Newborn Basics

Q&A: Do I Need A Special Car Seat For My Preemie?

Do I need a special car seat for my preemie? What should I look for when buying one?

You’ll definitely need a car seat that is the right size for your baby, and since many premature babies weigh less than 5 lbs when they go home — and not every car seat is approved for a baby that small — you may have to do some research. Preemies are often not as long as full-term babies when they are ready to go home, so the shoulder harness must be adjustable so nothing larger than a finger can slip between your baby and the straps when buckled. In addition, many preemies have less muscle tone, so it is easy for their head to flop to one side or the other while sitting in the car seat, kinking off the airway and potentially causing a drop in oxygen level. Because of this risk, regardless of weight or size, every preemie should have a car seat challenge before going home. This entails close monitoring of the oxygen level and heart rate for 90 minutes in the car seat.

Need a little more guidance? A chart of car seats with weight and harness specifics can be found at PreemiePrimer.com.

By Dr. Jennifer Gunter