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Can 2 year old sleep in car seat?

What You Need To Know About The Car Seat Head Flop

I remember when I first turned around my children’s car seats. It felt liberating for them and for myself. I could finally see them and they could finally see me, along with the sights of the wondrous roads ahead. But I quickly learned that once they would fall asleep, my task was to continuously push their sleepy heads back, which would fall forward anytime the car stopped. If you’re a parent who needs a break from push-back duty, you should know how to keep your toddler’s head from slumping forward in a car seat.

Is It Safe For Your Child’s Head To Fall Forward In A Car Seat?

Sometimes when children sleep in an awkward position for too long, it can put some strain on their neck muscles, according to About Kids Health. But even though it might look particularly painful, you shouldn’t worry too much about having to perpetually pop your child’s head back into the correct position, Dr. Denise Scott, M.D., a pediatrician with JustAnswer, tells Romper. “Older infants (from 9-12 months old) and toddlers have developed adequate neck and head control and no longer require head support,” says Dr. Scott. “The head bending forward will not cut off their airway as in a young infant.” And while it might appear to be utterly awkward, your kiddo will instinctively adjust themselves if their neck begins to ache or they find it to be too uncomfortable.

Do You Need To Use A Pillow Or Straps To Keep Your Child’s Head Up In Their Car Seat?

You might be tempted to position your child’s head in place with some sort of pillow or prop — but you shouldn’t. “It is not recommended to use a neck pillow of any kind in a car seat,” says Dr. Scott. “There are head straps available that go around the car seat and hold the forehead in place to keep the head upright, but again, it’s not necessary.”

Here’s How You Can Help Your Child’s Head From Falling Forward In Their Car Seat

Still, it’s hard to watch your child’s head falling forward in their car seat, even if you know it’s not hurting them. To stop the slump, the first thing you can do is to look for a car seat that has a reclining feature. Many convertible car seats, explained the National Child Passenger Safety Board, are safe in a forward-facing, semi-reclined position, as well as fully upright. “For them to ride safely in a car seat, first and foremost, follow the manufacturer’s instructions,” says Dr. Scott, and don’t make the car seat recline if it’s not supposed to.

So how do you keep your kiddo’s noggin from hanging down? “To prevent the head from falling forward, have harness straps snug, the chest plate at the level of the armpits and the seat reclined appropriately,” advises Dr. Scott. “If needed, a tightly rolled diaper cloth or thin blanket placed on each side of the head (never behind) and running down each side of the body can also be used to keep the head in place.”

You should always make sure your toddler is big enough to sit forward facing in the first place. Once your toddler is at the correct age and weight — according to the standards recommended by your car seat manufacturer — the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that parents use a forward-facing seat that has a harness, because it can provide a lot more support and safety than a booster seat.

It’s always important to make sure that your toddler’s car seat is installed correctly. If you are unsure about the setup, you can find a car seat technician to help. Unfortunately, physics is probably going to be against you when it comes to the forward head slump, but these techniques and tips may make your car trips require a little less work — and make moving your child’s head less of a pain in the neck…for both of you.

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Most babies fall asleep in the car, it’s that rocking motion that sends them into a peaceful slumber. And while these on-the-go naps allow them to get a little bit of shut-eye and give you 5 minutes of peace, it’s not the safest place for your baby to sleep.

While snoozing in the car isn’t a problem, you shouldn’t let your baby sleep in their car seat for long periods of time or use it as a place for them to sleep regularly.

Baby Sleeping In Car Seats

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

Car seats were designed to keep young babies safe while travelling and should only be used for transport. It’s perfectly fine for your baby to fall asleep in their car seat while on a journey, but as soon as you reach your destination you should take them out.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the safest place for your baby to sleep is on their back on a firm, flat surface such as their bassinet or crib as this is the best way to prevent SIDS.

Sitting devices such as car seats, baby bouncers, swings, strollers and chairs aren’t safe for your child to sleep in, especially for prolonged periods. When babies fall asleep in the sitting position, their head can fall forward into a chin-to-chest position and this can restrict their airways causing them to stop breathing.

