Should Babies Sleep in Car Seats? How Safe Are Restraints? (Best 2022 Advisor)

It's not unusual for toddlers and babies to fall asleep in car seats. And while a few minutes of on-the-go nap is fine, parents shouldn't let babies continue sleeping for extended periods.

We will discuss whether should babies sleep in car seats, how to keep your little ones safe on the road and why they should avoid longer sleep in child restraint systems.


Baby Falls Asleep in a Car Seat: Yes or No?

If you're wondering whether your young babies should or shouldn't sleep in their car seats, refer to the guidelines below, and find your answer.

why should babies not sleep in car seats

1. New car seat safety law

The Safe Sleep for Babies Act is a new federal law stating that parents shouldn't let babies sleep in sitting devices as they might cause positional asphyxiation. The syndrome describes the state in which a person's irregular sitting position prevents normal breathing.

In addition to the law, the AAP and the Consumer Product Safety Commission agree that baby nests, loungers, docs, and similar gear should be avoided. Putting babies in such units might also lead to infant deaths. Instead, parents must create a safe environment for their babies to sleep safely and sound.

A recent study of infant-sleep-related deaths in child restraint systems has found that 63% happened in car seats. The study has also shown that 90% of car seat deaths occurred because children were not appropriately strapped. And more than half of them happened at the child's home, as parents and caregivers put babies inside the devices for sleeping purposes.

Additionally, pediatricians at the Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City also state that sometimes caregivers buckle up only the chest clip on the harness. They leave the other buckles between the children’s legs undone. So, children slide into restraints and strangle for the primary purpose of sleeping.

Based on such studies and the approved law, parents nowadays ask if they should let kids sleep/nap in seats or similar devices.

2. Is it safe for a baby to sleep in a car seat?

It is not safe to place your kids to sleep in car seats.

Products placing your infant in an inclined position, including bouncers, swings, car seats, and strollers, aren't safe for your babies to sleep, especially for long journeys.

Sleeping in the (semi)upright sitting position causes your infant to slump down, ending up in a chin-to-chest position. Such a position can cause potential suffocation.

What about everyday errands?

Don't panic if your infants fall asleep in car seats on the way home from shopping, park, or grocery stores. If the trip is short and you have a helper - another passenger keeping an eye on your infants, you can head on to the final destination without waking your children.

However, you should move your infants into the crib or bassinet once you reach the destination, claim the experts at the AAP.

While on the road, ensure the child isn't sitting in the chin-to-chest position, and their mouths or noses aren't covered. Although the car nap might be attractive, don't let your baby sleep in the car seat for an extended period.

In addition, never put your babies in car seats for the purpose of sleeping. If you need to do chores around your house for an hour or two, the safest thing to do is to place your little one in a crab, or bassinet, as these offer a flat and firm surface for the baby's sleep. You will prevent the risk of suffocation, and your baby will have enough room to lie entirely, twist, and turn to eliminate flat heads.

Even if you put the seat on the floor, it will sit on an incline that won't fit the baby, and the angle in the vehicle, causing discomfort and possible slouching. So, always place your babies in approved devices to keep them safe.

What about long car rides?

can babies sleep in a car seat

Currently, there aren't any expert guidelines on how long is too long for your baby to sleep in the car seat. But if you plan a longer journey, you should pull over every two hours to ensure your baby can stretch their legs.

Planning your journey with another adult passenger to supervise your baby would be best. You can take turns watching the road and the child.

3. What is a safe sleeping environment for a baby?

The safest place for your baby to sleep is on a flat, firm surface. These include a bassinet, crib, portable crib, or playard. You should always put your infant to sleep on their back (never on their tummy to prevent breathing issues) without anything else in the baby bassinet or crib.

You should remove all crib bumpers, pillows, stuffed animals, or pillows, as the new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics - AAP shows. The officials state that this is the best way to reduce the risks of sudden infant death syndrome - SIDS.

