It can be a difficult business to get a baby to fall sleep. Sometimes, parents try to simply let a baby sleep in whatever seems comfortable. Unfortunately, this often involves setting a baby down inside of an open car seat. Sadly, this action can lead to the death of the baby. If you need evidence of this type of tragedy, you can read the heartbreaking story of Ali and Derek Dodd.
Ali and Derek dropped their son off at daycare one morning. Their son was named Shepard, and he was only eleven weeks old. During his daycare stay, a worker swaddled baby Shepard and placed him inside of a car seat in an empty room. Only two hours later, the worker noticed that Shepard was turning blue. Baby Shepard was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. He was dead. Compounding this tragedy is a record of citation from the Department of Human Services the daycare center had on file.
In the citation, the daycare had been warned about the dangers of allowing infants to sleep in car seats. They were told never to leave a child unattended in a car seat, and they were strictly informed to never allow child to take a nap inside of one. This citation was given only eleven days before baby Shepard’s death. Incredibly, it was months until the offending daycare center was shut down. Also, baby Shepard’s death appears nowhere on state records. The daycare is only on file for allowing a baby to sleep in a car seat. Nowhere does it mention that baby Shepard died as a result of sleeping in a car seat.
“What it says on there for our incident…it says she allowed a baby to sleep in a car seat,” Ali Dodd reported. “It doesn’t say anything about him dying. Even parents, wouldn’t even know that he died in her care.”
The invisibility of Shepard’s death on public records makes the event all the more devastating. Unfortunately, few parents truly understand the dangers of car seats. Parents are used to trusting car seats. They are essential in keeping newborns and young children protected from harm in a vehicle. However, a car seat sitting on the floor is in a different position than it is inside of a vehicle.
The result is an increased risk of positional asphyxiation. This is where the baby becomes unable to breath due to the position of their body. Straps and the awkward angle of a car seat on the floor can make it difficult or impossible for a young baby to adjust his or her own body to be able to breath again. The risks of leaving infants in car seats are numerous.
“They can overheat in the seat, they can be positioned so that they’re not getting proper amount of air and the straps themselves can become a problem because they can slide down and asphyxiate,” Lisa Kimura, Executive Director of Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Hawaii, shared with Hawaii News Now after a similar tragedy occurred. “The car seat can also rock or sway or overturn.”
Clearly, car seats should not be considered always safe just because they provide a useful function for traveling. Experts stress that parents should be vigilant. When using a car seat in a vehicle, always use the straps correctly, and check on your child often. Never allow your child to nap in a car seat. As the tragedy of baby Shepard teaches us, doing so is literally placing a baby in a death trap.