A study out of Britain finds that babies could be at risk if left to sleep in standard car safety seats without supervision.
They are safe in the seat if you are to get into an accident, but it shouldn’t be substituted for a bed.
The study looked at nine infants who suffered ‘life threatening events’ while strapped into a car seat where they were left asleep outside the car.
The children were described as “blue”, “scrunched up” and “not breathing”.
Once the researchers recreated the event, using the child’s own car seat, they found that their heads slumped with the jaw pressed down on the chest, which narrowed the airway and caused breathing problems.
“Babies are often left by themselves when they are taken into the house in a car safety seat, which means the parents are not around to keep an eye on them”, said Paediatrician Professor Alistair Gunn.
The infants were very young when head control is not well developed.
“They were reported to be asleep at the time of the events – the pharyngeal muscles relax during active sleep” he added.
A spokesman for Maxi-Cosi, a carseat manufacturer, said “We advise parents not to leave babies in them for long periods because they need to lie flat for some of the time.
“Our car seats have built-n adjusters that can make the car seat flatter for younger babies, and allow older babies to sit more upright” she added.
A spokesman for the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths said “Previous studies have shown that infants, especially if born prematurely, experience falls in their blood oxygen levels when placed in seats of this kind, compared with the levels when they were placed on their backs in a cot or crib. “It is not yet clear, however, whether other factors, in addition to prematurity or poor muscle tone, increase the risk for individual babies of airway obstruction in car safety seats.
Before we were able to bring our son home from the hospital he had to pass a car seat test. The nurse placed our son in the seat, buckled in, with all of his monitors on him (heart rate and blood oxygen) and watched him for 45 minutes. If he didn’t pass than we would not have been able to bring him home until he did. I am not sure if all babies get this test or just preemies, but it definitely gave us a piece of mind during our first journey in the car.