When you're anxious for your baby to get some of that much needed sleep she requires, it can be tempting to let your little one snooze wherever and whenever possible. But even though your baby may be lulled to dreamland in the cozy confines of a car seat, you need to ask is it safe for a baby to sleep in a car seat. Because even though it's nice to not have to fight your baby into slumber, not all sleeping conditions are created equal. Learning where your bambino can and cannot sleep, means protecting your precious cargo while she logs some pint-sized Zs.
Designed to keep your baby safe while traveling, car seats can be life savers when it comes to vehicle accidents. This baby gear staple lets your little one stay stable and protected while zipping around town. But outside of riding in the car, car seats are not meant to be used for any other purpose. According to Mayo Clinic, when a baby is in a car seat for too long, a flat spot on the back of the head can develop and the symptoms of reflux can become worse. Although these are causes for concern, the greatest risk infants face from sleeping in a car seat is suffocation.
Since 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) has recommended putting babies to sleep on their back to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Because the baby cannot lie flat on a firm surface, the APA does not recommend any sitting devices, such as car seats and swings, as a safe sleeping condition for infants. In the study, "Hazards Associated with Sitting and Carrying Devices for Children Two Years and Younger," published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found that out of the 47 infant deaths from sitting and carrying devices, 31 occurred in car seats.
The tricky part is, often times, babies fall asleep in their car seat while traveling from place to place. Although these short snoozes may be considered more of a nap, how do you know when a car seat snooze has gone on too long? According to the website for What To Expect, two hours is the maximum for sleeping in a car seat. After that point, it's time to transfer to a safe sleep spot such as a crib or bassinet.
Even if your baby seems to enjoy deep peaceful sleep in his car seat, break the habit before it starts. Stick with safe sleeping options from the start, since your baby will begin to associate sleep with whichever environment they are most used to sleeping in, according to Very Well. So the more you put your baby to sleep in the crib, the stronger the association to sleep will be with his crib. This is one rule worth sticking to, since it is the best way to fully protect your baby.