Sleeping baby in car seat wearing headband
Headbands can strangle or decapitate your child on impact

As parents, we want our children to be as comfortable in their car seats as possible. We want to do what is best for them, and that is exactly as it should be. The thing is: different rules apply for car seats and road safety for children.

Car seats are designed to keep our children safe from harm during a crash. Always keep that in mind when you purchase your car seat and accessories to go with it. Car seats are also ergonomically designed with the comfort and safety of your child as a priority. Bear in mind that babies have much lighter and more flexible bodies than we do and they are quite comfortable in their car seats as is.

Extra padding is a big no-no

Broken car seat with extra padding
Extra padding is a no-no

All that extra foam, batting, blankets and such that you insert in your car seat do not really add to their comfort and all it does is push them out of the safety zone of the seat! The seat can no longer perform as it should and your child is in danger of serious injuries during a crash.

Neck cushions for babies are the next big parenting trap we fall into

Baby and toddler seats are designed for sleeping babies and you should first check that the angle at which your seat is installed is correct. Some baby seats have level indicators, but toddler seats do not. Sometimes your baby’s head falls forward and yes, airway obstruction is a huge issue.

Baby wearing neck pillow in car seat
There is a right way and a wrong way to use neck cushions

The best thing to use is a rolled-up cloth nappy under their chin and on the shoulder. You do get lovely neck cushions, but there is a right way and a wrong way to use them! These neck cushions must never push your baby’s head forward. This will cause the dreaded airway obstruction and baby might not get enough oxygen to the brain. Never keep your child in a car seat for longer than two hours. Take a break regularly and give them an opportunity to stretch their legs. You need the break too.

The other device that I have seen popping up all over the pace is the headband

No, no, and again no! There are huge and violent forces involved in a crash – I cannot stress this fact enough. A band like this can strangle your child or decapitate them. They are so cute, I know, but please do not use them!

It would be impossible to list all the variations on the theme here, but here are the criteria for head supports:

  • They must not push your baby’s head forward. This means that the cushion must be quite thin behind their heads and only have side support.
  • They must not interfere with the correct working of the car seat and harness during a crash.
  • The head support must not pose a danger of strangulation during a crash.
  • It must be easy to use.

There are quite a few products available on the market to keep your little one safely sleeping in their seat. I do not advise them as very few of them have been crash-tested. Remember, we are trying to keep our children from harm during the event of a crash. There are huge forces involved in a crash and their little bodies cannot cope with it. Car seats are engineered to keep them safe as is – the rest is up to you.

Peggie, the founder of Wheel Well, is a committed advocate for child rights in road safety and founded Wheel Well in 2012 with the help of Eugene Herbert from MasterDrive. The Car Seats for Kids campaign has been running for seven years, and more than 8 500 children have benefitted from a safe, clean used car seat. Since Peggie started her work with Wheel Well, the death toll of our children in traffic-related crashes have come down by 24%. Their work for children in road safety has expanded to include children in public transport and children as pedestrians. Peggie has been awarded the Prince Michael International Road Safety Award in 2016 in the Safer Road User category. She has also received the Gumtree Women in Autos Award for extraordinary contribution to the Automotive Industry in 2018 and is a finalist in the Woman of Stature Awards 2019.