It’s something we’ve all done before. Multiple times, most likely. 

Baby falls asleep in the car. Rather than transfer to the cot, we take the car seat out of the car and let bub continue to snooze in the seat inside the house.

But this seemingly safe occasional napping practice has cost an 18-month-old her life in a devastating tragedy that has left a family broken and their darling little girl gone forever.

mia smith toddler death car seat sleep

Sleeping in car seat cost Mia her life 

With a head full of brown hair and a cheeky grin, Mia Smith was your typical sweet toddler. Full of energy and exploration, the little girl fell asleep in her car seat after an adventure with her long-time babysitter and, tragically, never woke up.

When Mia’s mother, Lisa received a phone call from Mia’s babysitter, she immediately knew something that wrong.

“I got a call while I was at work,” the Texas mother told US TV station WFAA through the tears. “Worst call I’ve ever had in my life. [She said] ‘Drop everything. Mia didn’t wake up from her nap.’”

mums warning after toddler's death car seat sleep

After rushing to the hospital, Lisa was told her daughter had died from positional asphyxia after taking a nap in her car seat. This occurs when a person’s breathing is restricted by their position.

‘She was our first born, our only child’ 

Lisa didn’t let Mia sleep in the car seat. And she had no idea that her babysitter, who runs a licensed daycare centre in her home, did.

“She was our first born, our only child, and she didn’t deserve what happened to her,” Lisa says.

Through the pain, Lisa has found the strength to warn other parents of this dangerous napping habit.

How many parents do you think might not know this?” Lisa says. “Probably a lot.”

Sadly, a report published in the Journal of Pediatrics found 31 children died while sleeping in car seats over a four-year period. I will admit that I used to let my son sleep in his car seat when I was desperate. I had no idea it could be so dangerous!

baby car seat warning

Know the risks

Sharon Evans, a trauma injury prevention coordinator at Cook Children’s Hospital said that many parents are not aware of the risks.

“There’s nothing about the car seat that’s designed for sleep,” she says. “Of course, if the straps aren’t tight, the child can kind of slump down.” This can restrict the airways, causing positional asphyxia.

Little Mia’s untimely death has left a major hole in her mother’s heart, one that will most likely never heal. But she is using her daughter’s death as a way to raise awareness.

“Other families don’t deserve this to happen to them either.”

Bottom line: car seats, while okay for the occasional snooze in the car, are not designed for long sleeps. Transfer from car to cot every time. Yes, you might wake your tot up but the risk of your baby not waking up is simply too terrible to ever take the chance.

For more info, please see our car seat guidelines as well as our safe sleep guidelines.

Author

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe, including her son, daughter, cat, dog and partner. When she's not writing, you can find her lounging by the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach or nagging her kids to put on their pants.

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