Once your son or daughter is born, chances are you’ll take laughable measures to lull him or her to sleep. Do lunges in the dark while clutching your baby to your chest? Sure, why not? Run the hairdryer, hum and bounce gently on an exercise ball? OK, if you say so. When it comes to newborns and sleep patterns, almost any gentle and seemingly safe tactic is fair game – except for this one: The car seat is for driving only, not for extended periods of sleep.
A recent study out of Penn State College of Medicine and published in the Journal of Pediatrics underscores this point. Researchers studied 47 deaths of children under 2, all of which occurred while seated in a device such as a car seat, swing or bouncer.
Of these, 31 fatalities were found to have taken place in infant car seats. In these cases, babies were either strangled by loose straps or suffocated due to poor positioning inside the seat. Some even fell to their deaths after a parent brought them in from the car, loosened the straps and placed them on an elevated surface to continue their napping.
What you can do
While this kind of news is certainly heartbreaking, it serves as a compelling reminder to always use infant devices exclusively for their stated purpose. You very well may find that your little one drifts off like a dream in the car, but once you’ve brought him or her inside the house, you’ll want to transfer your child to the crib. Sleep-related fatalities are the largest cause of death for children under 1. Seating them upright to sleep raises these risks as this position puts pressure on their airways and may constrict breathing. To keep your little one safe from harm, health officials advise that parents never leave their babies in any device – save for a crib – unsupervised. A potentially fatal accident could occur in as little as four or five minutes.
Time and time again we hear the phrase that “back is best.” No matter how exhausted and sleep-deprived you may find yourself once baby arrives, promise yourself this: You’ll follow the rules and always put your son or daughter to sleep on his or her back, without blankets, pillows or toys, alone in the crib. There may be screaming. There may be crying. You may want to tear your hair out from frustration and fatigue. But in those moments, when you consider popping your baby in the car seat for a nap, know this: This moment you’re in – as lonely and aggravating as it is – is only a blip in your child’s lifetime. Suffer through it to keep him or her safe and know that sleep, as elusive as it seems, will one day come.