Written by Dr Jacqui Bunge (Chiropractor)
As we set off to our various holiday destinations we have considered the house, the dogs even the post that clutters our letterbox. One consideration we often neglect is our spinal health and that of our children’s.
With the increase in the number of road traffic accidents we need to ensure our children are safe and secure in our cars, and therefore securely strapped into a car seat. Experts believe that 80-90% of car seats are NOT used/installed properly. Nationally, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 1-14 years.
- Always use a car seat, it is the best and only way.
- Read car manufactures instructions and keep them in the car.
- Read the vehicles owner’s manual for important information and any vehicle specific instructions.
- The safest place for all children is in the back seat behind either the passenger or driver’s seat.
- Never place a child in a rear facing seat in the front seat of a vehicle with an active passenger airbag.
- The harness system holds your child on the car safety seat. The seat belt then anchors the car seat in the car.
Please follow and adhere to the age stipulated rather than the weight before you change an infant from a rear facing car seat to forward facing. Often their muscular skeletal systems are not mature enough and the forward direction dramatically increases the risk of cervical spine fracture and neurological deficits. Infants have proportionately larger head, fragile skulls and a thinner ribcage therefore making them more vulnerable than adults. An infant has little head control as the muscles of the neck aren’t fully developed and the head can bounce from side to side and forward. Most children should use a booster seat from about 4 years old until at least 8-10, as it reduces the risk of injuries including severe brain, liver, spleen and spinal cord damage in the event of an accident.
Spinal health can become impaired through irregular, repetitive postures. Frequent use of car seats outside the car can cause undue postural stress to mom and baby. The alternative to car seats is carrying your baby in a cloth carrier on your body. There are many benefits of “baby wearing”, which is better for mom and baby once out of the car. The hormone relaxin remains in moms system up to 9 months post-delivery making you more vulnerable to spinal stresses, i.e. carrying heavy asymmetrical loads like a car seat. Please be aware of your back and neck while carrying baby in the car seat. Carrying car seats leads to abnormal and awkward posture. With “baby wearing” your baby receives constant motion and touch as compared to the car seat. Prolonged positioning on their backs while awake can flatten portions of the infants head and don’t allow natural development and strengthening of their neck muscles. “Baby wearing” allows mom the freedom of movement while promoting parent-child bonding.
Once you reach your destination, tummy time while awake (placing our babies on their bellies) is important to change baby from seated position or lying on their backs. This allows baby to “work” against gravity and strengthen their necks and backs and get their bodies moving as nature intended.
For our little ones “straighten up” exercises can help loosen their spins after prolonged sitting. These can also be done by mom and dad.
Buckle up and set good example for your children using your seat belt every time you drive.
Happy and safe travels to you and your family.