Last updated on April 3rd, 2024

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Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

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I realize that as a parent, sometimes all we want is for our baby (or toddler!) to just GO TO SLEEP. But it’s so very important to make sure that your child’s sleep environment is safe, and MEANT for naps or nighttime sleep. In a recent article published by The New Zealand Herald, researchers found infant car seats to be an unsafe place for infants to sleep. Before we talk about sleep, please make sure that your baby is safely and securely in his car seat. This means ensuring that the shoulder straps have correct placement, the chest clip is at the armpits, and your baby is not in a puffy coat or snowsuit. If you worry about your baby staying warm enough, bring some blankets to put across your baby once he’s in the seat. For more information about safe car seat use, please watch this video:

Also, please make sure that your baby’s seat is installed properly. While this may come as a surprise to some, when you think about it, infants, and even babies who have good head control, tend to let their heads fall forward while sleeping in a car seat. This causes the infant to be at a higher risk for oxygen reduction, which in some cases can lead to serious complications. I know that sometimes you get home and baby is asleep, so it’s easier to just bring the seat in and set it on the floor, to avoid waking your sleeping baby. This is where it gets tricky. I’m all for sleeping babies (I’m The Sleep Lady, after all!), but not at risk to your child’s wellbeing. So what can you do to make sure that your child doesn’t sleep in the car seat?

Plan Ahead

Try to plan trips around naptimes for your baby, so that you leave the house well rested and reduce the risk of him falling asleep in the car seat. Although this is nowhere near a fool-proof plan (I’m sure you’ve had a well-napped child fall asleep JUST as you get to the store), it’s a better option than waiting for nap time and planning to use the car seat for sleep.

Ask For Help

If you’re in a position where you have a spouse, partner, family member, or even a good friend who could watch your child while you run errands, you would eliminate the risk of your baby even falling asleep in the car seat. If you choose, you could even plan your excursion during your child’s naptime so that he won’t even realize you’re gone. But what if a nap in the carseat is unavoidable?

Move Your Baby

car seatYou’ve heard the adage “never wake a sleeping baby,” I’m sure. I’d advise you to try to gently maneuver your sleeping child into the crib when you return home if you find that your infant has fallen asleep during the car ride. Bringing the carseat into his room may make the transition easier, and if he’s over 6 months, you can use The Shuffle to help him fall back asleep if you find that he wakes slightly while you’re trying to move him. If that’s not an option and you just know that your baby will wake up, then remove a few blankets so that your baby doesn’t overheat, make sure the seat is on the floor to avoid a risk of falling, and tip the seat slightly to help avoid your baby’s head falling forward and restricting his airway. Remember: sleep outside of your baby’s car seat is the safest option.

Try an Infant Swing

If you have an infant that will only sleep when motion is involved, consider an infant swing or vibrating bassinet in lieu of a car seat to encourage your little one to sleep well. If your child naps or sleeps anywhere but his crib or bassinet, make sure that he’s supervised, which means that a swing needs to be in the room with you. Ideally, you want to provide a safe sleep environment at every opportunity, but I understand that life is unpredictable. Please exercise caution when allowing your child to sleep in a car seat, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Want to continue this discussion?  Join us on The Sleep Lady’s Facebook Page!  This week Certified Sleep Coach, Erica Eugenio will be happy to answer any further questions you may have and to celebrate your successes with you!
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Ask your questions on the The Sleep Lady’s Facebook Page where Certified Gentle Sleep Coaches are available for further help. Celebrate your successes, too, by sharing your stories with others!  Supporting each other makes parenting so much easier!

Author: Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

My name is Kim West, and I’m the mother of two beautiful girls, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 21 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. My sleep journey began when I started experimenting with gently shaping my daughter’s sleep by not following the conventional wisdom at the time. After having success (and then more success with my second daughter!), I began helping family and friends and my step-by-step method spread like wildfire, exactly like an excellent night of sleep for a tired parent should!