If you’ve ever taken your baby on a trip, you know they don’t always get hungry at the most convenient times. Since baby’s schedules are sometimes unpredictable, it can be hard to be in the car with little ones for a long time. To keep from constantly stopping or pulling over, you might wonder if you can give your baby a bottle while they’re in a car seat.
You should never give your baby a bottle in the car seat while the car is moving because they can become a choking hazard for infants that cannot hold it and a potential projectile if a crash were to occur. Feeding your baby a bottle in the car seat is acceptable if the car is parked in a safe location and they are in an upright position.
If you do have to feed a baby or give them a bottle in the car, it is possible to do so in a safe manner. Keep reading to hear our best tips and practical advice for feeding your baby on the go.
Can you feed a baby a bottle in the car seat?
At some point in your baby’s life, there will be a time when they get hungry in the car and you’re unable to stop or pull over. Feeding your baby a bottle in the car seat is possible but it’s not recommended, especially if the car is moving. If your baby does get hungry, the first thing you should do is evaluate how long it will be before you can stop at a safe location. Depending on the age of your baby and how long it’s been since they’ve eaten, if you think they can make it until you can pull over, it’s best to wait.
There are two major safety issues with giving your baby a bottle in the car seat and a couple of practical ones as well.
Milk or formula in a baby bottle could become a choking hazard
The is the biggest cause for concern because it is very likely to occur in certain situations.
Infants and newborns should never drink a bottle in their car seat while the car is moving because they are unable to hold the bottle or remove it if they have too much milk in their mouth. This extra milk or formula could easily become a choking hazard that your baby will be helpless to prevent.
With this in mind, the best solution is to simply stop the car to feed your baby. It’s simply not worth sacrificing your baby’s health to save time on the road.
A baby bottle could become a projectile in the event of a crash
Another major concern with feeding your baby in the car, whether it is a bottle or any other cup is that they can become projectiles if you were to be involved with a crash.
In fact, safety experts frequently remind drivers that any loose items inside a car can create devastating impacts for passengers or the driver in a normal car crash scenario. For instance, a 20-pound object would hit you with the force of 1,000 pounds of force when launched in a 55 mph crash. Although a baby bottle is small, it would still feel like a large weight crashing into you at high speeds.
Babies eating while the car is moving will likely have issues with gas
Now that we’ve discussed the two major safety issues, I should also point out that feeding your baby in a moving car is also likely to create painful gas for your baby.
Most babies are used to being fed in a calm, still environment such as when being held by a parent, the vibrations and jarring of a moving car will likely allow extra gas to enter your babies mouth. Since they aren’t used to this extra gas and might not be old enough to deal with gas well, in general, you could have a very upset baby on your hands pretty quickly.
Taking a few minutes to stop the car will save you an hour of pain and suffering from an upset, crying baby!
It is more difficult to supervise a baby eating in a moving car
Even if there were no direct causes for concern regarding feeding your baby a bottle in the car seat, there is still the simple fact that you might not be able to supervise the situation as carefully as you should.
While situations that involve one parent driving while the other parent helps the baby might negate this point, there are many times in which there is only a sibling or no one at all to provide supervision for your baby while she is feeding. In nearly every case, a baby that depends on a bottle to be fed will not be old enough to hold that bottle up and you’ll run into the potential choking hazard that I mentioned before.
If there is nobody there to watch the baby closely, a dangerous situation could form very quickly.
How to travel with a bottle-fed baby
Traveling with a baby comes with its own unique challenges. If your baby is bottle-fed, it’s not always realistic to stop and feed them, especially if they’re cluster feeding. But even if it’s inconvenient, pulling over to a safe location is always the safest way to go.
Here are some tips for traveling with a bottle-fed baby:
- Stop in a safe place. If at all possible, you will always be better off if you stop at a safe location. Take your baby out of their seat and hold the bottle while you feed them. According to Baby Safe, most car seat manufacturers recommend that a baby shouldn’t be in a car seat for more than 2 hours in a 24 hour period. Especially if you’re on a long car ride, it’s best for your baby if you stop every once in a while to feed your baby and take them out of their seat for a bit.
