Infants and Car Seats: When a Simple Mistake Is a Safety Hazard
By Ashley Sigrest
Exhausted parents of newborns make a lot of silly mistakes. It’s basically a right of passage for new parents to fumble their way through those early years of decoding cries, tantrums, and baby’s first words. While some blunders can be looked back on with laughter, others can be quite devastating.
Newborns typically sleep between 16 to 18 hours a day, usually two to four hours at a time. It’s no wonder babies often fall asleep during car rides. They’re snug in their car seats and the repetitious bouncing of a moving vehicle makes it easy for little ones to dose off. You might have heard a saying “Never wake a sleeping baby.” Exhausted young parents treasure those minutes of peace. So, it’s no surprise that once those parents arrive at their destination, they will likely take the car seat carrier out to bring their baby inside while letting her sleep longer. At a place other than home, the baby will likely stay in the carrier until she wakes up.
This is a mistake many parents continue to make. You assume the car seat is a safe place for your baby to sleep in because it keeps her safe in the car. However, this is actually incredibly dangerous and can result in a child’s death.
Positional asphyxia and strangulation
Science Daily reported that sleep-related deaths are the most common among infants up to 12 months of age. When a car seat carrier is correctly placed on its base, it’s designed for optimal safety. The angle indicators help ensure your baby is safely secure for possible car accidents. Once the carrier is removed and placed on another surface, you are removing important safety design features.
According to the Journal of Pediatrics, there are two main reasons children die in car seats: positional asphyxia and strangulation by car seat straps. 89% of the time these deaths occurred when the car seat was not in a car. When parents leave their sleeping baby in the car seat carrier on a surface other than the base, it causes the baby’s head to tilt just so that it blocks the airways. Car seat straps cause strangulation when the baby is left in the car seat and the straps are loosened or unlocked from the buckle.
The straps should be tight enough to keep the baby’s chin off of her chest. This is also important for toddlers who could also be accidentally strangled by falling asleep in a car seat with loose straps.
Always remove your baby from the car seat if it is not properly attached to the base or to a stroller. Baby slings, wraps, or other carrying options are great for wearing your baby when you are in other locations. If the baby does need to stay in the car seat for a short time, outside the base, be sure you are keeping a close watch on your baby’s breathing. Studies have shown that positional asphyxia can happen in as little as four minutes. While you may be tempted to leave your sleeping baby in her car seat even at home, always move her to a safe location. The safest for a baby is being on her back on a flat surface.
Seeking help locally
Pam Morris, car seat safety technician at Family Resource Center of North Mississippi, is very concerned about the safety of the youngest passengers. “There are so many wrecks that happen on the roads. As a result, many children get killed because they are not in car seats or the seats are improperly installed or out of date.”
You never want to panic or be overly anxious about your baby or toddler, but it’s important to be aware of safety measures to make the best decisions for the sake of our children. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s car seat placement in your vehicle, you can visit www.safekids.org for multiple resources and also to find a car seat specialist in your area. One of such places is Fire Station #1, located at 205 7th Street South in Columbus, MS. You can come any day Monday through Saturday without prior scheduling. Be safe!
Ashley Sigrest is a mother of four kids who has made the mistake of leaving her sleeping kids in their car seats at home. She’s thankful nothing happened to them and is grateful to always learn and share more information about safety measures for children.