Why You Should Never Let Your Child Fall Asleep in a Car Seat, Rocker or Sarong Cradle

Why You Should Never Let Your Child Fall Asleep in a Car Seat, Rocker or Sarong Cradle

Experts caution against letting your child sleep in such devices as they could cause serious harm, even death. Read more in this article.


According to a TODAY report, allowing your child to fall asleep in car seats and sitting and carrying devices could result in injury, or even death.

To highlight the danger of letting a baby sleep in such devices, Dr Goh E Shaun, emergency medicine specialist and consultant at Raffles 24 Hour Emergency describes a case of infant sleep-related death he encountered on the job.

A baby just three months old had been placed in a traditional sarong cradle for a nap after drinking milk. Three hours later when his mum checked on him, he was unresponsive. Emergency department staff couldn’t save this little one who unfortunately died.

Dr Goh explains, “It was likely the child had vomitted and then aspirated the vomit, resulting in airway obstruction. This caused the child to go into cardiac arrest which went unnoticed by the mother.”

Expert advice: Avoid car seat, swings, bouncers and slings for baby’s sleep

avoid car seats and sitting devices for baby sleep

Avoid car seats and sitting devices for baby sleep: hammocks such as the one in this image can cause serious harm to a baby, should he or she fall asleep in it.

According to the reports, one of the most common causes of death for babies in their first year is sleep-related death.

What is alarming is that studies are highlighting the link between these deaths and the inappropriate use of sitting and carrying devices for children.

In a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics earlier this year, researchers analysed the deaths of 47 US toddlers and infants below two years of age, who died after being kept in sitting and carrying devices, “such as car seats, swings, bouncers and slings.”

Research findings indicated that half of deaths in car seats were caused by strangulation from straps, “while the rest were caused by suffocation due to the way the babies were positioned.”

avoid car seats and sitting devices for baby sleep

Experts caution against letting babies sleep for prolonged periods in car seats

It happens in Singapore too

TODAY points out that “last year, NUH saw three cases of infants found dead in their sleep with no obvious cause.”

Singaporean children are also getting injured as a result of the incorrect use of child seat and/or carrying devices.

Dr Mary Varughese is an associate consultant at the Division of General Ambulatory Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at NUH.

She explains that annually, NUH’s children’s emergency department sees and treats up to 20 babies and young kids below the age of two for a range of child seat and/or carrying device-related injuries — from minor scrapes to even fractures and serious head injuries.

According to Dr Varughese,

One five-month-old baby fell out of a traditional sarong cradle after his mother left his side briefly. Even though the cradle was only half a metre from the ground, the baby suffered a serious head injury due to the greater momentum of falling from a springy cradle.

Dr Goh meanwhile says that the use of such devices may give parents a false sense of security.

According to TODAY, Dr Goh points out that sarong cradles which are commonly used by Singaporean parents are particularly unsuitable as “they do not provide adequate head and neck support.”

He advises that children under the age of one should always be placed on their backs to sleep on a firm surface with no bulky bedding or soft toys. What’s more, “your baby’s head should be positioned in a comfortable, neutral or slightly flexed position.”

When it comes to using a car seat and carrying devices, the advice is that they should always be used following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Dr Goh points out that “Even so, most devices are not designed for prolonged use, particularly while the child is asleep or unsupervised. If your baby falls asleep in a car safety seat, stroller, swing, infant carrier or infant sling, move him to a firm sleep surface as soon as possible.”

avoid car seats and sitting devices for baby sleep

Always place your baby on her back to sleep, on a firm surface that is uncluttered with toys and bedding.

Here are some tips on child sleep safety from the authors of the study mentioned in this article:

  • Never leave kids unsupervised, regardless of if they are awake or asleep.
  • Do not leave children in a car seat with unbuckled or partially buckled straps.
  • Make sure that babies are unable to twist their heads into overly soft bedding, or slump forward in a seat.
  • Slings are particularly hazardous because of their design and the ease with which an infant’s airway can be collapsed. If used, the infant’s face should be “visible and kissable” at all times.
  • Never keep car seats on soft or unstable surfaces.
  • Infants in bouncers, strollers, and swings may be able to manoeuvre into positions that could compromise their airway; straps on these devices may not prevent infants from getting into hazardous situations.
  • Never place more than one baby in a swing that is made for just one.

You could also read this article from the Mayo Clinic on ensuring your baby’s safety in a car seat.

Parents, do share your opinion on this article in a comment below. 

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