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Hospital Car Seat Policy: Leaving Hospital with a Newborn

When your baby’s first born, you’ll have a lot on your mind. It’s easy to overlook certain things – such as how you’ll get your newborn home from the hospital!

You can’t just carry them home, and obviously they can’t just sit next to you in a car or taxi. When leaving hospital with a newborn, you’re going to need a car seat.

Hospital Car Seat Policy

Many people think that hospitals simply won’t let you leave with your newborn unless you have a car seat fitted. This isn’t true. Hospitals have no legal rights to prevent you from leaving. However, children are legally required to travel in a car seat until they’re 12 years old, or 135cm tall – whichever comes first.

There are some exceptions to this rule, but they only apply in highly specific circumstances. And newborn babies are particularly vulnerable. They need all the protection they can get when travelling by car.

Hospitals don’t really have car seat policies. They can advise you to carry your baby home in a car seat. They might strongly admonish you for not taking necessary precautions. But they cannot legally prevent you from trying to travel home without a car seat.

The official NHS guidance is as follows:

“It’s recommended to buy a baby car seat before your baby is born if possible. It’s important to buy a seat that fits your car and is suitable for a newborn.

“If you have your baby in hospital or a birth centre, you will need the car seat to drive your newborn home safely. It’s a good idea to practise fitting the seat before your baby is born.”

When leaving hospital with a newborn, it’s ultimately down to you to ensure you have everything you need.

Can You Bring a Baby Home Without a Car Seat?

Only if you’re not travelling by car! But even if you’re using public transport, you’ll still need a baby carrier to ensure your baby is safe. You can’t carry your newborn baby all the way home as you’ll be tired, and your baby is going to need sleep. It would be immensely stressful, and potentially dangerous to hold newborn all the way home, especially if it is crying.

Regardless of whether you’re travelling by car, you’re going to need some form of carrier, or pram. So really, you might as well buy a car seat. If you drive, you’ll need one eventually. Even if you don’t, you’ll likely still take taxis from time to time. And as the NHS guidance points out, it’s a good idea to practice fitting the seat before your baby’s born.

You’ll make a lot of preparations for your new arrival in the months leading up to their birth. Make sure that one of your preparations is to get a car seat.

How Long Can a Newborn Be in a Car Seat?

There are no clear laws for this, and you’ll probably find slightly different advice wherever you look.

Car seats are designed to keep babies safe and comfortable. But your baby will need to move around now and then, and drivers should take regular breaks on long journeys too. The consensus seems to be that, when travelling in a car with a baby, you should aim for a 15 minute break once every two hours.

You can read our complete guide to this issue here.

Other Ways to Prepare for Your Journey Home

We have lots of resources for parents concerning babies, children, and car seats.

First, we have a detailed guide to car seat safety law, which includes a guide to choosing the seat that’s right for you. Find it here.

Next, we have a guide to when it’s acceptable for children to travel without a car seat. Find it here.

Car seats include special inserts for newborn babies. They’re designed to keep them extra safe and secure. But you will need to remove them as your baby grows. Find our guide here.

What if your baby doesn’t like their car seat? What if they squirm and cry for the entire journey? It might be because they’re uncomfortable. You may not have fitted the seat correctly. Read our guide to this issue here.

Finally, if you’re going to be driving with a baby in the car, it pays to think about your insurance needs.

We have car insurance policies specifically designed to meet the needs of parents.

For instance, if you have a child’s car seat fitted in your vehicle and you are involved in an accident, or if it is damaged following a fire or theft, we will pay towards the cost of a replacement seat. We’ll even do this if it doesn’t appear to be damaged. Head here for more information.