Wake The Baby! "Don't Use Car Seats As Stroller Seats" (2023)

All together now… “That’s unrealistic!”

If this was a TV news story, I’d be starting off with a montage of moms rolling their eyes and replying “that’s unrealistic” when I tell them that “the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Green Science Policy Institute and many others are urging parents NOT to use car seats as stroller seats or let a child sleep in a car seat outside of the car.”

Frankly “that’s unrealistic” was also my response to Arlene Blum of the Green Science Policy Institute during a recent interview for these two stories about flame retardant chemicals in car seats.

I literally laughed out loud when she followed up “don’t use car seats as stroller seats” with “and don’t let your kids eat in their car seats.”

Arlene’s primary concern is the chemical flame retardants in car seats (some known to cause cancer) that break down into dust. Kids inhale and ingest that dust and, as a result, studies show that kids have the highest levels of those chemicals in their blood.

NewsMom Must-Read:
Toxic Safety: Car Seat FlameRetardants

I’ve blogged extensively about the “Concerning Chemicals in Car Seats”and I was shocked to discover they’veeven been found in the high-end, supposedly-green car seats.However,reducing prolonged exposure to chemicals thatmay cause cancer, neurological disorders and reproductive issues is not the primary reason most are urging parents not to use car seats outside of the car.

SIDS & Sleep-Related Deaths in Car Seats

Sleep-related deaths are the most common cause of death for infants under 12 months. In a recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found two-thirds of the deaths they analyzed involved car seats.

Now, I get it. That could never happen to you, right? When my producer Jen went out to get MOS (man on the street) interviews with moms at the mall, each one responded with statements like, “Well, I check my baby constantly to make sure he’sbreathing.”

Wake up call: The study found babies died of asphyxia (positional or strangulation) in as little as fourminutes after their caregivers last saw them alive.

The study’s conclusion:

Infants and children 2 years of age and younger should be properly restrained and not be left unsupervised in sitting and carrying devices. Car seats should not be used as sleeping areas outside of the vehicle, and children should never be in a car seat with unbuckled or partially buckled straps.

The study’s author, Dr. Erich Batra, says they found that car seats are generally safe when babies are securely strapped in them in the car. However, problems arise when parents remove the car seat from the car and loosen or remove the straps.

“You should not use a car seat outside of the car, and an infant should never be in a car seat with partially buckled straps,” Batra told CBS News.

Batra’s study follows several others with similar findings. This study out ofNew Zealandalso concluded, “Young infants should not be left unattended to sleep in standard car safety seats.”

Now, to be clear, it is not necessary to prevent your baby from falling asleep in the car while they are securely strapped into their car seats. The safest place for a child in a moving vehicle is securely strapped into a rear-facing car seat in the center position of the back seat.

Though according toStephanie Tombrello of SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A.90% of safety seats are used incorrectly and ” loose harnesses are a major issue overall in safety seats.” She points out that parents often “don’t have the harness snug enough, don’t have the retainer clip/chest clip at armpit level,or don’t correct many other errors, often because they refuse to read the instructions.”

When it comes to positional asphyxiation, the issues primarily arise when the car seat straps are loosened and/or the car seat is removed from the car. Babies can be (are being) 1) strangled by lose straps, 2) slumped into a position that restricts their airways, or 3) the car seat falls off a high surface or tips over on the ground or in the crib, suffocating or injuring the baby.

Bottom line, “back is best” and outside of the car they should be on a flat, firm surface.The American Academy of Pediatrics changed their recommendation back in 1992, urging parents to put babies to sleep flat on their backs.

According to theCDC’s National Infant Sleep Position Study, the dramatic decrease in the number of SIDS-related deaths since the ’90s directly correlates with the dramatic increase of parents placing babies to sleep flat on their backs.

But while SIDS deathshave declined, sleep-related deaths from other causes, including suffocation, entrapment and asphyxia, have increased.

