No nursing while the car is moving!

This picture shows a very DANGEROUS practice – i.e. nursing while the car is moving.

As a pediatrician in a NICU and the daughter of a lactation consultant, I’m very, very pro-breastfeeding… but nursing has a time and a place.  A moving vehicle is NOT the time or the place.  Nursing your child while the car is moving puts both you and your baby at significant risk of unnecessary injury.  Here’s why:

In a crash, everything will weigh its weight multiplied by the G’s of the crash – G’s being the force of gravity.  A 30mph crash, like they test the car seats at, has about 20-25 G’s.  If mom weighs 120 pounds, and is in a crash with 20 G’s, her entire body will weigh 120 pounds x 20G’s = 2400 pounds.  You can imagine that her chest will weigh at least 1,000 of these pounds – and if she is leaning over the baby to nurse, her chest will slam down on the baby’s body in a sudden stop or crash – as both the mom and baby will be moving in the same direction due to the physics of the crash.  You wouldn’t drop a 1,000 pound cinder block on a baby – so too you shouldn’t lean over the child to nurse them – as your body can crush the child.  Even if you are nursing with your seat belt on, the belt is loose enough that your chest is very close to the baby (otherwise your breast couldn’t be in baby’s mouth), which means that your chest will certainly make hard contact with the baby in a crash.

The risks to the baby from nursing in a moving car are great, and so too are the risks to mom.  Mom is at significantly increased risk for a head injury as the loose shoulder belt can not prevent her chest and head from moving forward and hitting hard structures in the car – like the back of the front seats, the door, window, child’s car seat, etc.  If Mom removes her seat belt, not only is she at significantly increased risk of injury, but so too is everyone else in the car – as studies show that if one person in the back seat doesn’t wear their seat belt, the other people in the car who are buckled (like the baby, the driver, etc) are up to 3 times more likely to die in the crash because the unbuckled person becomes a human missile.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Ian Ezra Kahn and his mother.  Mom was nursing Ian in the backseat while Dad was driving.  Even though they weren’t going far and they weren’t going fast, a car came out of nowhere and hit them.  Mom and Ian died at the scene; both would have survived without injury had they been buckled up.  Dad survived without any external injuries – but suffered from a broken heart after losing his wife and 3-month-old son.  Had Ian been in his car seat during the crash, he would now be finishing high school and getting ready for college.

33 Responses to “No nursing while the car is moving!”
  1. cory says:

    I have a question, is driving while the baby has a propped up bottle on her in the carseat safer?

    • As a pediatrician, I don’t consider propping a bottle to be safe at any time, especially not in the car. Propping a bottle can force the liquid down the baby’s throat faster than they can tolerate.

  2. Laura says:

    one of the benefits of being the only driver in my family. Nursing while driving is never an option because I am the only one who can drive.

  3. Sara says:

    I nurse my 14 m.o. while he is strapped in his carseat all the time…until now. We even drove 3,800 miles nursing on demand while hubby drove. I don’t need to lean over him to feed him, but even plopping a breast in his mouth requires me to be unbuckled and therefore a flying object in an accident. Even though we’ve escaped any incident, I can no longer do this with a clear conscience. Thank you for spreading awareness no matter how obvious it may seem.

  4. Michelle Tallon says:

    This is also why you are not allowed to buckle yourself into an airline seat with your under 2 child in your lap. During an aborted takeoff you would crush your child between you and the seatbelt. I also remember a story from years ago about a woman who had her car seatbelt up around her belly and not low and over her hip bones and was involved in a crash. Massive amounts of internal damage to her organs and soft tissue. She lived but ended up disfigured and with lifelong limitations. The hip bones are much better suited for taking the G-forces in any crash.

