"I breast-fed my baby in the car."
When her 3-month-old daughter, Caitlin, started to cry in her car seat on the way home from a family trip last December, Vicki Carey let her mother take over the wheel and got into the backseat. But Caitlin remained inconsolable. Although a small voice in Carey's gut told her that doing so was wrong, the 37-year-old Connecticut mom removed her daughter from the car seat to nurse her. "She was out of the seat for ten minutes," she says.
Just as Caitlin was going back into her car seat, a reckless driver forced the family's car off the road, which caused it to collide with a van. "Caitlin hadn't even been buckled in yet," Carey says. Although the impact gave everyone a jolt, no one was hurt. But Carey says she got the point: "As long as the car is moving, my daughter will always be belted into her car seat."
Children who are unrestrained in a car become projectiles in a crash and are often ejected from the vehicle, says Stephanie Tombrello, executive director of SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A., a public-service group based in Torrance, California. "A child is going to hit something or someone in the car, or, worse, you could crush your own child as you try to hold on to him," she adds.
Smart Safety Steps:
- If your child is hungry or fussy, stop driving and find a safe place to park before you calm her. Don't try pulling over onto the highway shoulder, however -- collisions occur there all the time. Find a rest area or a parking lot.
- Never sit in the front seat holding your baby, and never put an infant car seat in the front seat. If your air bag discharges in a collision, your child could be killed.