The situation has been well known for a long time. When it’s time to put the baby to sleep, taking them for a drive in their car seat has been the technique used by many parents, who can see quick results because of the movement of the vehicle and the noise of the engine.
When the car stops and it is necessary to transfer the baby to the cot, many wake up and take a long time to fall asleep again. In order to prevent this from happening, parents choose to leave the baby sleeping all night in the baby carrier. The accessory is also used by some parents who adhere to the practice of a shared bed or room with the false option of a more comfortable place for the baby to sleep, believing it to be more practical and safer.
Letting your baby sleep in the car seat is super risky
Most baby car seats are designed to allow the baby to be safe during transportation in the car, with an inclination that prevents the baby’s neck from “hanging”. Even so, the inclination of this equipment ends up causing some forward bending of the neck when the child falls asleep. This is a very bad position for breathing because it occludes the larynx. During transportation, it is OK for the child to sleep for short periods half-sitting in the baby car seat. For prolonged periods, however, there is a risk of so-called postural asphyxia.
Risk caused by sleeping in a baby car seat
The American Academy of Pediatrics warned that the baby should not stay more than 2 hours sleeping in the baby car seat, counting the time spent in the car or even in the pram, and it is recommended to take the baby out at alternate periods during a long trip. Among the problems caused by prolonged use of the baby car seat are overloading of the spine, forcing the spine more, head trauma, and the most lethal risk, which happens when the baby bends the neck forward, impairing breathing: postural asphyxia.
The University of Virginia indicated that of the 12,000 cases of death of babies during sleep, 219 happened by suffocation in car seats, exactly by postural asphyxia. As babies’ necks still lack strength and support and they are too small to change position by themselves and correct their posture, this bending causes compression of the internal organs and chest and a narrowing of the airways, resulting in a 3% drop in oxygen saturation.
When using the baby car seat outside the car, it is important to be very careful about the surface on which the accessory is placed, even on the pram. Never leave it unattended on beds, sofas, tables, etc. The baby may tumble or roll over, the baby car seat may fall from where it has been placed or if the belt is not properly fastened, it may cause a serious fall, leading to head trauma and other harm to the baby.
In the case of a very long car journey, try to make stops at least every two hours to take the child out of the seat and move its body a little. Remember never to take the baby out of the car seat while the vehicle is moving. If possible, keep the child under supervision.
At home, it is not advisable to use the car seat as a place for the baby. Some time ago families resorted to this tactic when the baby had a very stuffy nose due to a cold or had gastroesophageal reflux. Today, however, it is considered that the tilt of car seats and boosters, around 45 degrees, is harmful to the baby’s breathing and can pose a risk.
The maximum elevation of the surface where the baby sleeps should be 10 or 15 degrees, very slight. There are some car seats that can be used as an alternative for children who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux, for some time during the day and even possibly at night, in case of crisis or intense nasal obstruction. As a general rule, whenever possible transfer the child to a firm and flat surface, following the recommendations for safety in the sleeping environment.
To sum up, it is not a problem for healthy babies to sleep for short periods in a baby car seat or stroller, but it is recommended that the child only stays in this equipment for the time strictly necessary, and it is always preferable to use a flat and firm surface for the baby’s sleep.
Safety rules in the car
Whenever you drive your baby in the car, the use of a baby car seat is mandatory for babies from birth to 1 year old. For this ride to be as safe and comfortable as possible, some safety measures must be observed, such as:
- It must have a fixed base, for better stability;
- The safety belt must have three points, padded protectors, and be positioned above the baby’s shoulder;
- Head protector, for better support and protection;
- The baby car seat must be positioned with its back to the front seat because in case of sudden braking the occurrence of accidents with the baby is much lower;
- The baby’s weight must not exceed the maximum weight stipulated by the manufacturer. In general, when the baby has more than 13 kg, the transportation must be done in a reversible seat, obeying the specifications provided by law;
- Do not leave the baby alone in the back seat. It is best that someone is present in case the head is twisted, the baby vomits or other occurrences that need the intervention of a person with greater mobility;
- Never leave the baby in the baby’s car seat for more than 2 hours. In the case of newborns, it is recommended that this time be even shorter.
- On long trips, it is recommended to take the baby out of the baby car seat at intervals. Whenever possible, let the baby stretch out.
How to make the baby sleep in the cot after leaving the baby car seat
The first step is not to use the car as a tactic to make your baby sleep at night. It may seem like something very useful and that really has an effect on many babies and children, but when they get out of the car and are placed in the cot, they end up waking up. And, exactly because they don’t know-how, they take a long time to go back to sleep. Babies need to understand that the cradle is the correct place to sleep and they will only be able to do this if they are taught through a specific routine, which must be followed every time at a certain time.
If it happens that the outing lasts longer than the sleeping time, try to do as many things as possible that the baby is used to. Change clothes, put on some soothing music or noise – a hint is to record a car noise that your baby likes – sing, tell a story, turn off the lights, in short, everything that makes the baby sleep peacefully in its cot again.