This is known as positional asphyxiation, and a new study in the journal of paediatrics found that more than half of car seat deaths happened in car seats and the majority of these occurred within the child’s home.

Your Babys Sleep 1

What if my baby falls asleep while we’re on a long journey?

If you’ve noticed that your baby sleeping in their car seat, don’t panic. As long as your journey can be broken up into chunks or if another passenger has an eye on your child, there is no need to worry.

However, as soon as you reach your destination you should move your child to a safe sleeping space as soon as possible.

If your child hasn’t been napping well, the peace and quiet of your sleeping baby might be welcome, but you shouldn’t let them nap for longer than needed. There have been no published guidelines for how long is too long to keep your child in a car seat. However many paediatrics recommend around 2 hours as a rule of thumb.

Baby In Car Seat

Is the risk high for young babies?

Premature and young babies don’t have the muscles in their neck yet to support their heads upright, which is why being in a car seat for an extended period of time can do more harm than good for your little one’s wellbeing.

How do I ensure that my baby is safe in their car seat?

There are many things you can do to ensure that your baby is safe in their car seat, including:

Make sure it is installed correctly

While it might go without saying, ensure that you follow your manufacturer’s instructions when you are installing the seat in your car. Many car seats can be installed by the mechanics of your car with an ISOFIX base, or by a locked seat belt. If you are unsure, you can always bring your car seat to a registered technician who will help ensure it is installed correctly.

Keep it rear-facing as long as possible

You should keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible — until they reach the height or weight listed by the car seat manufacturer as this reduces the risk of death or injury by 90%.

Ensure your car seat meets safety requirements

There are a variety of car seats available on the market, all of which are required to meet basic safety standards.

The car seat you choose should:

  • Conform to your country’s regulations
  • Be suitable for your child’s weight and size
  • Be correctly fitted as per the manufacturer’s instructions

Don’t use the car seat for naps

As tempting as it can sometimes be to put your baby down for a nap in their car seat, it shouldn’t be done unless you are taking a journey somewhere.

Don’t use car seat accessories

They might look nice, but car seat accessories that haven’t been designed for your car seat, or by your manufacturer shouldn’t be used. They haven’t been tested for safety, and, believe it or not, they might hinder your child’s safety in your car.

Don’t dress your baby in bulky clothes

On a cold day, you might think that you’re keeping your baby warm by dressing them in plenty of layers, however, you will be doing more harm than good if caught in a crash.

Too many layers or bulky layers like pram suits can compress in an accident and will cause the harness straps of the seat to come loose and could put your child at risk of serious injury.

Should parents ever let their children sleep in car seats?

We can’t tell you to never let your child fall asleep in their car seat as it’s inevitable that your child will do it, especially if you’re travelling somewhere not in the immediate vicinity.

The best advice we can offer is if your infant does fall asleep in their car seat, to remove them and place them in their crib or bassinet as soon as you reach your destination as this is the safest option for their health.

For more information about safe sleep check out our comprehensive blog on this topic by clicking below.

How to Choose the Right Car Seat for Your Child

Whether you need a car seat for a newborn, 1-year-old, or preschooler, this age-by-age guide explains your child’s car seat needs, and how to pick the best option for your family.

Updated on December 26, 2022

baby and toddler in car seat

A car seat is one of the most important gear purchases you’re going to make as a new parent. It is one of the only products you will ever buy for your child that has the potential to actually save their life. Not only that, but you can’t bring your baby home from the hospital without it.

Wondering where to start? There are three basic types of car seats for infants and toddlers: rear-facing, forward-facing, and convertible (which convert from rear to forward-facing).

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children should remain in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. (Previously, the AAP advised that children should remain rear-facing until at least age 2, but the latest recommendation removes the specific age milestone encouraging parents to keep their child rear-facing longer—as long as their car seat weight and height limitations allow.)