Keep in mind, thesleeping-in-car-seat phenomena is fairly new. Our parents didn’t let us sleep in car seats (largely because we didn’t have them). In Europe, most parents still uselie-flat stroller seatsorbassinet strollers and think we’re strange (or lazy) for refusing to remove our kids from car seats.

Don’t Wake aSleeping Baby

Now, I know what you’re thinking.Millions of kids sleep in car seats every day.

The thought of taking them out of their car seats and risk waking them can be unconscionable to exhausted new parents deep in the throes of the “witching hour.”

Initially, I had the same thought. Then I imagined my sweet baby C never waking up from that nap.

I can’t help buttear up when I imagine the heartbreak baby Devon’s and baby Shepard’s parents must have felt when they realized their infantswere basically killed by their car seats.

Wake The Baby! "Don't Use Car Seats As Stroller Seats" (1)Fifteen-month old Devonwas taking a nap in her car seat, where a babysitter left her to sleep. Police say paramedics tried for more than an hour to revive her. She never woke up.

According to Devon’s parents,her babysitter left the straps on her car seat partially unbuckled while the baby slept. Devon was apparently strangled bythe straps.

Wake The Baby! "Don't Use Car Seats As Stroller Seats" (2)By the time 11-week old Shepard died, authorities say his childcare providersshould have known better.Just two weeks before he was found dead in his car seat by a day care teacher, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services cited Shepard’s in-home day carefor allowing infants to sleep in car seats in spite of regulations that prohibit itdue to the risk of SIDS.

However, authorities say Shepard was put to sleep in an unbuckled car seat and placed alone in a room anyway. While the medical examiner ruled the death “unexplained”, authorities believeShepard died of‘positional asphyxiation,’ likely slumpedinto a position in the unbuckled car seat that compromised his breathing.

The day care reportedly lost its license as a result of Shepard’s death and Shepard’s family is now lobbying for state lawsto hold day care teachers like theirs accountable.

Cancer-Causing Chemicals in Car Seats

However, risk ofasphyxiation is just one of the reasons a growing number of experts are urgingparents to leave the car seat in the car.

Cancer and other long-term health concerns are theprimary reasonsenvironmental scientists are urging parents to reduce the amount of time kids spend in car seats.

According to cancer.org, about 10,380 U.S. children will be diagnosed with cancer this year.In most of those cases, their parents will never know why.

However, scientists from around the world believe that increased exposure to low doses of various chemicals are increasing therisk of cancer.

Arecent study by the Ecology Center found nearly 75 percent of car seats tested contained concerning chemical flame retardants that may “harm the nervous system, cause cancer and/or disrupt the hormone (endocrine) system.”

This month the Consumer Product Safety Commission held a hearing to consider removing a certain class of flame retardants from several categories of consumer goods, including children’s products and household furniture.

However, for now, car seats must comply with the federal motor vehicle flammability standard FMVSS 302, so most (if not all) still contain flame retardants.

Environmental scientists argue that flame retardants in car seats provide little safety benefit because once the fire reaches the cab of the car, foam underneath the child is unlikelyto protecthim from a car fire fueled by combustible materials.

As noted in many of my previous news reports and NewsMom posts, the chemical industry asserts that flame retardants are safeand that they ultimately save lives.

The public should know TDCPP (and other flame retardants) slows the spread of fire, and with fire, every second counts.TDCPP and other flame retardants have been reviewed by regulators and found to be safe at the levels people are typically exposed to them.

American Chemistry Council

NOTE: TDCPP is a flame retardant that was banned from children’s clothing in the 70’s but is still widely found in car seats and other products. It is listed as a carcinogen, “known to cause cancer” by the state of California.

Regardless, for now you can not avoid chemical flame retardants in car seats, but you can reduce the amount of time your kids spend in them.

