A case report published in the British Medical Journal today is making
headlines: are babies at risk of having breathing problems while in their car seats?
Well, we actually read the case report, and frankly, we are not impressed. The researchers looked at 9 (yes, that's VERY few) babies in New Zealand who had moments of looking blue while sitting in their infant car seats. None of the babies died. Half of the babies had parents who smoked (hmmm . . . perhaps that had something to do with it—but researchers did not address this question). And, based on this extremely small group of children, the researchers have come out with a comment that babies are at risk for suffocating while sleeping in a car seat. Hence, the study concludes, babies shouldn't sleep in their car seats unattended.
Here's what we DO know, based on several other studies on this topic with much larger numbers of children:
1. Babies who are born prematurely (less than 37 weeks gestation), extremely small (under 2500 grams), or those with certain malformations, may be at risk for obstructing their airways while in a standard car seat.
2. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all babies born at less than 37 weeks gestation have a car seat safety test performed (to assess poor oxygenation/respiratory difficulties) before they leave the hospital.
3. Babies who fail a cars eat safety test (usually VERY small babies) may do better in a 5-point harness car seat designed for infants less than 5 pounds than 3-point harness models. Car-beds are also an option for these babies who are at risk.
Bottom line: It's probably a good idea to have someone ride in the backseat with a newborn (if possible) and limit the amount of time your young infant is in that car seat. And we would agree: don't leave an infant unattended to sleep in a car seat.
BUT don't panic---if your child falls asleep in a car seat (as many newborns and infants will do), there is no cause for alarm.