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Heather Corley

Baby's Death Leads To Warning About Sleeping In Car Seats

By February 6, 2009

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Many parents know that the car, and baby's car seat, can be almost magical when it comes to putting a restless child to sleep. However, the Quebec coroner who investigated the death of a 2-month-old boy says leaving infants in their car seats for hours on end puts them at risk for death by asphyxiation. Small babies don't have the strength to hold their heads straight, even when sitting in a reclined position, making it easy for their airways to be blocked, Coroner Jacques Robinson said. The little boy died after spending the night inside his car seat, which was placed inside his crib, a trick that sometimes soothed his colic. His mother checked on him an hour before he was found not breathing.

Infant car seats are not designed to be used as cribs, or for extended amounts of time. The risk of baby's head falling forward in a way that would affect breathing is also one reason why it's important to be sure that rear-facing car seats are installed at the proper angle, according to manufacturer's instructions. Robinson suggests that parents limit infants to a couple of hours of sleep in a car seat at a time, and never overnight. Even during road trips, it's a good idea to take baby out of the car seat every couple of hours, he said. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that babies not be allowed to sleep longer than one hour during car rides.

It's important to note, though, that the risk of asphyxiation in a car seat is much lower than the risk of being injured or killed in a vehicle crash if a baby is not properly restrained in a car seat. All experts, including the coroner who released this report, agree that babies and toddlers should be properly restrained in a car seat when they are riding in a vehicle.

February 10, 2009 at 10:09 pm
(1) Kim says:

There is some missing factor involved with these Canadian babies whom have died. More studies have to be done. This can’t be conclusive. We would have to recall crib wedges, infant sleep positioners, travel systems, crib harness system, newborn gliders, strollers,and I can go on; if just one hour and 30 degrees angle can cause asphyxiation. Why do American doctors tell you an elevated head and upper body on our babies will promote easier breathing and ease acid reflex? Still this article has me scared stiff now for my future babies and feeling lucky that my 24 month old is still alive after keeping him slightly elevated when he slept on his back for the first 6 months. Better safe than sorry?

June 20, 2009 at 3:31 pm
(2) Chris Rasster says:

Everybody I have ever met lets their babies sleep in car seats.

There is also something called SIDS, which happens in cribs while the baby is on their back in a crib.

Also there are numerous other factors that make car seats safe. The baby is surrounded by HARD plastic, with a large plastic handle above their heads. I wonder how many babies have been protected from things falling on them because of the handles.

I think the research behind this is not concrete enough. Unfortunately babies die from all kinds of things. Just research SIDS, and you’ll see unfortunately it’s common in many ways. Sad.

As for me, if the kids are sleeping let em sleep. Just check up on them from time to time. I don’t see 1 thing more risky about a car seat than a crib. (I’ve heard of babies suffocating on crib bouncer pads as well).

April 14, 2010 at 5:39 pm
(3) Natalie says:

The reason it is more dangerous is that it curls the baby up into an ‘c’ position, which places the chin on the chest and constricts the airway. Put your chin on your chest for a few minutes and you’ll see that it makes it harder for even an adult airway to breathe!

Car seats are for CARS. And just for cars!

June 14, 2010 at 1:44 pm
(4) amy says:

i disagree with you natalie i did what you said and it makes no difference

February 16, 2011 at 7:39 pm
(5) Sommer says:

SIDS and asphyxiation are two completely different things. Yes, babies do die of SIDS, especially with younger babies. But, SIDS has the do with brain function and asphyxiation has to do do with the airway being cut off. When small babies sleep in car seats, swings etc. there is the chance that their heads can fall forward and cut off their airway. There neck muscles are not strong enough to move there head to a postition that they can breath again causing the asphyxiation. So, this article is completely correct. The reason this doesn’t happen with sleep wedges etc. is that the angle of the babies head is completely different. I have a wedge in my child’s crib and his head has never fallen forward like it would in a car seat. Does it always happen? No. Do people still let their babies sleep in carseats? Yes. I’m not willing to risk it if there is a slight possibility that asphyxiation may occur. I felt the need to comment because I think this article is worth reading and I would hate for someone to read the article and then read the comments and continue to put there babies in carseats. etc to sleep. I really hope the parents, babysitters, family members and caregivers who read this article take it to heart and spread the word. Who would want to put there baby at risk? It’s not worth it.

December 23, 2011 at 12:25 am
(6) mARY says:

i think anyone who allows for a baby to go more than an hour alone without checking on their well being is neglegent. Also leaving a baby in a carseat on a soft surface is npot good what if a biger child crawled by it and it topled over leaving it upside down with the babys face burried. Or a baby can kick until it falls to the floor. And the airway id constricked if the baby slumps over or if the car seat is at the wrong angle the chin will rest on the babys chest CONSTRICTING THEIR AIRWAY> people pay clooser attention to your babys

January 30, 2013 at 5:59 am
(7) Nel says:

Mary really for more then an hour? Isn’t that a little too exaggerated, parents need sleep too imagine waking up every hour of the night, not really realistic. so accusing then for negligence is a little too much.

March 24, 2013 at 1:58 pm
(8) gwen says:

I had my baby 4 years ago and I knew never to leave him sleeping for more than 2 hrs in his infant seat. there does need to be more publicity about this.

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