There’s just something about car rides that help lull babies to sleep. And once bub is napping peacefully in the car capsule, we’re usually loathed to wake them to pop them into the cot or the pram. So you might carry the capsule into the house or restaurant. Or you might put the capsule into a travel system to go shopping.
But is it safe to let babies sleep in their car seats? While we’re told never to wake a sleeping baby, car capsule napping is the exception. While short naps on the way to the shops are safe, leaving a snoozing bub in their car capsule for a long sleep isn’t recommended.
Here’s what the experts say about letting babies sleep in a car capsule.
Can I leave my sleeping baby in their car capsule?
Letting babies under six-months-old sleep in their car capsule for a short time while you’re nearby is ok. But leaving a baby to nap in a car seat for longer periods can be dangerous. The reason is that baby may slump their head forward, blocking their windpipe.
“The concern is that young babies under the age of six months do not have full control over the muscles in their neck and therefore in the seated position their heads can move forward and occlude the windpipe,” Dr Ryan Harvey told Mum’s Grapevine.
“This can cause difficulty breathing and even full respiratory arrest in the most severe circumstances. If you are attending to your baby then you can easily reposition their head when they are asleep in a car seat or car capsule. The advice is to not leave your babies under six months of age unattended sleeping in a car capsule.”
If baby falls asleep and you reach your destination, the advice is to take baby out of their car capsule.
“Research has shown that babies left in a sitting position for a long period of time may be placed at increased risk for sudden infant death.” Red Nose explains. “Car or baby seats may cause baby’s neck to flex forward which may block baby’s airway not allowing airflow falls from car seats used outside of the car as infant carriers are common, often involve children unbuckled in their car seats and represent a significant source of head injury for baby.”
Dr Harvey says parents need to keep a close eye on their sleeping babies in the car. “It is unsafe for extended periods of time because this increases the likelihood of the baby’s head falling forward and occluding the upper airways. The most important message is that you need to watch and attend to your baby if they fall asleep in the seated position under the age of six months.”
Can I leave my baby to sleep in their car seat?
Preterm and very young babies should avoid long car trips altogether. If it can’t be avoided, an adult should travel in the back of the car with the baby, so they can reposition bub’s head if needed. Or use a mirror so the driver can see the baby. “If a baby changes its position and slumps forward, then parents should immediately stop and take the baby out of the car seat,”UK charity The Lullaby Trust says.