The recommendations from regulators and/or environmental scientists:

  • Don’t use a car seat as a stroller seat
  • Don’t let your child sleep in the car seat outside of the car
  • Don’t let your child eat in thecar seat (yeah, right)
  • Wash your child’s hands whenshegets out of the car
  • Wash your car seat fabric often
    (Note: Some manufactures advise NOT to wash the fabric. Check with them to find out why.)

Now What?

As a consumer-investigative reporter, I am terrified by what I learn on a regular basis and I have to be careful not to become overly paranoid. Instead, I try to focus on the little things we cando to help “reduce risk.”

Most, including the Mayo Clinic,suggest using a lie-flat stroller seat or bassinet attachment in a stroller for babies under 6 months. Pretty much every major manufacturer has a bassinet attachment for their stroller and theyrange from under $100 to several hundred dollars.

For those that simply can’t afford another baby accessory (I get it!) and feel they must useacar seat in the stroller, make sure the baby is securely fastened into the car seat at all times and, per the Mayo Clinic, try to limit their car seat time to under 2 hours.

Outside of the car (or the stroller if you must use a car seat), experts stress you should never allow a baby to sleep or just hang out in the car seat.

“It is essential that they not spend inordinate amounts of time sitting, just because it is more convenient for the adults around them,” saidTombrello.

With all this in mind, I have to ask myself: Would itreally have beenthat unrealistic to physically remove myinfant from hercar seat when not in the car?It seems to me, investing in a bassinet or lie-flat stroller seat instead ofusing the car seat in the strollerseems doable. Weneeded a separate stroller six months later, anyway, when she grew out of herinfant car seat.

Sure, waking asleeping baby to take herout of the car may mean monthsof sleepless colicy hell, but that’s nothing compared to the lifetime of guilt I would feel knowing I could have prevented SIDS… or even slightly reduced my child’s risk of cancer.

We’re the lucky ones. Whether or not we’re worried about the risk, at least we’re aware of it and can make an educated decision about what’s right for our families.

Unfortunately, most parents and caregivers have no idea that sleeping in a car seatis in any wayunsafe. I encourage you to share this informationfar and wide to give every parent in your life the same opportunity to make their own educated decision.

Chime In!

Comment below or on Facebook. We want to hear what you think!

Are we favoring convenience over caution? Are we overreacting? Will this information change how you use your car seat?

Wake The Baby! "Don't Use Car Seats As Stroller Seats" (3)

NOTE: This storyhas been updated toclarifypointsaddressedin the comments below.

LEARN MORE: Toxic Safety: Car Seat ChemicalsContinuingCoverage

Wake The Baby! "Don't Use Car Seats As Stroller Seats" (5)

Julie Watts
Julie is the consumer-investigative reporter for CBS in San Francisco. Herreports air nationally on CBS stations across the coun ...Read More



Why should babies not be in car seats for long? ›

It is recommended that you avoid travelling in cars with pre-term and young babies for long distances. Research into the link between car seats and SIDS found young babies may be at risk of breathing difficulties if they travel while sitting in an upright position for too long.

Why does my baby hate the car seat and stroller? ›

Baby is overstimulated.

Too much noise, movement or visual stimulation — which they might get when hopping around in a jumper or strapped into the backseat of a moving car — might be too intense for sensitive babies, making them upset and cry.

How do you get around a baby without a car? ›

Public transit: Buses, trains, and the subway do not require car seats for children. Opt for public transportation if you cannot bring a car seat on your trip. Taxis: It's legal in most places for a baby to travel via taxi without a car seat.

Why should a baby only be in a car seat for 2 hours? ›

Many car seat manufacturers recommend that a baby should not be in a car seat for longer than 2 hours, within a 24 hour time period. This is because when a baby is in a semi-upright position for a prolonged period of time it can result in: 1. A strain on the baby's still-developing spine.

Can baby sleep in car seat in stroller? ›

Parents and caregivers should feel confident that using an infant car seat is essential in a car, but a baby shouldn't be left unattended in a car seat, and it shouldn't be your baby's primary sleeping place, Thomas says. Neither a car seat nor an inclined sleeper is an appropriate substitute for a crib or bassinet.

