Forgotten Baby Syndrome (FBS): Could It Ever Happen To You?
Would you ever accidentally leave your baby or young child in the car all alone? Forgotten Baby Syndrome is more common than you think and can end up with tragic results
If you have driven around in your car with your little one seated at the backseat while the song, “The Wheels On The Bus” is blaring on repeat, as you’re desperately trying to open a pack of snacks before your cranky child cries the roof off, you probably think there is no way you would ever forget that your kid is in the car with you and accidentally leave her behind.
But what if she’s fast asleep, or quietly gazing out of the window so not a single peep can be heard from her?
What if your partner is the who normally drops junior off at childcare but is feeling sick so you offered to do it instead?
Would it somehow slip your mind that you brought your little one along in the car with you and could you end up leaving her all alone in there once you’ve reached your destination?
This actually does happen more often than you think and is known as Forgotten Baby Syndrome (FBS), which is the number one cause of hot car deaths and over the past 15 years, there have been 200 children worldwide who have died from this unfortunate phenomenon.
But how can parents ever forget their own child in a car?
And what measures should you take to prevent this from happening to you?
Why it happens
“Forgotten Baby Syndrome” (FBS) is when a parent of caregiver accidentally leaves their baby or young child in the car, often leading to a tragic ending.
The term was coined by Dr David Diamond, a neuroscientist and professor with the University of South Florida, who has done extensive research into the mental process of how someone’s brain could ever allow them to commit such a grave act.
According to Dr Diamond, FBS involves two systems in our brains:
Habit Memory, which is when we do certain actions on a daily basis so they have become second nature to us, such as putting on our shoes before we leave the house and locking the front door.
Prospective Memory, which is when we have to prepare for a specific act out of our day-to-day routine, such as stopping by the pump station after work to top up petrol.
But our habit memories can easily take over our prospective memories and create a false memory of actually completing the task we had planned — in other words, we simply forget certain things that need to be done because they are out of the norm from our daily routine.
If you are not the one who usually drops off or picks up your little one from childcare, or it is simply out of your normal routine to have your kid in the car with you, this is when Forgotten Baby Syndrome may strike.
It may even happen to primary caregivers when they simply have too much on their mind which leads to a lapse of memory.
An act of forgetfulness
Dr Diamond says that Forgotten Baby Syndrome actually happens more often than we think and there are good, attentive, loving parents who simply forget that their baby or young child is in the car.
When Dee Dee Estis was running late for work one day, she asked her mother to help drive her three-year-old son, Christian, to daycare and also pick him up afterwards as she had an exam later that evening.
But the unimaginable happened when Christian’s grandmother forgot that he was in the backseat and accidentally left him secured in his car seat for 10 hours as her car was parked outside her office in the sweltering heat.
As a result of the Forgotten Baby Syndrome, Christian LaCombe died just a few months shy of his fourth birthday.
Dr Diamond explains that a parent or caretaker who is executing a normal habit such going to work or going home from another location can simply have a memory lapse — as they would like forgetting to turn off the bathroom light, or to feed their pet fish.
“What’s actually disturbing to people is that we call it this syndrome but it very much appears to be like forgetting so many other things. I think it’s just very important to see that this phenomenon is not about parents who neglect children, who leave their children as part of abuse or simply are not good parents”, he says.
Consequences of Forgotten Baby Syndrome
If a baby or young child was accidentally left in a car, it could lead to tragic consequences.
According to Christopher Haines, DO, Director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia (USA), “On a day that is just 72 degrees Fahrenheit [22 degrees Celsius], the temperature [inside a car] can increase by 30 to 40 degrees in an hour, and 70% of this increase occurs the first 30 minutes.”
A child sitting inside a hot car could suffer from heatstroke and be at risk of:
- Loss of consciousness
- Respiratory, kidney and organ failures
- Brain damage
- Cardiac arrest
The age group of children who are usually victims of hot car deaths (or vehicular heatstroke) are those below one year old, followed by one-year-olds and two-year-olds.
This is because they are still unable to talk and indicate to you that they have accidentally been left behind in the car, nor are they able to leave the vehicle on their own should the unfortunate happen.
Look before you lock
Even if you think this would never happen to you, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
These safety tips will help prevent you from ever accidentally leaving your baby or young child alone in the car:
1. Make it a habit to always check the backseat before leaving your car
2. Keep your handbag/ briefcase, wallet, mobile phone (or even your left shoe!) at the backseat of the car so that you’ll have to open the back door to retrieve those items upon arriving at your destination
3. Set a reminder on your mobile phone before you begin your journey to check the backseat
4. Whenever your child is seated at the backseat, buckle in a large stuffed animal in the front seat next to you to serve as a visual reminder that your little one is at the back
5. Be extra careful during times when you are very busy, if there are any schedule changes, a personal crisis that have occurred recently, or it is the holiday period
6. Have good open communication with different points of contact throughout the day (such as your partner or the childcare teacher) so they are aware of your child’s whereabouts at all times and are able to alert you if something is amiss
7. Never leave your baby or young child alone in the car, even if it’s just for a few minutes, as this could become a bad habit and lead to Forgotten Baby Syndrome
8. Download the smartphone “Mom I Am Here” app which has an alarm system to remind you that your child is in the car
9. If someone else is driving around with your child that day (such as your partner or your parent), get them to send you a picture of your little one once they reach their destination just to be sure that they didn’t accidentally leave her behind
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