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Car Seats Intended For Travel – Not Sleep

Dorathy Gass

‘Tis the season for roadtrips! With summer fast approaching, many families will be packing up their children, and heading on the open road for some summer travel, memories, and family fun! Many parents are hoping to keep their children occupied in the car with snacks, portable DVDs, iPads, and sleep. For those travelling with young children, it is important to note a new study out of Hershey, Pennsylvania that revealed some important facts for parents in regards to extended sleep times of babies in car seats.

The study, posted by and conducted by Dr. Erich K. Batra of Penn State College of Medicine indicated that babies who were in their car seats (or bouncy chairs, swings, etc.) for longer than usual times increased their risk of asphyxiation. The two main factors in this was incorrect positioning within the car seat or strangulation from the straps of the car seat.

While some parents are prone to leave a young child strapped into their car seat once they have arrived at their destination point, or at times, substitute the car seat (or other baby apparatus) for a crib, Dr. Batra strongly discourages this, and promotes the uses of these items as directed, to decrease the chance of death. In addition, it is highly recommended that a young child never be left unattended in a car seat; under any circumstance.

A total of 47 reports were reviewed in regards to deaths that occurred to children under two, when in car seats, as well as baby swings, strollers, bouncers, or slings; as documented between 2004 and 2008 from the U.S. Consumer Safety Commission.

Most of the deaths were a result of car seats, with 31 of 47 cases being car set related. Strangulation was the result of 50% of the deaths, with other half due to positioning, and the pressure on a baby’s neck. Batra noted, as these records are not a complete record of all deaths occurring in young children within the United States, the study could not determine how many times this may have actually occurred in the country during this time period.

While not part of the study, Dr. Shital N. Parikh, an orthopedic surgeon at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, also noted falling as a huge risk of injury and death within car seats. He mentions that young children falling out of car seats when they are not in the car, are quite common. More often than not moms, dads, or caregivers will bring a baby inside somewhere, while the infant is still sleeping in their car seat, and undo the straps for comfort to allow the child to continue to nap. At times, the car seats are then placed on the floor – or even worse – a table; where the baby is at risk of wiggling out of the seat, and falling. Parents are advised that if a baby is asleep in its car seat after a car ride, to take the young child into the house, strap him or her out of the car seat, and place them in the comfort of their crib or play pen for the remainder of their nap.