Is it ok for my baby to sleep in the car? It’s a common question, and an important once since so many parents find the best way to get their baby to sleep is safely strap them into a baby seat then go for a drive. Something about the engine and the gentle vibrations sends most little ones off to the land of Nod really quickly. But did you know letting your baby sleep in a baby car seat can be unsafe? Read on to find out all about Baby car seat safety.
Is it safe for my baby to sleep in a car seat?
So is a baby car seat safe for sleeping? As it turns out, while it’s perfectly OK for a baby to nap or fall fast sleep in their car seat on the journey between A and B, a car seat isn’t the best place for them to sleep regularly. It’s a safety thing.
What makes a car seat an unsafe place to sleep?
Is a baby car seat safe? As long as it’s attached to the car it belongs in, the answer is yes. It’s never a good idea to take the seat out of the car and balance it on a surface, whether it’s on the ground or up high.
The stats are worrying, and they support our message. In the USA alone, research into infant sleep-related deaths in sitting devices like pushchairs, car seats, chairs, bouncers and swings revealed car seats to be responsible for 63% of fatalities. In more than 90% of cases the seats were being used in ways they weren’t designed for. For some cases the car seat was the wrong size for the child, in others it was used inside the home
There are lots more reasons to avoid a baby car seat for sleeping:
- When a baby sleeps sitting up their head can roll forwards and damage their neck. It can even cause them to stop breathing, something called positional asphyxiation – the cause of 48% of US car seat baby deaths
- The remaining 52% of babies died because they were strangled by the car seat straps, which weren’t secured properly
- A car seat is tested for safety at a specific angle. Take it out of the car and place it at a different angle and it could actually be lethal
- When parents take the baby seat out of the car with the child still in the seat, they often loosen the straps. The baby can easily slide into a position where their chin is on their chest and they can’t breathe. Or they can get trapped in another position – even upside down – which compromises their breathing
- Leaving the chest clips done up and the leg clips undone means the baby can slip down and strangle themselves on the chest strap
- In around a third of baby deaths involving sitting devices, the parent was asleep when the child died. Some babies had been left in car seats overnight and it was clear their parents had been using the car seat as a regular bed
How long should a baby be in a car seat while driving?
Let your baby sleep for the duration of your car journey, no longer.
What can a parent do?
The best thing is to use a baby car seat as a car seat, for no other purpose. Don’t remove the seat from the car unless you have to. If you let your child sleep in their car seat for longer than the journey, make sure they are supervised 100% of the time. When carrying your baby around the house while you work, use a proper crib or cradle, not a car seat.
Can car seats have expiry dates?
Most car seats will fail after 6-10 years. They expire because of everyday wear and tear, through damage, and because the regulations have changed. A seat might be re-called by the manufacturer. Sometimes the manufacturer’s testing protocol wasn’t designed to last for more than a specified number of years.
Can my baby sleep in a car seat?
Yes, they can. But please take the greatest care. Only let them sleep in their car seat while it’s actually fitted inside the car, and never leave your child unsupervised in a car seat.