When babies are very young, they sleep for the majority of the day so they will nap frequently regardless of where you are or what you are doing. This is why it is common for babies to fall asleep in their car seats when they go on a slightly longer drive with you. The biggest question that parents have is if it’s safe.
Car seats are made for safety so you are probably thinking that if they fall asleep that it isn’t a big deal. Well, it can be. Car seats should never be used for overnight sleeping or long naps. In this article, we will discuss all of the risks involved with sleeping in car seats and what you can do to keep your little one safe.
Can You Let Them Sleep if They Doze Off?
As long as they are under adult supervision and you aren’t using the car seat as their primary sleeping space, then yes. Little cat naps in their car seat, while you reach your next destination, is fine. The problem lies in prolonged sleep in the car seat. It can be really dangerous.
Why Is It So Dangerous?
According to Dr. Harvey Karp of Happiest Baby, it can lead to possible suffocation. When your baby’s head falls forward while they sleep, their airways become blocked which makes it difficult for them to breathe.
You may not notice this is even happening because it occurs while they are asleep. This is why you should never let your little one sleep in their car seat overnight.
Even the American Academy of Pediatrics is against sleeping in car seats. They recommend that if your baby does fall asleep while in the car, move them to a firm flat surface like their crib or bassinet as soon as possible.
Lying completely flat is the safest sleeping position for your baby, especially during their first year of life.
You can check out this article from the American Academy of Pediatrics journal which talks about the rise in infant deaths due to using the car seat for sleep rather than the recommended crib or bassinet.
Car Seats Are Not the Only Danger
Did you know that the same rule applies to all devices that have your child sitting upright?
This includes strollers and high chairs as well. It may seem silly, but it’s better to be safe. If your child falls asleep in any of those places, don’t wait too long if you know they are going to be in there longer than a few minutes.
Transfer them safely to where they can nap on their back, even if it means staying home a little longer or cutting your outing short. Your baby’s life is more important and those things can wait.
What You Can Do
Some parents claim that their child sleeps better with movement, so in the car seat or stroller. Since it isn’t safe for them to sleep upright, you can use this method to help them to drift off to sleep but transfer them to somewhere where they can sleep on their back as soon as possible.
This is especially important for infants under 3 months. Many babies at that age aren’t even able to roll over yet, so it isn’t even a good idea to let them sleep on their tummy.
That is another way that can cause suffocation besides letting their head flop forward. When they are that young, they just don’t have the muscle control yet.
Here Are Some Helpful Tips
Need help making the right decision? These tips and things to remember can be crucial in helping you make the right steps if your little one falls asleep in their car seat.
- Do not let your child stay in their car seat for more than 2 hours at a time. It can put a strain on their spine to be upright for longer.
- If you are taking a longer road trip, invest in a portable bassinet to take along so your baby has a safe sleeping space.
- Once it reaches past 2 hours, they need to be woken up or transferred to their safe sleeping space.
- Never leave your child unsupervised in their car seat.
The bottom line is that it’s just too risky to let your baby sleep in their car seat. You should never let your little one take long naps or sleep in them at night, even if they fall asleep easier.
Plan if you are taking a longer trip and make sure you have a safe place for them to get some shut-eye if you know they are going to need it.