4. Making sure your baby is safe in a car seat: Safety tips for parents

Limiting your child's naps to a minimum isn't the only option to ensure their safety in car seats. Here are additional tips to keep your baby's safety on the road:

is it okay if baby sleep in car seat
  • Ensure you installed the car seat correctly. Please refer to the manufacturer's instructions to ensure the car seat is adequate, either with the locking seat belt or LATCH system. You can also consult a verified safety technician for assistance when you're uncertain.
  • Ensure the car seat meets all safety standards. All car seats must meet and exceed the FMVSS 213 to be used massively. Ensure your car seat contains the labels approving its use in motor vehicles and aircraft, the car seat expiration date, and how to use it correctly. If you're using a second-hand car seat (from an older sibling), ensure the baby seat is still safe to use and not expired. Also, check if it's been recalled on the NHTSA's website. If you don't know the history of the seats, do not place your baby inside. Seats that took place in accidents should not be reused, as parents cannot notice inner cracks and similar damage, so no one guarantees the baby's safety.
  • Install the seat in the back seat of your vehicle and keep it rear-facing as long as possible. Your seats should never be in the front seat. And, don’t transit the children until they are ready for the forward-facing seats, as the AAP recommends.
  • Take breaks on longer journeys. Pull over after every two hours for a diaper change and feeding. Babies can also stretch their legs.
  • Avoid food and drinks on the road. Save food and beverages for home or serve them on the breaks, as they can cause choking hazards.
  • Don't use seats outside your cars. Parents must resist the urge to place the car seat in the shopping cart while shopping. Additionally, don't use the seats, strollers, or carriers on the road as a safe place for your baby's nap or long sleep. Instead, place kids on a flat surface at home, as the AAP claims.
  • Don't use aftermarket car seat accessories. Baby support inserts, headrests, harness straps, covers, seat belt adjusters, and similar items sold separately might not be tested for safety, so parents must avoid them. Keep them out of the car, as the AAP states. And if the baby slouches in the restraint, you can add a rolled cloth or blanket between the crotch strap and the baby, says the AAP. But, always check the manufacturer's guidelines first for approval.
  • Don't put your babies in bulky clothes. Bulky clothes such as snowsuits, heavy layers, or bulky coats compress in a collision, causing straps to loosen, and your babies can get injured. Instead, use thin layers, blankets, and coats to cover the harness straps; babies need more warmth.


Is it wrong for babies to sleep in car seats?

Yes, it is bad for babies to sleep in car seats for an extended time. It's okay for a short nap, but the AAP's advice is to move them into crabs or bassinets to lie on their back and avoid the risk of suffocation.

How long can babies sleep in a car seat?

Two hours is the maximum limit your child can spend in a car seat over 24 hours. Keeping kids strapped in seats longer can lead to a possible strain of the still-developing spine or suffocating.

Should I wake the sleeping baby in a car seat?

should babies sleep in a car seat

Yes, you should wake the sleeping baby in a car seat. Follow the advice and move the child into their crib or bassinet to ensure the best body position and avoid life-threatening conditions.

No, a baby mustn't sleep in a car seat in a stroller for an extended time. You can take a stroll or finish your errands, and your baby can take a short nap, but you must wake them up once you reach your destination.

Can sleeping in a car seat cause SIDS?

Yes, sleeping in a car seat can cause SIDS, as the new study by Pediatrics states. A parent or a caregiver might not restrain the child properly; the kids can sprawl and suffocate. It's a life-threatening condition.

Final Words

Every parent wants maximum security for their kids. So, it would help to follow the official advice and place your kids inside approved systems for a longer sleep.

Please remove them from seats and strollers to avoid dangerous conditions, and put them in the cribs and bassinets to keep their heads and necks safe.

Avatar of Kathy Warner

Kathy Warner

Kathy is a busy mother of two and a CPS technician for more than eight years. Her mission is to awaken parents to the importance of child passenger safety and show them the right practice. You can read more about her here

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