Car Seat Safety: Watch Infants
Experts Note Life-Threatening Breathing Problems in 9 Infants Sleeping in Car Seats
WebMD News Archive
Dec. 7, 2006 -- Parents should keep an eye on infants in car seats to make
sure the babies are breathing properly, researchers say after reports of some
Nine healthy babies had "apparently life-threatening" breathing
problems while sleeping in car seats, the researchers say.
All of the babies survived and had no other breathing problems over the next
The researchers stress that infant car seats are "vital" for
protecting babies in automobiles. But they add that redesigning the seats might
reduce the risk of the breathing problems seen in these infants.
The nine cases all occurred in New Zealand between July 1999 and December
They were reported in BMJ (formerly the British Medical
Journal) by Alistair Jan Gunn, MD, PhD, FRACP, and colleagues. Gunn is an
associate professor in the physiology and pediatrics departments of New
Zealand's University of Auckland.
All the babies were healthy. They were 5 weeks old, on average. One had been
Eight of the nine babies were sleeping in car seats placed on flat surfaces
-- such as a floor in their home -- instead of in a car.
When placed on flat surfaces, the babies were in a "relatively upright
position," the researchers say.
The infants' heads tipped forward, hampering breathing; they were too young
to have good head control, Gunn's team explains.
Five of the babies' mothers were smokers. It's not clear if that had
anything to do with the babies' breathing problems, say Gunn and
Recent U.S. Study
In August 2006, Pediatrics reported an earlier study involving
infant car safety seats.
The researchers in that study included T. Bernard Kinane, MD, of
Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and Harvard Medical School.
Kinane and colleagues studied 67 healthy full-term newborns who were up to 1
Half the babies sat in a car seat for about an hour. The other half lay in a
car "bed" for the same amount of time. A car bed allows a baby to lie
down while restrained.
Monitors showed a drop in the babies' blood oxygen levels for
"substantial" periods of time during the experiment, report Kinane and