AAP: Babies Should NOT Sleep In Car Seats When Not Traveling

by Christina Marfice
Originally Published: 

If your baby is sleeping when you arrive at home, take them out of their car seat anyway

Every mom (and dad) knows this struggle. You’ve just arrived at home, and your infant is fast asleep in their car seat from the journey. Rather than unbuckle and pull them out of the seat, which risks waking them up, it can be so much easier to just pop the whole seat out of the car, take it inside and let the kiddo keep snoozing in it. But a new study published in the latest issue of Pediatrics journal shows you should stop doing this common practice immediately.

The 10-year study looked at factors in sleep-related deaths for 11,779 infants, and found that 3 percent of the deaths happened while the babies were in “sitting devices,” which included car seats, strollers and swings. Of those, 64 percent happened in car seats, specifically to infants a median age of two months old. And 90 percent of the times infant death occurred in a car seat, the seat wasn’t being used correctly. In other words, the baby was in it while not traveling in a car, which is the only time a car seat should be used, the study’s authors urged.

“It really appeared that the deaths in these car seats occurred in the context where the car seat wasn’t being used for its purpose in transporting a child, but instead it was being used as a substitute for a crib or bassinet,” Dr. Jeffrey Colvin, the study’s lead author, told TODAY. “But they aren’t as safe as a crib or bassinet when the child is out of the car and sleeping … There’s a lack of awareness (about this). I think every parent, including myself, has been guilty of doing this at one time or another.”

There are a lot of questions about sudden sleeping deaths in infants, and no one knows exactly why it happens. Because of that, no one knows for sure why cribs and bassinets are safer places for babies to sleep than chairs or car seats. Colvin thinks it might have to do with the fact that car seats put babies in an angled position, compared to cribs and bassinets where they can lay on a completely flat surface.

This isn’t the first time a scientific study has arrived at this conclusion. An Academy of American Pediatrics study done in 2015 found that sleeping in a seat puts babies at risk for asphyxiation, and soon after that study was published, a mom shared her heartbreaking story of losing her daughter in just that way.

Colvin did also stress that this study does not mean you should worry if your baby falls asleep in their seat during a ride in the car.

“The car seat is where infants should be always when they’re traveling and it’s the absolute safest place for that infant to be, whether they are awake or asleep,” he said. “But you just have to remember that car seats are for cars and when you get out of the car, the safest thing to do if your infant is still sleeping, would be to put them in a bassinet or a crib.”

Hear what our real-life Scary Mommies, Keri and Ashley, have to say about this when they give their (always real) thoughts in this episode of our Scary Mommy Speaks podcast.

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