  5. Jane says:

    I’ve done this. I do this. I know its stupid. I really do…..but something in me defeats the $1000 I’ve spent on both carseats, the logic, the carseat inspections I’ve had done. The extensive research. I just can’t listen to him cry. We take one trip each week and this is what I do unless he is asleep (like we plan) I AM thinking about it on the freeway, sometimes I’m like damn this is dumb….Its a contradiction to everything else I do. It’s a risk I take. Honestly. In the first year of my second kids life I went out 5 times myself. Because of the screaming. Twice I forgot to buckle my oldest up because I’d have him climb in himself then attended to his younger brother (leaning over him buckled in and nursing till he fell asleep) when he was asleep it was like a mad dash to get it and start the car before he woke up, and I forgot to buckle him up….I knew it was too much for me so we didn’t drive places. But I still do this occasionally on the freeway on our weekly trip.

  6. Monique says:

    Thank you for posting this, I have argued this with women before. Including ones that are otherwise very educated and natural minded and would never want to harm their children but they just didn’t understand how dangerous it is.

  7. Michelle says:

    I haven’t done this, but I did wonder if it was something that people do. Glad I read this before I tried it, now I won’t!

  8. Amy McCarthy says:

    When my first baby was tiny I did a lot of long drives to where her daddy was working at the time so that we could see each other at night once he was finished for the day.
    It was about 3.5 to 4 hours drive from where we live but I took about 5.5 to 6 hours as I would stop after a maximum of 2 hours of driving to feed her, change her nappy etc.
    I have only had a very few long drives where I could have even considered feeding her while the car was moving but would never have done it – I would not risk having one or both of us out of seatbelts and as for feeding her in her seat, my boobs are no where near big enough to do that!

    I can understand why if you didn’t think about the dangers or weren’t aware of them, it would seem like a good idea, but wouldn’t do it myself.

  9. meaghan says:

    So happy to see this. I’ve just recently nursed my son maybe a handful of times bc he’s going.thru a ‘I hate the car’ phase. I never would have thought to do this until I was at a LLL meeting last month and one of the ladies said it would help… I won’t be doing this anymore!!

  10. The convenience of feeding while “making time” should NEVER override the safety of mom and baby. If it takes longer to get somewhere because you have to pull over, so be it. Arriving safely is better than never arriving at all! Just remember, moms…this is just for a season of your life. This time doesn’t last forever and there will come a day when it DOESN’T take 10 hours for a 7 hour trip. But the sacrifices of today ensure that there won’t be an accident that compromises the hope of tomorrow. Be safe, friends!!!

  11. Mom says:

    It never occurred to me to ever attempt to nurse a baby in a carseat. I can’t even count the number of parking lots I have nursed in, bathrooms, and I have pumped in all the same places – pumping I have done going down the road (oh the looks in rush hour traffic!) But after fully nursing one baby (in Europe where there are NO rest stops) and psuedo nursing my preemie (in the moments he would nurse – it honestly never occurred to me to try to break my back to get my breasts in position to nurse a baby in an infant seat. Stopping and being comfortable seemed a better option so the other was never even considered! In addition, you would have to remove them from the car seat to burp them – frequently – so what would be the point of pulling over every 10 minutes to burp the baby for 10 minutes…?

  12. candjim says:

    Sorry but I thought this would be common sense! just the idea of a baby being in the car out of its seat scares me.

    • Megan Bailly says:

      They’re not even talking about baby out of the carseat. Before I read this, I thought nothing of leaning over from the middle seat to let my daughter nurse still buckled into her own seat. I’m tall with large breasts so I could reach and I thought since we were both still buckled, I would be fine.

    • Lynda Bree says:

      I don’t think you understand what they are The baby IS strapped into the car seat. The mom is (or possibly isn’t) strapped in next to the baby but leaning way over to offer the breast. The reason why moms may not realize the danger of this is because they figure both people are strapped in and not about the G’s involved should a crash occur.
      I never knew it and would never have thought about it.

    • Tari says:

      I can imagine some women doing this by taking off their seatbelt and leaning forward over the baby who is still bucked in their carseat. It was how I did it. I did this with my son when he was an infant; and I did this just about a week ago w/ my 9 mth old who absolutely hates her carseat. Now I am more informed, I can never do this again. Too risky.

