Recent recalls of the Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleeper and other infant inclined sleep products have highlighted the dangers of putting babies to sleep on an incline. Now many parents are wondering whether it’s okay for babies to sleep in car seats.
Consumer Reports investigated.
The angled position of the Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleeper could cause an infant’s head to tilt forward and compress the airway, increasing the risk of suffocation. Consumer Reports is aware of at least 54 reported deaths linked to infant sleepers like these.
But infants often fall asleep in car seats, which also position children at an inclined angle. Is that safe?
Yes, you can let your baby sleep for short stretches in a car seat, as long as it’s used properly. While the risks of sleeping on an incline are serious, they’re vastly outweighed by the protection that a properly installed car seat provides during a crash.
The angle of rear-facing car seats, including the kind for infants, has been extensively tested and is necessary to protect a child’s head and spine in a collision. You should check the recline indicator to make sure your child’s car seat has been installed with an appropriate recline angle for your child’s age.
And here’s an important reminder: Car seats—even those you can remove from a vehicle to lock into a stroller—are meant to be used only while you’re with your baby or are able to observe him or her, not for extended or overnight sleep.
Another difference is that infant car seats have a five-point harness system, which is designed and tested to protect your baby in the event of a crash. And it lowers the risk of your baby slumping down and letting his head drop so that his chin falls to his chest, blocking airflow.
The best sleep advice for parents is to follow the Safe Sleep recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics: Babies should sleep alone, on their back, with no soft bedding or padding, and always on a firm, flat mattress.
If you’re on a long car trip, make sure you pull over occasionally to check on your baby. And CR warns that no car seat will fully protect your baby if it’s not installed and used correctly. You can have your car-seat installation checked by an expert at a car-seat checkup event.
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