can your baby sleep in a car seat

Is it safe to let my baby sleep in a car seat?

On by Lucie Evans

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Yes, it happens to all of us. When your little one is asleep in the car seat, the last thing you want to do is wake your baby up. So what many do is gently carry the sleeping baby out and let the baby keep sleeping in the car seat at home. Well, that’s really dangerous and in this article, we’ll tell you why you shouldn’t do it.

Can a baby sleep in a car seat? Is it safe?

If you’re wondering: Is it safe for my infant or toddler to sleep in a car seat? then first I’m going to share with you a real case.

The dangers of a baby sleeping in a car seat

A recent time there was a lot of talking about the Smiths. A couple who sadly lost their daughter when she was sleeping in her car seat. It was a case of what is known as positional asphyxia.

The baby was 17 months old and her family knew, in the worst possible way, how dangerous it is to let babies sleep in car seats, both in and out of the vehicle. A common practice that many parents do in their own homes.

The Smith family’s baby, Mia, was taken to daycare when one of the caregivers put him to sleep in a car seat, rather than on a crib or flat surface.

Two hours later there was nothing left to do. The little one had died of positional asphyxia. So let’s explain what positional asphyxia is and how it can happen when sleeping in a car seat.

What is positional asphyxia in infants?

When a child born, goes from a liquid environment, floating (amniotic fluid), to our dry medium, where we live under the force of gravity. Babies do not have enough strength to remain seated, so they must sleep and lie down.

The moment we sit the baby in a car seat, if she is not well fitted, her own body (by the force of gravity) bends over herself, making a too pronounced “C”. This hampers the expansion of the chest and abdomen, she has trouble breathing. If her head also falls forward, with her chin on her chest, the problem of catching air is even greater. If this position is not remedied, death is imminent. The baby may die because of positional asphyxiation.

Scientific studies on the dangers of sleeping in a car seat

Journal of Pediatrics published a study in which they observed 50 full-term newborns and 50 36-week-old premature infants sitting for 60 minutes in an approved car seat. On average, the oxygen saturation of all babies dropped from 97% to 94%.

Even 7 of the babies (3 premature and 4 full-term) had an oxygen saturation of less than 90% for 20 minutes. 12% of the premature babies suffered apneas (the baby stops breathing for a few seconds) or bradycardia (the heart is slower than it should be).

To give you an indication, a baby’s oxygen saturation must be between 96% and 100%.

So we have to get out of the habit of placing our child to sleep naps in the car seat. Then, what do we have to do?

What safety rules should parents know?

Therefore, you must follow safety guidelines to fully protect your infant or toddler from any risk of suffocation in the car seat.

How long can you leave your baby asleep in the car seat?

Car seats should only be used in the car, where infants should be well placed and not for more than one and a half hours. This time is the result of the studies already mentioned.

When we say well placed it means with the restraining harness adapted to the volume of the baby’s body so it holds his shoulders close to the chair. To prevent them from falling forward. Similarly, the head should be aligned with the body, not towards the front.

What’s more, there are now alternatives, such as rear-facing car seats, in which the baby is seated but in a more reclined position. It stops the head from going forward.


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If we are going to make a longer trip, it is advisable to stop regularly to take the baby out of the chair and allow it to recover oxygen, breathe well again, feed him a little if needed and, after a while, continue the trip.

Are there any differences between day and night sleep?

In light of this evidence, babies should not take a nap, day or night, in car seats. They breathe worse sitting than lying down.

These products should only be used in the car, where they should be fitted in such a way that neither the head nor the shoulders fall forward and do not remain in that position for more than one and a half hours.

We must then put an end to this dangerous practice for our babies. Car seats are no substitute for cribs. We need to consider other options that are convenient but also safe for infants and toddlers: the bassinets or the pack n plays.

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