September 24, 2017

In the Car: Keeping Mom and Baby Safe

Pregnant women inevitably get asked three things: when are you due, do you know what you’re having, and have you picked out a name? People might even ask you if you’re “ready” but they usually mean, do you have your nursery set up? Rarely would that mean anything related to your car.

But have you thought about that? If you’re pregnant, you should be. What can you do now to protect you and your baby in the car? Here are a few tips to make things a little smoother.

Know how to adjust your seat belt properly. To reduce risk of injury in a sudden stop, put your lap belt across your hips and under your belly. The top part of the belt should go between your breasts and above your belly.

Travel with plenty of water and snacks. As the summer heat lingers in many areas of the country, you need to be prepared for a break down or emergency. Carry several water bottles with you. If your car quits during the heat of the day, you’ll need to keep hydrated — especially if your air conditioning doesn’t work. Getting too dehydrated can be dangerous for you and your baby. And if you have to wait for a tow truck or someone to come get you, you’ll be glad you had some snacks on hand. Don’t get too hungry and risk passing out from low blood sugar. You risk injury to yourself and the baby. And during the heat, faintness can sneak up on you. It has taken me by surprise once or twice, and I wished I’d had water or a snack handy.

Make your car baby-friendly. Go ahead and clean your car before the baby comes. Remove any clutter and throw out those week-old fast food wrappers, empty drink cups, and used water bottles. Remove items from your back window ledge. Find another place for them. While most items won’t hurt other passengers, a book or tissue box could hurt an infant in the event of a sudden stop. Consider a small window shade for the side of the car where you’ll put the car seat. Bright sunlight streaming in a window could sunburn your infant.

Practice with your infant safety seat. Get your seat early, if you can, and practice securing it into your car. The center of the back seat is furthest away from any crash points in the car. If you have a center belt, try securing the seat there. If you don’t, choose a side and put the seat in. Read the installation instructions to make sure you secure the seat properly. Each seat is different, and many people don’t install the seat correctly. Car seats and air bags don’t mix — if you have air bags never put an infant seat in the front of your car. If you have a single-cab truck, check the owner’s manual to see if you can disable the passenger side air bag. Try to find a child safety program that offers free car seat inspections. Many of them will have experts who can show you the right way to secure a seat. If you have a used seat, they can check it for damage and show you where to find the expiration date. You can also check with your local police department to see if they have child safety experts on hand.

Drive safely. This one seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Sometimes we just need a reminder. Keep to the speed limit. Use your turn signals. Drive defensively, watching out for other drivers. Get your brakes and tire pressure checked if you don’t know how to do it yourself. In fact, go ahead and have your car inspected by a trusted mechanic. You can’t prevent everything, but with some precautions, you can work to reduce your chance of an accident.

Start an emergency kit. You can put together a small emergency kit to keep in your trunk. The Red Cross and FAA have kit recommendations. If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, include snow chains and warm clothing (don’t forget to add clothes for baby after she’s born) in your kit. Check your spare tire and make sure the jack and tire iron are present. Know how to use them. When you can’t change it yourself (like in those last months), keep a cell phone handy to call someone.

There’s a lot to worry about when you’re pregnant. But following some of these tips now can save you trouble later. That peace of mind will free you up for other worries, like what color to paint the nursery or whether you’ll want painkillers during delivery. You know, the important stuff.

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