Following her toddler's tragic death, one mom is on a mission to warn fellow parents about napping in car seats. It might be an overlooked hazard for those not familiar with car seat safety and safe sleep practices, but Lisa Smith of Aledo, Texas wants to educate other moms, dads, and caretakers about the dangers so no other parent has to go through such an unthinkable tragedy as she and her family did three years ago.
In 2015, Smith's 17-month-old daughter, Mia, died after a babysitter had let her nap in her car seat, according to Dallas ABC News affiliate WFAA. "I got a call while I was at work," Smith told WFAA in a recent interview. "Worst call I’ve ever had in my life. ‘Drop everything. Mia didn’t wake up from her nap.’"
Mia’s cause of death was officially Positional Asphyxia, according to WFAA's report, which is a complication that arises when a person’s breathing is restricted by their bodily position. While there are extensive warnings on the sides of baby equipment, such as car seats, many parents and caretakers may not know how hazardous certain baby gear can be when used incorrectly, or simply think of a car seat as a secure place for a child to nap after they've fallen asleep while in the car or while out and about.
Though it may seem harmless on the surface, it's not. “There's nothing about the car seat that's designed [for] sleep,” Sharon Evans, a trauma injury prevention coordinator at Cook Children’s Hospital, told WFAA. “Of course, if the straps aren’t tight, the child can kind of slump down.” Evans added, according to WFAA, that the straps can strangle babies or little heads can flop over dangerously, cutting off the airway.
Sadly, as a 2015 study from the Journal of Pediatrics found, 31 children died while sleeping in car seats over a four-year period, as NBC News affiliate WXIA reported. And that figure should not be overlooked, which is something Smith wants parents to know, as she told WFAA:
How many parents do you think might not know this? Probably a lot... I walk around town and see people using a car seat on the seats at restaurants, or putting them on the floor at tables. I literally walk up to people and I say, "You know, I had a daughter who was seventeen-and-a-half months who passed away and I just want you to be really careful."
But even if parents do know of this danger, it's important they know to also educate their caretakers, nannies, and babysitters as well. According to WhatToExpect, although there are no explicit standards regarding keeping babies in car seats for long periods, two hours or more is a long time to keep a child constrained.
Shepard Dodd, an 11-week-old, passed away in 2015 in similar circumstances, as reported by Us Weekly. Because Shepard, like Mia Smith, was not in his parents' care when his death occurred, grieving parents Ali and Derek Dodd created Shepard’s Law in 2017, an Oklahoma bill to educate daycare providers about safe-sleep practices for children, according to KFOR.
As Smith told WFAA, although she has been through hell, she doesn’t want anyone else to feel the pain she did, as she recalled to the news outlet of losing Mia:
She was a total little girl from the beginning. We had dance parties and we danced all the time... She didn't deserve what happened to her, but other families don't deserve this to happen to them either.
Smith has gone through every parent's worst nightmare, but her openness about her family's unfathomable tragedy and her bravery to educate others could prove to be life-saving.