Why can't babies sleep in car seats? ›

When your baby is seated, their heavy head can fall forward causing difficulty breathing…and even suffocation,” explains Dr. Harvey Karp. “That's why car seats—outside of moving cars—are not safe for naps or overnight sleep for the first year of life.”

When can I put my baby in the stroller instead of car seat? ›

We recommend switching to the stroller seat in a reclined position once baby can support their head on their own, which is typically about three months old. Then, you can switch to fully upright in the stroller seat when baby can sit up on their own, typically between five and seven months.

How do I get my baby used to a stroller? ›

When baby hates the stroller, here are a few things you can try, to settle him in.
  1. Check for physical comfort. ...
  2. Pick the right timing. ...
  3. Make it fun. ...
  4. Stay connected in some ways. ...
  5. Take regular breaks.

Why do babies freak out in carseats? ›

Author of Gentle Baby Care

Usually, this is because your baby is used to more freedom of movement and more physical attention than you can provide when she's belted into her seat. Hearing your baby cry while you are trying to drive is challenging.

Can you take a baby home from hospital without a car seat? ›

Car seats for babies

If you have a car, you must have a baby car seat. Your baby must always go in their seat, including when you bring them home from the hospital. It's illegal and also very dangerous to carry your baby in your arms in a vehicle.

Can baby stay overnight without me? ›

Ideally, between 4 and 9 months is the best time to leave your baby overnight for the first time. This is because before 4 months your baby will still be establishing breastfeeding and building a connection between both parents, so they're a little too young to be away from you.

Can a newborn be in a car seat for 2 hours? ›

Lots of parents want to know "how long can babies stay in car seats?" The general advice is that your baby should sit/sleep in their car seat for no more than two hours at a time.

Can I leave my baby in the car for 1 minute? ›

Keeping your passengers safe

Never leave infants or children alone in a parked car—not even for 1 minute. Nothing—not cracking the windows nor running the air conditioner or heater—can ensure the car remains at a temperature that is safe for your child.

How long can a baby be in a stroller? ›

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that stroller use is appropriate for children during the infant/toddler stages, and should be eliminated by the time a child is 3 years old. Pediatricians also caution against the overuse of strollers.

Can you put a newborn in a stroller without a car seat? ›

Most strollers that fully recline, give you the option to ride with or without an infant car seat during the very young ages, of just a few weeks old. If you choose this option, you will probably want to cover them with a blanket if possible.

Can you put any car seat in a stroller? ›

Not all infant car seat and strollers brands are compatible, so you'll have to make sure there's an adapter that'll connect the car seat you want to the stroller you're eyeing.

Are stroller carseats necessary? ›

Once the baby outgrows the infant car seat and can sit upright, you can simply buy a second lightweight stroller – which you will need anyway! However if you like long strolls, a full-sized stroller will be necessary, because it's not healthy for the baby to stay in the car seat for a long time.

Why do babies sleep so well in the car? ›

"In a car seat there's the rocking motion, you're pretty sedentary, and you're in the back seat and not being engaged. It's very easy to fall asleep." And, Stevens continues, infants need a lot more sleep than adults and it's pretty likely that a nap time will coincide with a car trip.

Can baby sleep in car seat in House? ›

Parents also may not want to wake up a baby who has fallen asleep in a car seat during a drive and just leave the infant in the device when they bring him or her into the home. But the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against routine sleeping in sitting devices for infants.

What can I use instead of a stroller? ›

Baby Carriers. The #1 alternative to strollers is baby carriers. You can use a baby carrier from birth to five or six years old, depending on your little one's height and weight. Baby carriers allow you to go hands-free, so if you have a clingy baby, you can still get things done while attending to your little one.

Why are strollers important for babies? ›

The most important feature of a baby stroller is comfort. Your baby can either sit or lie on it giving him comfort throughout the trip. Nothing is more important than the comfort that you would give to your baby so make sure that you're giving the highest comfort to your baby.

