, this can still be too much for some preemies, causing their heads to flop down, which can restrict. If this is the case, a car bed should be used instead. How do you know what to get? That’s where the NICU staff comes in.

The Car Seat Test

Babies born before 37 weeks as well as infants with cardiovascular problems need to undergo a tolerance test to make sure they can handle car travel. In this test, your baby sits in the seat for 90 to 120 minutes while hooked up to health monitors. If the child’s vitals stay stable, the seat is safe to use.

Before this test, you should take some time to read over the car seat manual and practice setting it up. During the test, your child will need to be in the seat the same way they’d be seated in your car. If your seat has a base, the seat needs to be mounted on it.

If your baby fails the test, don’t worry: your pediatrician will usually conduct a second test in the next 24 hours. Since your child is almost at the point that he or she can go home, an extra day can be just enough time to get the extra development needed to ensure a safe trip. It also gives you and the medical staff the chance to make sure the seat is set up correctly. If your baby still can’t pass the test but is otherwise healthy, the pediatrician may recommend a car bed.

Using a Car Bed

Car beds are designed to be placed in the center of the vehicle, not in the left or right seats like a car seat. The bed will usually attach to the vehicle by the seat belt, not by the child seat anchors.

Most preemies travel best on their backs, but some babies handle travel better on their stomachs or sides. Your pediatrician will tell you the best position for your baby to be in based on the results from the car seat test.

The belts on the bed should be small enough for your baby, but if there is still some space around the lower harness, a small towel can be placed between your child and the area where the straps attach to the bed to make up the difference. Medical equipment needs to be secured in a way that it won’t be tossed around in an accident, and there should always be someone sitting next to the baby to keep an eye on both your child and any monitoring equipment. Limit car rides to trips that are necessary until your child can handle sitting in a regular a car seat.

Ensuring Your Vehicle’s Safety After an Accident

Your medical staff can help ensure the safety of your newborn, and Merton Auto Body can make sure your car is safe after an accident. We have ASE certified technicians, and our shop is I-CAR Gold Class certified. This means we have the tools and training to repair your car to as good as new from the paint to the safety systems that protect you and your family. Collision repair doesn’t have to be time-consuming, either: we have an auto body estimation center and an on-staff appraiser to get work approved by your insurance company quickly. To learn more, visit our website, or stop by our Sussex, WI location. We proudly service the Waukesha County and surrounding Lake Country areas, including Oconomowoc, Delafield, Hartland, and Pewaukee.



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