We have lots of experience with breastfeeding; one of us is a pediatrician with NICU experience, another of us is a labor and delivery nurse and lactation consultant, and two of us are mothers who breastfed for years (and years!). We are 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 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. 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; both would have survived – likely 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.