Do babies like being in a stroller? ›

Most babies just want to be held—it's natural and the most comforting. Try to put them down in their crib, play mat or stroller and all hell breaks loose.

Why does my baby cry so much in the car seat? ›

Many car seat-crying babies we see in our office have a tightness in their hips or mid-back. This can cause them discomfort in a car seat because they can't bend easily. The seat position puts pressure on their tight vertebrae and those associated muscles and it just plain hurts.

How do you calm a crying baby in the car? ›

Tips to Calm A Fussy Baby in Their Car Seat
  1. Start Fresh. One of the best ways to start the car ride out well is to make sure baby has a fresh diaper and is wearing comfy clothes. ...
  2. Cool Them Off. ...
  3. Do the Sway. ...
  4. Portable Sound Machine. ...
  5. Explore Different Styles of Music. ...
  6. Snacks. ...
  7. Toy Basket. ...
  8. Window Rolled Down.

Where does baby sleep when home from hospital? ›

A crib, blanket on the floor, or on your chest or lap are ideal locations. Be sure your newborn sleeps on the back and not the tummy. A good way to remember is always put your baby - Back to Sleep!

Can baby wear a onesie home from the hospital? ›

Though your newborn will likely wear a hospital-issued onesie or shirt under her swaddle in those early days, what new parent doesn't want to see baby in something totally adorable? The going-home outfit is often the first opportunity for parents to dress baby themselves.

How long should a newborn stay home after birth? ›

Once upon a time, a cardinal rule of newborn care was that new parents and babies should hole up inside their homes for weeks after birth. Today, we know that it's perfectly safe to take your newborn on an outing from day one (or two, or three — whenever she's released from the hospital or birthing center).

Can I let baby cry while driving? ›

Even though it's difficult to deal with, you must remember that you and your baby's safety come first. No matter how tempting it may be, never take a crying baby out of the car seat. It's extremely dangerous and counterproductive, making it even more difficult for your child to get used to riding in her car seat.

Is leaving newborn alone good? ›

Normally it's fine to leave your baby alone sleeping in their Moses basket or crib, and a great opportunity for you to get some sleep as well – remember that for the first 6 months your baby should sleep with you in the same room at night so you can check on them regularly or hear them when they wake up and start to ...

When can you start leaving babies alone? ›

Infants and young children aged 0-3 years old should never be left alone – even for 15 minutes while you pop down the road. This applies not just to leaving them home alone but also in your car while you run into the shops.

Can you leave newborn alone to shower? ›

It's usually fine to leave a young baby alone in her crib while you take a quick shower, for example, but this doesn't apply to swings and bouncy seats, which aren't as safe. (If you're really nervous, you can always tote baby in her car seat into the bathroom with you.)

Do babies miss their mom? ›

Now that your baby has developed object permanence, they may miss anyone (and anything) they have come to recognize fondly. This separation anxiety may continue through age 3, when they can start to understand the concept that you will be back after a set period of time.

What age can a baby be away from mom? ›

Between 4 and 9 months is the overnighter sweet spot. Before that, your baby may still be perfecting breastfeeding, waking up a lot at night, and bonding with parents, which makes it a less-than-ideal (but not impossible) time to leave them with a sitter overnight.

Can you drive 5 hours with a newborn? ›

It is important for you and your baby to get out of the car every few hours and take a stretch to avoid restlessness. Try to take a break every 2 to 3 hours for a day trip and every 4 to 6 hours at night to change diapers or soiled clothes, or to feed your baby. Never attempt to breastfeed in a moving car.

How long can a 1 month old be in a car seat? ›

However, infant healthcare professionals, safety experts and most car manufacturers recommend that babies should not be in a car seat for longer than 2 hours at a time and they should be taken out frequently. If your trip involves driving for long periods of time, you should stop for regular breaks.

