Experts warn against leaving babies asleep in capsules

Man carrying baby in car capsule

Lots of parents have left their sleeping baby in the capsule to finish their nap, either carried into the house or on their travel system pram. But health experts are warning letting babies sleep in capsules for long periods can be dangerous – even fatal.

Babies love falling asleep in the car, there’s something about the movement that lulls them off almost instantly. While we’re told never to wake a sleeping baby, experts say little ones should never nap in a baby capsule for extended periods.

Safe sleeping in car capsules

Australia's safest car seats

Dr Ryan Harvey says it’s safe to let tots snooze in their capsules for short periods, while you’re close by.

“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 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.”

Red Nose recommends always removing a baby from their capsule once the car journey is over, even if it means waking them.

“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. 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,” Red Nose explains.

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.”

The dangers of sleeping in car seats

Is it safe to let my baby to sleep in a car seat?” is locked Is it safe to let my baby to sleep in a car seat? | Mum's Grapevine

The message is the same for older infants who fall asleep in their car seats. Lisa Smith’s 18-month-old daughter died during a car seat sleep, and the heartbroken mum is now dedicated to warning other parents of the dangers.

“I walk around town and see people using a car seat on the seats at restaurants or putting them on the floor at tables,” she told WFAA. “I literally walk up to people and I say, ‘You know, I had a daughter who was seventeen-and-a-half months who passed away and I just want you to be really careful.’”

Lisa’s daughter Mia was put to sleep in her car seat by her babysitter. “I got a call while I was at work. Worst call I’ve ever had in my life. ‘Drop everything. Mia didn’t wake up from her nap.’”

The little girl died from positional asphyxia, when breathing is restricted by a person’s position. Watch Lisa’s harrowing story below:

UK charity The Lullaby Trust advises that parents with pre-term and very young babies should avoid traveling in cars for long periods of time. They also recommend an adult travel in the back of the car with the baby or a mirror be used 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,” the organisation states. The Lullaby Trust funded a study that found both term and pre-term infants showed signs of potentially adverse cardiorespiratory effects when seated in an upright position at 40°.”

Make sure you take a look at this handy tip for carrying a baby capsule without hurting your back.