Can I Leave my Baby Asleep in a Car Seat?

Q: Is it ok for me to let my baby stay sleeping in his car seat when we come in from errands?

A: Several factors make it somewhat dangerous to leave your baby, all bundled up, sleeping in a car seat.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has made recommendations to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and some recommendations apply to car seats and bundling.

There is evidence the amount of clothing or blankets on an infant, as well as room temperature, can increase the risk of SIDS.  Infants who died from SIDS were more likely to be wearing hats. In addition, suffocation was noted to be more prevalent when extra clothing and blankets were in the sleeping environment of the infant.  Increased temperature of the sleeping environment has been found to increase in the incidence of SIDS.  Infant car seat covers can keep the temperature around your infant elevated.

Based on these recommendations, it’s not a good idea to leave your child bundled up in their winter coats or hats or leave the car seat cover closed (just leave it closed when you are walking from your car to a building).

Infant car seats are not recommended for routine sleep, according to the AAP recommendations on the prevention of SIDS. The positioning of the infant’s head may be affected, compromising the airway, so the baby is unable to move air effectively into his lungs.  In addition, MANY children have sustained injuries from falls resulting from car seats being placed on elevated surfaces such as countertops.

It’s best to get the baby out of the car seat after traveling in order to keep the sleeping environment safe in your warm home.   If you have other questions on safe sleep habits, car seats or prevention of SIDS, please discuss them with your child’s health care provider. 

By Sharon Rink, MD, pediatrician, ThedaCare Physicians-Darboy.