Note: The information featured on this page is currently under review, and will be updated in due course. Please ensure that you speak with your health care professional about any queries you may have about the issues covered here.
Having a car seat for your baby is an essential item, even if the only car journey you are going to make is from the hospital to home.
By UK law, all children up to the age of 12 must use a car seat. You must always use a suitable rear-facing baby car seat, even on the shortest of journeys. If you do not own a car, it is still advisable to borrow or hire a baby seat when taking your baby home from hospital by car or taxi. There may be a local loan scheme - it’s worth asking.
Car seat essentials
- To ride in a car, every baby has to use a car seat.
- It is always best to try putting your baby in the car seat before going home, to make sure they are comfortable and safe. Unit staff will be able to advise you.
- Your baby can experience breathing difficulties if the seat does not fit properly.
- You can get ‘head hugger’ supports to fix into car seats – these are useful if you have a very small baby.
- Practise fitting the seat into your car.
- Only use a rear-facing seat.
- Never use a seat in the front if a passenger-seat airbag is fitted.
- Do not buy or use a second-hand seat unless you are fully aware of its history.
- No hospital will loan car seats, but social services can provide one.
It is a good idea to check with the staff on the unit if they think it safe for your baby to travel in a car seat. All babies weighing under 1500g should have a ‘car seat challenge’ before they leave the unit. This is a test to check if they fit properly in their car seat.
RoSPA car seat guidelines
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has issued guidelines on the use of car seats with premature and low birthweight babies. In the USA, research has indicated that this category of babies can have breathing problems if they stay in a car seat for long periods.
Here is a brief summary of RoSPA’s guidelines:
- Avoid keeping your baby in the seat for any longer than is necessary.
- Recline the seat as much as possible when in the car (carefully following the manufacturer’s instructions).
- Never leave your baby unattended in the car seat.
- Only use the seat in the car.
- Keep car travel to a minimum for the first few months if possible.
- Always ask for advice if you are unsure about any aspect of car safety.
For more information, visit RoSPA's website.