Picture this: You haven't slept in days, you're desperate to get your newborn to take a nap, and you and your partner are willing to try anything. You're even willing to hop in the car and take a drive around the neighborhood to lull your babe to sleep. But before you get in the driver's seat, you should be asking yourself, is it safe for a newborn to nap in a car seat?
Though it might not seem like such a bad idea, placing your baby in a car seat for a nap may put their lives in danger, according to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. The study also found that it's not just car seats you should be avoiding when getting your child to nap — it's all sitting devices. According to the study, using swings, bouncers, and other alternative seating options as a napping device for infants may lead to injury or death. "Many parents use sitting or carrying devices, not realizing that there are hazards when they do this," Dr. Erich K. Batra, the lead researcher on the study, wrote. This is because the cushions, straps, webbing, and other parts of seating devices can lead to asphyxiation. Out of 47 related deaths researched, the study found only one infant death that was not asphyxiation related.
There are no current rules when it comes to safe sleep in car seats or carriers, according to Parenting. But after the tragic car-seat related death of an infant in Oklahoma in November 2015, parents Derek and Ali Dodd urged lawmakers to create a law concerning sleep safety for infants. The Dodds aren't the only people urging lawmakers to create laws to promote safe sleeping standards. According to Children's MD, State Representative Jeanne Kirkton was inspired to sponsor a safe sleep bill in Missouri after 7-month-old Owen Haber died while napping at a daycare center. Though many states have safe sleep awareness programs, there are no laws on sleep safety and car seats.
According to Parents, sleep related deaths are the leading cause of death in children ages one to 12 months old. In order to make sure your child has the safest sleep environment possible, you'll want to take a few things into consideration. The easiest way to remember the best practices of safe sleep for your baby, according to Dayton Children's Hospital, is the acronym ABC: Alone, on their back, and in a crib. But according to Dr. Ben Hoffman, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention, it's unlikely that your baby will always fall asleep while lying on their back in a crib. In an interview with What To Expect, Hoffman said that your infant will likely fall asleep sitting up at some point. Because of this, it's important to know how and where it's okay for your baby to take a nap. Hoffman told What To Expect that strollers, car seats, bouncers, and other sitting devices for infants are most dangerous if the baby sleeps in them for an extended period of time.
Though there's no recommended period of time to let your baby sleep in one of these devices for, leaving them unattended whether they're awake or asleep is definitely a no-go no matter where they are, according to Hoffman and Batra. If your infant does fall asleep in any one of these devices, Hoffman recommended using the device exactly as the manufacturer recommends to avoid injury or worse. And according to Batra, when your child is in any sitting device, their face should always be "visible and kissable." So the next time you're desperate to get your little one to sleep, make sure you're present, aware, and available to check on your newborn often. Better yet, practice your ABCs, and get them alone, on their backs, in their crib to ensure the safest nap possible.