This Is Why A Baby Should Not Sleep In A Car Seat

Using a car seat as a sleep substitute can have disastrous effects for your baby. A car seat should only be used in the car, and here's why.

I'm nine years in the parenting world and it was when I had my fourth baby three years ago that I became aware of positional asphyxia and to be honest, it scared the living daylights out of me at the time.

Also known as postural asphyxia, positional asphyxia is a form of asphyxia which happens when a person can't get enough air to breathe due to the positioning of their body.  

Most common in infants, positional asphyxia is a silent killer, there is no gasping for air or crying. Babies under four months old are at the highest risk as they do not have the proper head or neck control leaving them unable to move their head if airways become blocked. Babies with low birth weight, premature babies and babies with hypotonia (low muscle tone) are also at risk.  

Positional asphyxia can occur when an infant sleeps in an unsafe sleeping environment or in an unsafe position.  A simple tilt of an infant's head can compromise their airways like when their chin sits against their chest.

Baby asleep on her side
Car seats are not the only culprits - positional asphyxiation can occur in a baby carrier, swing or bouncy seat.

Often parents think that a car seat is a safe place for a baby to sleep, however, car seats are designed to keep babies safe in a car accident. Using a car seat as a sleep substitute for a young infant could have devastating consequences. 

When used in a car, car seats are secured to a base at an angle that keeps a baby's airway open. Once removed and placed on a flat surface it is no longer safe. Infants are at risk of slumping forward blocking their airways. Car seats are not the only culprits - positional asphyxiation can occur in a baby carrier, swing or bouncy seat.   

A new study published earlier this year by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 3% of babies in the US died in sitting devices, including car seats, bouncers, or swings over a ten year period.  

Co-author of the study Jeffrey D. Colvin said: "While car seats are always the best place for babies when they are being transported in a vehicle, that doesn’t mean they are the safest place when they’re sleeping outside of the car."  

"Parents should bring along a portable crib or bassinet for sleeping when they arrive at their destination." 

We know it's a shame to wake a sleeping baby, however, the best place for a baby to sleep is on their back, in a cot or bassinet on a firm mattress free from any loose bedding.  

Kellie Kearney

Kellie Kearney is a Dublin mammy of five kids aged newborn right up to nine. She loves coffee, cloth nappies, travel and sharing her every day true to life family moments on Instagram.

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