Experts warn against allowing babies to nap in car seats 8 years ago

Experts warn against allowing babies to nap in car seats

Experts have warned that allowing babies to sleep in car seats, slings, bouncers and buggies puts them at risk of suffocation and strangulation.

New research published in the Journal of Pediatrics shows that, contrary to popular belief, the only truly safe place for a baby to sleep is on a mattress in a cot.

Having examined the records of 47 infants who died while sitting in a baby seat or carrying system between April 2004 and December 2008, researchers at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center concluded that a strap caused strangulation in 52 per cent of cases. 66 per cent of cases involved an infant who had fallen asleep in a car seat.

The infants had been left alone to sleep for varying periods of time, from just four minutes to 11 hours, before being found lifeless by their parents or carers. In one case an infant's death had occurred when the baby's carer fastened only the upper chest buckle as the baby slept in the car seat. While sleeping, the baby slumped down in the seat and was asphyxiated.

While the team noted that a baby in a carefully positioned car seat, in a car, with properly attached straps is at little risk from a suffocation injury, according to study lead Dr Erich Batra, many parents use sitting or carrying devices "not realising that there are hazards when they do this.

The researchers offered the following tips for parents: 

  • Do not leave infants unsupervised in these devices, awake or asleep.
  • Do not leave children in car seats with unbuckled or partially buckled straps
  • Never place car seats on a soft or unstable surface
  • Be aware that children in devices such as swings and bouncers can sometimes move into dangerous positions that could compromise their airways, even if they are correctly strapped in
  • Infants should not be able to slump forward in a seat. Ensure restraints are used correctly
  • Slings can be particularly dangerous because of the ease at which an infant's airway can be collapsed. The infant's face should always be ‘visible and kissable'
  • Do not place more than one infant in a swing meant for one
  • Infants should sleep on their backs on a firm mattress, with no loose bedding.