When it comes to safely cruising around with your newborn in tow, every parent wants to ensure that their car seat is correctly installed and their L.O. is buckled in properly and safely. But the terrifying turn of events experienced by a family from Falkirk, Scotland go to show that there's even more parents need to be aware of. Kirsti Clark, a mom and journalist, took to social media recently to share her story.
Clark and her husband Christopher were out with their daughters, 3-year-old Malena and 3-week old Harper. They took the baby out of her car seat at every stop, but they hit rush hour traffic on the way home, and all in all, it took the family one hour and 45 minutes to get home. After that, Harper spent a further 15 minutes in her car seat while the Clarks put their eldest to bed. When they took their baby out of her car seat, they noticed her lips had turned blue, her jaw was clenched shut, and foam was frothing out of her nose and mouth.
“It was so scary," Clark said. "My husband was holding her and patting her back and I was trying to get her mouth open to make sure she didn’t swallow her tongue but her jaw was clenched shut. It wasn’t like a normal seizure, she was arching her back and throwing her head back. ... The whole way there all I could think was ‘we are going to lose her.' I can’t even talk about it without getting upset."
Such a nightmare.
The Clarks rushed to the hospital, which was thankfully just five minutes away from their house. There, medics resucitated Harper, who had suffered a seizure, and the Clarks were told that spending more than one hour in a car seat can cause babies’ oxygen levels to plummet.
“It has left me so paranoid," Kirsti shared. "She is absolutely fine but I had to go out and buy a clip on monitor which monitors her breathing just to give me some peace of mind.”
She also wants to raise awareness around the amount of time that's safe for a baby to spend in a car seat. After all, she couldn't believe that she and other parents she spoke with in the wake of the horrifying incident had never been told.
“We had obviously heard about not keeping babies in car seats overnight, because it causes curvature of the spine but not about anything like this," she explained. “When my wee girl was a baby we did four-hour drives down to visit family in Cornwall and we had never had any problems at all. The doctors did tell us in hospital that it is usually a concern with premature babies, but Harper is a big girl. She was 8lb 5oz when she was born, and she’s 8lb 9oz now."
Now, Kirsti tells Parents.com, "We just want to raise awareness and make sure something like this doesn’t happen to any other baby, because it was the worst night of our lives and will live with us forever." Her words of wisdom for other parents: "If they don’t absolutely need to be in the car seat take them out, because it is not worth what we had to go through. Watch your baby and know your baby. If something doesn’t seem quite right take them straight to hospital.”
Research published by the American Academy of Pediatrics points out that car seats require infants to be placed in an upright position, which partially compress the chest wall and reduce airway size, resulting in lower levels of oxygen. And in 2016, researchers from Bristol University advised that parents limit the duration of any given drive to 30 minutes or less, as infants who stay in car seats for long periods of time could be at an increased risk of suffocating. They also recommend an adult sit next to the baby to monitor breathing.
With hope, the Clarks' experience serves to give other parents a crucial heads-up that could keep their L.O. safe.