Can you leave baby in car for 2 minutes? ›

Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. Always lock your car when you're not in it so kids can't get in on their own, and keep keys and remote entry fobs out of kids' sight and reach.

Is it OK to leave baby in car at gas station? ›

Kaitlyn's Law, California Vehicle Code section 15620(a), prohibits anyone from leaving a child six years of age or younger unattended in a motor vehicle without the supervision of someone at least 12 years of age or older. Why? Children's body temperatures can rise up to five times faster than that of an adult.

How often do you have to stop with a baby in the car? ›

Don't let your baby sleep too long in their car seat

If it's essential to make a longer trip for babies younger than four weeks, it's important to take breaks every 30 minutes. Once you're home, always move them into their cot, even if it means waking them up (The Lullaby Trust, 2016).

Is 7 too old for a stroller? ›

There are no set guidelines, but the general opinion leans toward kids over the age of 4 to 5 years being stroller-free. The transition should start at about 3 when your child is able to walk confidently and understand your directions.

Can baby be in stroller too much? ›

According to the Canadian 24-hour movement guidelines for the early years, babies and toddlers should not be restrained in strollers, seats, or other baby-holding devices for more than an hour at a time. Even if your baby seems content to sit, don't let him or her be a stroller potato!

How long is too long for a baby to be in the car? ›

However, infant healthcare professionals, safety experts and most car manufacturers recommend that babies should not be in a car seat for longer than 2 hours at a time and they should be taken out frequently. If your trip involves driving for long periods of time, you should stop for regular breaks.

Are long car rides OK for babies? ›

It is important for you and your baby to get out of the car every few hours and take a stretch to avoid restlessness. Try to take a break every 2 to 3 hours for a day trip and every 4 to 6 hours at night to change diapers or soiled clothes, or to feed your baby.

How long can my baby stay in the infant car seat? ›

Used for infants up to 22 to 35 pounds or more; check the instruction manual or the seat label for weight limits. Babies who have outgrown their infant-only safety seat will need a larger seat that can be used rear-racing, such as a convertible safety seat, until they are 2 years of age.

How long can a baby ride in a car seat for? ›

To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer's height and weight requirements. Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12. Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat.

What age does the 2 hour car seat rule end? ›

The advice is not to use car seats for longer than 30 minutes for babies younger than four weeks and not using car seats for more than two hours in one go for babies of all ages (The Lullaby Trust, 2016).

What age is best to travel with a baby? ›

The best time to fly with kids

The best times, most agree, are between three and nine months, when kids aren't yet mobile, and any time after age two or three. The idea here is to bypass the toddler phase, and, more importantly, to avoid flying with young infants. The latter is especially risky says Dr.

Can you feed baby bottle in carseat? ›

Feeding Baby in a Car Seat

Don't feed baby while the car is moving. Bottles become projectiles in the event of a crash. Motion sickness is something to consider as well as choking hazards while a vehicle is in motion. Don't feed babies solid items of food that could be choking hazards, like grapes, in the car.

How long can a 2 month old baby be in a car seat for? ›

Lots of parents want to know "how long can babies stay in car seats?" The general advice is that your baby should sit/sleep in their car seat for no more than two hours at a time.

At what age can a baby sit in a front facing stroller? ›

And while there are numerous benefits to having a stroller where your baby faces you, when your little guy's development starts changing between 6-9 months, he'll become more interested in what's happening around him. At this point, you'll want to start having him face forward in a stroller.

How soon after birth can a baby travel by plane? ›

When is it safe to travel with a newborn baby by plane? In general, doctors recommend you wait to fly until your baby's immune system is better developed. This could be as soon as one month for full-term infants, though most doctors recommend anywhere between three months and six months.

How long can you drive with a 3 month old? ›

Drive no more than three hours at a time and take breaks as necessary. Bring some children's music to make your child more content if they get a little fussy. Practice shorter trips a few times before you leave so your 3-month old baby gets used to sitting in the car seat for longer periods.

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