Leaving Sleeping Babies in Car Seats Can Be Dangerous
New study says car seats can restrict
breathing, especially when used indoors
Whether it’s the hum of the engine or gentle
motion, something about driving in the car makes babies
sleepy. And while it’s tempting to leave a lulled
little one in her car seat once arriving at the destination,
a new study reaffirms that babies should not be left
sleeping in car seats — especially indoors—once
travel has ended.
Leaving babies asleep in upright car seats can impair
their breathing and become life threatening, according
to a study in the December 9th issue of the British
Journal of Medicine. New Zealand researchers examined
43 infants referred to the Auckland Cot Monitoring
Service for apparent life-threatening events. In each
case, caregivers thought the babies had stopped breathing.
Nine of these infants had been left sleeping in car
seats. Notably, "All but one of the infants
had been left in the car seat indoors, restrained
and asleep in a relatively upright position."
The researchers determined that the babies' positions
in their car seats — slightly upright rather
than tilted towards the back — caused babies'
heads to flex forward, pressing their jaws against
their chests, and causing the airways to narrow. Researchers
say the upright seat position, infants' weak neck muscles,
being asleep, and mothers’ smoking, (one-half
of the study subjects’ mothers smoked during
pregnancy), contributed to the impaired breathing.
Proper Use of Car Seats
Car safety seats are vital in protecting infants
in car accidents and should always be used
in vehicles. However, problems arise when sleeping
infants are left in their car seats, removed from the
car and then placed on flat surfaces such as tables
and floors resulting in an upright position and thus,
creating greater potential for infants’ heads
to fall forward.
"We encourage parents to be aware of their infants'
sleep safety in the car, at home, and in child care,"
says Christine O'Meara, the N.C. Back to Sleep Campaign
Coordinator at the North Carolina Healthy Start Foundation. "Make
sure the car seat is correctly installed in the car
to maintain a 45-degree angle, the child is buckled,
and then, upon reaching the destination, remove the
infant from his car seat and place him on his back
to sleep in a crib, bassinet or playpen."
5 Ways to Keep Infants Safe in Car Seats
- Ensure that the car seat is properly and securely
- Buckle the child appropriately
- Do not leave children unattended in car seats
- Remember, car seats are designed for transportation
safety not as sleep environments, so remove infants
from the car seat upon arrival at the
- Keep the child’s head or face uncovered while
they in a car seat to prevent suffocation or overheating
life threatening events in infant car safety seats" Shirley
L Tonkin, Sally A Vogel, Laura Bennet, and Alistair
Jan Gunn, British Medical Journal 2006 333: 1205-1206.
Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety
Facts 2005 Data
Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Child Safety
Seat Inspection Locator
American Academy of Pediatrics, Car Safety Seats:
A Guide for Parents 2006
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