Frazzled new parents seek out any way to get their infants to sleep soundly, particularly when these parents also could use some shut eye. Some parents will attest that newborns seem to come into the world with their days and nights mixed up, as well as with an aversion to resting comfortably in a bassinet or crib, noting how infants seem to doze off most comfortably in swings or car seats.
While it may be tempting to let sleeping babies lie, or rather, sit, in car seats when they’re asleep, research has suggested that car seats are not the safest places for babies to sleep. A relatively recent study in the journal Pediatrics showed that the car seats can compress the chest wall and reduce airway size, possibly lowering blood oxygen levels. The study placed 200 healthy newborns in a hospital crib for 30 minutes and in a car bed or car seat for an hour. Infants who slept in a car seat or car bed had lower oxygen levels than when they slept in the crib.
Pulmonary pediatrics experts at Massachusetts General Hospital concur, saying car seats can cause mild respiratory compromise in about 20 percent of newborns. This means that the car seats should be restricted to use in the car only, and not be used as a makeshift sleeping area outside of the vehicle.
Hypoxia, or a fall in oxygen levels that causes a deficiency in the blood, is associated with behavioral problems and adverse effects on development, offer researchers from Auckland University. Limiting time spent in car seats, and similarly, infant swings, can help prevent the condition. A child’s head can fall forward onto his or her chest and cause a decline in available oxygen. When children are in car seats for travel, ensure the seat is set at the proper incline, usually a 45-degree angle. This helps keep airways open.
If a child falls asleep in a swing at home, keep an eye on him or her. Turn off the rocking mechanism when he or she falls asleep and be sure that infants are always buckled in securely to avoid their slipping out and falling. Keep the swing in the most reclined position until the baby is able to lift and hold up his or her head on his or her own. Also, don’t pad the swing with loose pillows or blankets, as this can increase SIDS risk, advises the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Parents should recognize that car seats and swings should not be used as sleeping areas for children. Consult with a pediatrician about safer ways to help kids get some sleep.
Sources: American Academy Pediatrics (AAP) https://www.aap.org
Consumer Reports www.consumerreports.org
Massachusetts General Hospital www.massgeneral.org