- Don’t feed your baby while the car is moving. Anything your baby is holding or has near them can become a projectile in a crash. Even though we hope this never happens, it’s important to think about it from a safety standpoint. In the event of a crash, a bottle would become a projectile and could potentially harm your baby. It’s also a safety concern because of choking hazards, as well as the risk of your child getting motion sickness or an upset stomach.
- Hold the bottle for your baby. If you do have to feed your baby in the car, don’t ever prop the bottle up and leave the baby unattended. According to the CDC, propping up a bottle for your baby increases their chances of choking, ear infections, and tooth decay. It’s also important for you to watch your baby’s cues to see when they’re done, especially if they’re not old enough to hold their own bottle.
- Make sure you have all the supplies you need. The last thing you want is to get on the road and realize you’ve forgotten something. There are plenty of handy supplies out there for traveling with a baby such as bottle tote bags and portable bottle warmers (here is my favorite!). If your baby is breastfed, be sure to bring a portable charger for your pump if needed (this one plugs into a car adapter!), as well as a cooler to store your breastmilk.
How to burp a baby in a car seat
Burping your baby involves holding your baby and sitting them upright or sometimes across your lap while patting their back. There isn’t a way to properly burp your baby in a car seat, but it’s always important to burp them after a bottle.
When you’re traveling, you’ll need to stop for restroom breaks and this is a great time to feed your baby. At each stop, feed your baby, burp them, and change their diaper. If you make sure to burp them before you leave, this will help you avoid any unnecessary stops.
When can babies feed themselves a bottle?
Most babies learn the necessary skills to feed themselves a bottle around six months old, but some may not be able to feed themselves until nine or ten months.
It’s a positive thing when a baby learns the motor skills necessary to hold a bottle themselves, but even if a baby is able to, they should never drink a bottle unsupervised.
If you’re traveling alone, it may be tempting to allow your baby to feed themselves a bottle while you drive. There may not be an issue in most cases, but allowing your baby to drink a bottle unsupervised in a moving vehicle may add to their risk of injury in a crash.
Why should you not prop a baby bottle?
As parents, we are constantly tending to our child’s every need and propping up a bottle seems like a logical choice when you need to get stuff done.
However, there are several risks involved in propping up a baby bottle. Especially if your baby isn’t old enough to hold the bottle themselves, they may not be able to push the bottle away when they’re finished. Propping up a bottle, much like putting baby to bed with a bottle, increases the risk of tooth decay because of the milk sitting in your baby’s mouth. It can also increase their chance of choking and ear infections.
You should always attend to your baby while they’re drinking a bottle and burp them several times during the bottle feeding process.
Can you feed baby solids in the car seat?
For older babies and toddlers, you may not have to stop every time they want a snack. The most important safety precaution is to avoid foods that could easily become choking hazards. Foods such as hard candy, grapes, nuts, popcorn, or carrots should be avoided in the car. Since these foods are some of the top offenders for choking already, it’s important to avoid them in the car because if you have to stop suddenly, they may get lodged in your child’s mouth.
Try to avoid foods that may become really messy and look for travel-friendly snacks. Baby or toddler pouches are a great go-to snack for the car since they don’t require a spoon or any real clean-up. Snack catchers are also handy to have in the car for toddlers. They allow your little one to grab a snack on their own without the snack spilling all over the car.
What about breastfeeding a baby in the car seat?
Although breastfeeding a baby in the car seat is possible, it’s not safe for mom or the baby. If you’re traveling with a breastfed baby, the easiest option will be for you to pump and bottle feed your baby while you’re traveling. Freshly pumped breast milk can sit at room temperature for up to four hours and in the fridge up to four days. If you pack a cooler in the car, you’ll be able to feed your baby along the way, even on a long road trip.
If your baby has never been bottle-fed, there’s no reason to start just because you’ll be in the car. Next time you stop for a restroom or snack break, you can take your baby out of the seat and breastfeed them in the back. Try to stick to your normal feeding schedule instead of skipping a feeding to save time. If you intentionally skip a feeding, it can affect your milk supply and it may leave baby feeling hungry as well.