"Using CSSs for sleep in nontraveling contexts may pose a risk to the infant," warned the study, published this month in the journal Pediatrics

By Jen Juneau
May 21, 2019 10:51 AM

Parents may want to think twice before letting their child sleep in their car seat while not in the car.

A new study published this month in the American Academy of Pediatrics journal Pediatrics has found that, in data looked at from 2004 to 2014, 62.9 percent of sleep-related deaths in infants occurred when children were in car safety seats (CSSs). Of these cases, less than 10 percent of the seats were “used as directed.”

“Using CSSs for sleep in nontraveling contexts may pose a risk to the infant,” the study warned.

Researchers also noted that “Compared with other deaths, deaths in sitting devices had higher odds of occurring under the supervision of a child care provider or baby-sitter compared with a parent.”

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Child in car seat

Pediatrician Dr. Jeffrey Colvin — who was the study’s lead author — spoke with Today about the findings, sharing, “It really appeared that the deaths in these car seats occurred in the context where the car seat wasn’t being used for its purpose in transporting a child, but instead it was being used as a substitute for a crib or bassinet.”

“But they aren’t as safe as a crib or bassinet when the child is out of the car and sleeping … There’s a lack of awareness (about this),” he continued. “I think every parent, including myself, has been guilty of doing this at one time or another.”

“A lot of times we just saw this context where the infant had been left in the car seat for hours and hours, and the supervisor was asleep or intoxicated during the time,” Dr. Colvin added.

Baby in car seat

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Despite the new findings, Colvin affirmed to Today that parents should “absolutely not” be concerned if their baby falls asleep in their car seat during a drive.

“The car seat is where infants should be always when they’re traveling and it’s the absolute safest place for that infant to be, whether they are awake or asleep,” Colvin said.

He added, “But you just have to remember that car seats are for cars and when you get out of the car, the safest thing to do if your infant is still sleeping would be to put them in a bassinet or a crib.”