I Let My Son Nap In His Car Seat All The Time, Because I Had No Clue How Dangerous It Was
"Never wake a sleeping baby." In the dark ages of the early 2010s, that was our approach when our three elder daughters fell asleep. And they nodded off everywhere: their swing, the highchair, their bouncy seats, and of course, their car seats. It really was golden age for just letting your kid fall asleep wherever, then zooming about with the Duster Buster, or sitting down and having a froyo while they slept quietly in their Chico Key-Fit. When I had my son in January, I felt that "not my first rodeo" confidence of the mom who has already done it. I felt complete confidence about letting my son nap in his car seat all the time, because I had no idea it was dangerous.
The rules keep changing for parents, and new guidelines have been responsible for a dramatic drop in SIDS deaths since the '90s, and reduction in injuries from kids falling out of high chairs and whatnot. I'm all in favor of making the world safer for our babies. But it really is incredible how much changed in eight years for us. Quite unbeknownst to me, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) had issued some strong advisory language regarding carseat naps: "If your baby falls asleep in a car seat, stroller, swing, infant carrier, or sling, you should move him or her to a firm sleep surface on his or her back as soon as possible." All I could remember, in those early crazy days with my son was to "never wake a sleeping baby." As I say, things change.
All three of my daughters would at some point fall asleep while we were going for a ride in the car. It was almost as if they would nod off the moment the car started. And of course, with being told so constantly that you never wake a sleeping baby, we would carry them into the house in their car seat. We would then park them in the room, on the floor, to stay asleep as long as they wanted to, in their car seat. All parents are afraid of moving their sleeping baby!
As parents forged in the dark ages (before the old Taylor died), we would even try to coincide running errands with nap time. I've done this many times — I got so much done! When my son came along, I resumed my (unsafe) parenting practices. I've probably let him sleep in his car seat for too long after bringing him upstairs into our apartment. Now that I'm aware of the new guidelines, I won't take that chance anymore.
When I first became a parent in 2006, I frequently saw moms and dads carrying their babies around in car seats. I saw them carry them into grocery stores and then put the entire car seat into a shopping cart. I also saw them balance the car seat in the kiddie foldout at the front of the cart. Pretty Cirque du Soleil move, right?
I also did this a few times. I think one of the main reasons parents use the car seat as a carrier is because it's convenient, and because our babies are sleeping 16 hours a day and we can't man a crib for that long. Nothing would get done! And look, not everyone knows certain things are considered "unsafe." I believe there should be more information available to mothers, and not just word-of-mouth or news reports. There's also a large contingent of moms who follow their instinct and what their parents did, and not necessarily the advice of the AAP. If you see a parent strong-arming their baby around in a capsule, or sitting in the park as their kid naps in a car seat, I'm asking this: don't judge them as negligent; assume that they do not know they are doing the wrong thing, or that they're so tired there is simply no other way.
Back when I had my daughters, I had no idea it was considered unsafe. In the end, I stopped using the car seat as a carrier for my son mostly because it just got too heavy. I got used to "baby wearing," then, once I got to the car, transferring him into his car seat.
I am a firm believer in motherly instincts, but there are times when our instincts fall short of industry guidelines. Until recently, I had no clue it wasn't safe for a baby to sleep in a car seat for long periods of time. Now I know, I guess I'll sleep a little easier.