PSA: Please Don’t Let Babies Sleep Unbuckled & Unattended in Their Car Seats

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Shepard Dodd was only 11-weeks-old when he died in his infant car seat. It’s a risk that not many parents know about, but the accident happens more often than they should.

Now Shepard’s parents, Ali and Derek Dodd, are sharing their story so that this doesn’t happen to another parent again!

“Shepard was in the home of his licensed daycare provider. Shepard had a runny nose and a little congestion, so when it was time for his nap he was swaddled and placed in his car seat so he could sleep more upright. The straps were left completely unbuckled. While he was sleeping, Shepard’s body shifted and his head fell down into a chin-to-chest position and because he was so young he couldn’t pick his head up to open up his airway. No one noticed in time. He died of asphyxiation.” writes The Car Seat Lady on Facebook.

Car seats are made to protect children while traveling in a car, but they can pose a danger if infants are not properly strapped in and monitored. What happened to Shepard is called positional asphyxiation. Babies haven’t’ got the neck muscles to hold their head upright so if they are not properly buckled in to a rocker or car seat, their chin can fall on their chests cutting off their air supply.

According to many car seat safety experts, infants and babies shouldn’t be allowed to sleep in their car seats unless they are properly buckled and the carseat is being held by a certified car seat base or device, like a stroller. Without being properly buckled, infants and babies can move themselves into all kinds of dangerous positions where positional asphyxiation and suffocation can happen. If the car seat isn’t being held in the proper position or is tilted too far forward, babies can also be put in a position where their head falls too far forward and die from positional asphyxiation.

I’m sure we all either have let our babies sleep in their carseats ourselves or know a friend or family member who does, and I’m not trying to shame. I’ve also let my babies finish out naps in their car seats when I’ve brought them in from a drive. Moving babies from car seats to their bassinets is tricky and every parent is tempted by a little more quiet time to themselves. However, I never leave my child unattended when they’re sleeping in their carseat. It’s just not worth the risk.

I’m always close enough where I can see and hear them for the duration of their nap. If I need to do something where I won’t be able to keep and eye on them, I move them to their crib.

Ali and Derek Dodd are lobbying the state legislature to introduce safe sleep standards for babies and are warning other parents of the dangers of letting babies sleep in car seats.

“It’s not worth getting a little more sleep or 30 minutes more of quiet time,” Derek Dodd told KFOR. “It’s just not worth it when it’s as dangerous as it is.”

Many good parent’s and well intentioned people still believe that it’s safe to let babies sleep in their car seats. The only way we can prevent more tragic mistakes like what happened to Shepard, is if we all work together to make sure we all have the information needed to keep our babies safe.

Would you say something to a friend, family member, or stranger if you say them practicing unsafe car seat habits? Even if it made you feel like you were stepping on toes or a little unpopular?

I would and have. Maybe it’s made a difference. Maybe it hasn’t. But I know I’d never forgive myself if something happened to a friend or family member’s baby that I potentially could have prevented by speaking up and letting them know that it’s not safe to let infants and babies sleep in car seats unbuckled or unattended.

Thanks to Ali and Derek for sharing the story of Shepard’s loss to help educate more parents.