Parents MUST NOT let their babies sleep in car seats as they’re at risk of suffocating

Car seats ‘must NOT be used as cribs’: Researchers warn babies can suffocate if their head tips forward in unsecured chairs

  • Review into 12,000 infant sleep-related deaths found 219 suffocated in car seats
  • In 99 per cent of cases, car seat was not being used to transport child in vehicle
  • Experts warn car seats shouldn’t be used as cots and kids shouldn’t nap in them 

Parents are being told not to let their babies sleep in car seats at home because of the risk of them suffocating.

Researchers made the warning after reviewing around 12,000 sleep-related deaths in infants over the course of a decade. 

Nearly 220 youngsters died while in car seats – but only 0.2 per cent of the deaths occurred while they were travelling in a vehicle.

More than half of car seat deaths occurred when the seat was being used at the child’s home.

The most common cause of deaths in car seats is positional asphyxia, the team at University of Virginia Children’s Hospital warned.

Parents are being warned not to let their babies sleep in car seats because they are at risk of suffocating to death (file image)

It occurs when a person’s position prevents them from breathing by blocking their mouth and nose. 

When a car seat is used, it is secured to a base at an angle where a child’s airway is open. 

But when the car seat is on a flat surface, a child’s head can slouch forward because they have weaker neck muscles, cutting off their airways.

Children often have airways that are still very soft, and babies can lack the muscle strength to move or lift their neck.

If the child is not repositioned soon after slouching, a lack of oxygen can result in death or brain damage, experts warn.  

Writing in the journal Pediatrics, lead researcher Dr Rachel Moon said ‘car seats are important when you’re traveling with an infant’.

But she added: ‘It’s best not to have the infant sleep in the car seat when you’re at home. The safest place for a baby to sleep is on a firm, flat surface.’ 


Positional asphyxia is a rare cause of sudden death that occurs when a person can’t get enough air to breathe due to the positioning of their body.

It’s most common in infants in a position where their mouth and nose is blocked or where their chest is unable to fully expand. 

Experts say infants are safest when sleeping in their own cot with a firm, flat mattress surface area.

Positional asphyxia is also known to be a factor in the deaths of people who die suddenly during restraint by police if they are manoeuvred into an unusual position. 

Around three per cent of almost 12,000 infant sleep-related deaths between 2004 and 2014 in the US occurred in sitting devices.  

Car seats were the site of 219 deaths, while bouncers, swings and similar devices made up 122 deaths. Seven babies died in prams. 

The researchers noted some parents may not be able to afford a cot and others use the seats to hold the child while doing other tasks. 

But they warned car seats must not be used as a regular sleeping device. Experts recommend babies are put to sleep on their back in a Moses basket or cot.

Manufacturers advise that babies should not be left in the seats for more than two hours.

Kate Holmes, support and information manager at The Lullaby Trust, reiterated the calls by researchers.

She said: ‘Babies should not sleep in car seats when they are not travelling and should be moved to a safe sleeping space when they arrive at their destination. 

‘We always advise that babies sleep on a firm, flat, waterproof mattress that is free of any toys or loose and bulky bedding.’

Ms Holmes added: ‘At the Lullaby Trust we advise parents that they should not travel with their baby in a car seat for long periods of time. 

‘On longer journeys we recommend parents take regular breaks where the baby is removed from their car seat.

‘If possible, an adult should sit in the back of the car with the baby, or use a mirror to keep an eye on them.

‘If a baby changes its position and slumps forward, then parents should immediately stop and take the baby out of the car seat.’