Not uncommonly, car seats and other sitting devices are used for napping. According to a new study, placing infants or young children in these devices for naps may endanger them. The findings were published April 24 in the journal Pediatrics by researchers at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.
The study group comprised 47 children under two years of age who died while in a device designed for them to sit in, or in which they could be carried. Two-thirds of the cases involved car seats; the remainder of the deaths occurred in slings, swings, bouncers, and strollers. In many cases, the investigators found that children had been placed in the devices to help them fall asleep. The authors recommended the “ABC” policy for sleeping infants: (A) they should be alone; (B) they should be on their backs; and (C) they should be in a crib. In addition, there should be no loose bedding in the crib.
In view of the “ABC” police, car safety seats and other sitting devices are not recommended for sleeping. Furthermore, in general, sleeping infants and young children should not be left unsupervised in such devices, whether they are awake or asleep.
In one of the study cases, an 11-month-old baby died after being placed in a car seat with a bottle to take a nap while at an in-home day care. The seat’s chest buckles were secured; however, the lower buckles were not secured. When the childcare provider checked on the infant, one hour and 20 minutes after placing him in the seat, she found that the baby had slipped down in the car seat, and a strap was pressed against his neck.
In most of the deaths reviewed in the study, the child was either strangled by something such as a strap, or died because he or she could not get enough air due to the way their bodies were positioned. The time that had elapsed between when the children were last seen alive and when they were found deceased ranged from 4 minutes to 11 hours. The researchers did not assess how common such cases are; however, they stressed that it is important to be aware that such events can occur.
In a news release, Dr. Batra recommended that children should never be left in a car seat with unbuckled or partially buckled straps; in addition, never place car seats on soft or unstable surfaces. The study authors noted that parents must be aware that straps on bouncers, strollers, and swings may not prevent infants from getting into dangerous positions. In addition, never place more than one infant in a swing meant for only one child. Slings are particularly dangerous because of their design. When using a sling, the infant’s face should be “visible and kissable” at all times.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, sleep-related deaths are the most common cause of death among infants aged 1 month to 12 months in the US. The academy recommends that infants should sleep on their back on a firm mattress, without loose bedding.The academy Pediatrics offers a guide to safe sleep for infants at this link.