Sleeping in a car seat - is it safe for babies?

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Sometimes all a parent needs is a minute to run an errand while leaving their child sleeping in a car seat. Is it safe?

There isn’t a parent out there who hasn’t heaved a huge sigh of relieve when their baby finally drifted off to sleep in their car seat when being driven down the road. Hey, I’ve even put my baby in the car seat and backed out of the car park just for that purpose. And I bet most of you have, too.

Sleeping in a car seat - why do parents let their babies do it?

It’s not rocket science. Everyone knows (or should know) that you don’t wake a sleeping baby. If you’re out running errands and the baby falls asleep in their car seat, bringing the car seat in with you so that the baby can continue napping undisturbed seems like the smartest thing to do.

Another reason why mums let their children sleep in a car seat is so that they can enjoy a day out for shopping. Mothers will often quick-attach the car seat to the stroller while the baby naps their way through the mall. This helps by letting the mum to relax, get her shopping fix, and also give her baby the much needed sleep that they need.

Parents of newborns have also reported using the car seat for a baby’s nap time and some even at bed time. To them the car seat is safe and snug enough to make a baby feel secure; almost like swaddling.

Sleeping in a car seat - So is it safe for baby?

While it is convenient to let your baby nap in the car seat occasionally, this should not be a habit and definitely not for extended periods of time. Your car seat is not designed to be used as a cot or moses basket replacement. By using your car seat as a crib replacement, you are robbing your baby of their need to stretch, roll and move from side to side.

Studies have also found that some premature babies could have breathing difficulties if sat in a baby seat for longer than necessary. A 2009 study showed that even full-term babies have been found to experience slightly lower levels of blood oxygen if left for long periods in car seats - this could impair development. Other studies have shown how sleeping in car seats can actually lead to infant death.

In addition, under no circumstance is it remotely acceptable to leave your child unattended in the car seat in a vehicle! Never! A child could die from a heat stroke or have increased curvature of the spine. Not to mention, this is easily classified under cruelty and neglect on the parent's part. Make sure to be responsible, and never leave your child behind in the car.

It is also important to never leave your child in a car seat with unbuckled or partially buckled straps or place car seats on a soft or unstable surface. Both of these increase chances of child strangulation.

Sleeping in a car seat: Conclusion

Allowing your baby to sleep in their car seat while traveling or running errands is safe and acceptable. But remember what it's purpose is…a car seat is meant to be used to keep your baby safe in the car. It is not okay for your baby to sleep in a car seat for extended periods of time as a crib replacement.

Tell us about your experience with your baby sleeping in a car seat. We'd love to hear from you!