  13. Ruth says:

    I keep thinking of our minivan and even if I were to sit next to her or behind her safely, I would have to have rubber breasts for them to reach her while we were moving! Furthermore, if I did do it (which I couldn’t without taking the safety belt off one or both of us) there becomes the issue of gas! How does one burp a baby if they are strapped in? We turned a 6 hour trip into a 9 hour one because every hour or so we’d have to stop to feed/burp or change our little 4month old! It’s good to know this even if I have no idea how it’s even possible!

  14. Hilary says:

    Yep. I’ve often said I wish there was a contraption which was a combo pump/bottle so I could sit up right safely belted in next to my infant safely strapped in their car seat and feed them fresh milk. Yeah, yeah, I know there are just bottles but then I get engorged so it doesn’t solve that side of it. Until some genius invents this device we just pull over at a safe place and nurse.

    • Michelle says:

      Hilary, on our last road trip, I pumped (buckled into the back seat) and immediately gave baby the bottle… could that work for you?

    • Lisa says:

      I took a manual hand pump on a long road trip… pumped into a bottle, the put on the bottle nipple and fed it to baby. Still warm and fresh! And SAFE! 🙂

    • Andrea B says:

      I once used a lact-aid bag and my finger to feed my bub in the car. I have also pumped while driving (not recommending that if it distracts you!). they sell car adapters for pumps. you could easily pump in the car and then feed the baby the milk with a cup, bottle tubing and finger, eyedropper, syringe, etc. Still, why not stop? When my little guy was a baby, a six hour drive took twelve hours. He hated the carseat and needed mommy and needed to nurse and I has to stop often to soothe him.

  15. Even before I became a child passenger safety tech, I refused to do this. My in-laws were horrified when a 4 hour trip to visit relatives at Christmas with a 6 week old, turned into a 6 hour trip for us because I made my husband stop so I could nurse. I got every suggestion in the book- from completely taking her out of her seat, to leaning over the car seat myself to feed her. I have struggled for nearly 4 years now to express the importance of passenger safety to all my family members…some are more willing to accept it than others. Great post!!

    • Funny how everyone always has an opinion about YOUR kids and YOUR choices! Good for you for sticking to your guns! Back when your in-laws were raising kids, they didn’t have carseats and babies sat in the front seat in the mom’s lap. Did kids survive? Yes. But that’s just because they were lucky not to have been in a wreck. PLUS, cars didn’t go 70 mph back then! There’s a reason why safety guidelines have evolved…we’ve become more aware of the dangers!

  16. Teglene Ryan says:

    Thank you for posting this! I see so many mothers suggesting it to each other. Some other things that I have learned is that if moms weight is forced onto the car seat it will far exceed the weight designs of the car seat and could lead to catastrophic failure of the seat. Baby should also only be in the car seat for a maximum of 2 hours at a time, as it can restrict baby’s breathing, so frequent stops on long car trips are important as well.

  17. oonaghpm says:

    Surely no one would, would they?!

    • Samantha -CRST says:

      Mothers do this all the time with out thinking of what could happen, and not by their fault, but because the severity of what could happen hasn’t been explained to them.

    • I have done this in an extremely long car trip, I stayed buckled in the middle seat and leaned over. I regret it now, knowing about these dangers!

  18. Reblogged this on southernbreastfeedingsupport and commented:
    I never thought of the points this article brings up

  19. Stephanie G. says:

    I did this before I knew better. :/ Now, when baby is having an I-hate-my-careseat-get-me-out-of-here screamfest I just start the engine & sit next to him & nurse in the drive-way or parking lot before leaving the destination. He’s already buckled & ready to go & the running engine gives the purr/vibration he needs to fall asleep. Then I can safely get in my own seat & buckle up & be on the way. Of course it doesn’t work every time, but its nto going to kill/severely injure our babies to let them cry in the car when needed. :/

  20. I feel foolish now. I used to do this when my daughter was going through an I-hate-cars fussy infant stage. It was the only thing that would sooth her, and it drastically decreased the level of stress in the car for the whole family. I neve
    r considered how my body could hurt hers – after all, I thought, we were both safely buckled. Now that you’ve laid out the facts, I can’t believe I never realized it was dangerous. It’s sobering. I’m grateful we were never in an accident. Thank you for sharing this information.

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