As your child grows, you’ll need to change the direction that their car seat faces and how they sit in it—and you may need to buy a new seat. Check out this age-by-age guide to keeping car travel safe for your little one.

Car Seats for Newborns and Infants

There are two kinds of car seats for infants: infant-only and convertible. Both types of seats are equally safe for newborns and infants, so the kind you choose depends on your budget and personal preference.

Infant-only car seat

An infant-only car seat can be used until your baby weighs 20 to 22 pounds or their head is within 1 inch of the top of the seat. They are generally lighter in weight and designed to be portable.

Many parents prefer the convenience of an infant car seat because the seat can be removed from the car without having to unstrap and possibly wake a sleeping baby. The car seat base remains strapped into the vehicle; the carrier simply snaps in and out of the base.

Infant-only seats are also convenient because they can click onto a stroller base. If you choose an infant-only seat, consider buying one that is part of a travel system or one that is compatible with your preferred stroller (many have adaptors available).

Convertible car seat

A convertible car seat may also be used from birth, but infant-only seats tend to fit small newborns better. If you’re opting for a convertible car seat, look for one that is certified to be rear-facing until the baby weighs at least 30 pounds.

Convertible seats are a great option if you want a product that will last through the years since they can be installed as either a rear- or forward-facing seat. Plus, most have limits that will allow children to ride rear-facing for two years or more.

However, convertible seats are not designed to be portable; instead, they remain fixed in the car.

Car Seats for Toddlers

When your child outgrows the limitations of their rear-facing car seat, they should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible (until they reach the seat’s height or weight limit). When buying a car seat for a toddler who has outgrown their rear-facing seat, you can either turn their car seat around to face forward (in the case of a convertible car seat), or you can choose from a forward-facing only car seat or a combination car seat.

Forward-facing only car seat

A forward-facing car seat is similar to a convertible car seat in that it uses the same five-point harness system and is not intended to be portable like an infant car seat. Unlike a convertible car seat, however, a forward-facing car seat only faces forward and cannot be used rear-facing for babies or smaller toddlers.

Many forward-facing only car seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds or more, but always refer to the manual of the car seat you choose for maximum height and weight limitations as these recommendations are not universal.

Combination car seat

A combination car seat functions as both a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness for toddlers and preschoolers as well as a booster for bigger kids. Typically, combination car seats function with a harness until the child reaches 40–65 pounds. After that, you can remove the harness and the car seat converts to a belt-positioning booster, which can be used for kids up to 80-100 pounds with your car’s lap and/or shoulder belt.

Car Seats for Preschoolers

When your preschooler has outgrown the limitations of their forward-facing car seat with a harness, they should transition to a belt-positioning booster with the lap and/or shoulder belt in the car. This type of booster seat fits kids up to 80-100 pounds, and in general, most kids need boosters from about age 3 or 4 to at least age 8.

Keep in mind that children need head support: Use a high-back booster if the car has a low backseat. A backless booster can be used if the car’s seat has a built-in headrest.

Once You’ve Bought Your Car Seat

Practice buckling the seat into your car well before your baby’s first ride. You don’t want to be rushed when it comes to ensuring a safe installation, and it can take a few tries to feel confident with a new car seat.

You can even schedule an appointment with a certified child passenger safety (CPS) technician, who is trained to teach caregivers how to get their chosen car seat safely installed in their vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) maintains a directory of inspection stations.

When fitting your child into their car seat, make sure the harness straps fit snugly on their body. Use the lowest harness slots for a newborn infant. Keep the straps in the slots at or below your baby’s shoulders for the rear-facing position. Make sure the harness straps fit properly over the shoulders and between the legs.

Dress your baby in clothes that keep their legs free and avoid puffy, bulky clothing like winter jackets. Never place anything in or around the car seat that is not directly approved by the manufacturer, as this could interfere with how the car seat works and could place your baby at risk. That includes blankets, coats, and car seat strap padding.

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