Buckle Baby, Even OUT of the Car

Posted in: Blog, Rear-Facing Seats, Tips & Tricks

It is shocking that there are as many babies who get hurt in their car seats OUT of the car as get hurt IN the car (in a crash). Nearly 10,000 infants a year in the US suffer a head injury when they fall from or in their car seat when it is used OUT of the car. Another study found that between 2004-2008, 31 babies died in their car seats due to strangulation or asphyxiation (lack of oxygen) – and most of these tragedies occurred OUT of the car, and they often happened to older babies (the median age was 9 months old!).

This is Jaxon. His mom Meredith wants you to know that Jaxon was a bubbly and precocious child, walking at 10 months and running just weeks after. On October 8th 2015, Jaxon ran some errands with his caregiver and fell asleep in his infant car seat. Not wanting to wake him, the caregiver brought him inside to a quiet room so he could finish his nap. The caregiver left the chest clip buckled, but unbuckled Jaxon’s crotch buckle – a mistake many adults make because they feel bad about leaving a baby buckled, especially while sleeping. Jaxon wiggled in his sleep and as he slipped down his throat got caught on the chest clip – and the more he wiggled, the worse it got. When the caregiver went to check on him, it was too late. He had strangled to death. Had the crotch buckle been buckled, he wouldn’t have been able to slouch down, which is what enabled him to strangle on the chest clip. 

This is Shepard. Shepard was the healthy baby his mom Ali had longed for after 4 miscarriages. On April 6, 2015, Shepard was in the home of his licensed daycare provider. When it was time for his nap, Shepard was swaddled and placed in his car seat. The straps were left completely unbuckled, presumably because he was “just in the house.” While he was sleeping, Shepard wiggled and slouched and his head fell down into a chin-to-chest position. Because he was so young he couldn’t lift his head up to open up his airway. No one noticed in time, and he asphyxiated to death at just 11 weeks of age. Had he been buckled snug he wouldn’t have been able to slouch down, which is what caused his chin to fall to his chest.

Which kids are at risk:


Any child of any age in a car seat where the straps are completely unbuckled (kids can get caught in the straps)

Any child of any age in a car seat where the chest clip is buckled but the crotch buckle is unbuckled

Asphyxiation (Chin-to-Chest position):

Any child who is unable to sit upright unsupported – typically babies under 6 months of age

3 Simple Rules to Keep Kids Safe in a Car Seat Inside OR Outside of a Car

1. Use the car seat as a car seat.

Car seats shouldn’t be a crib, or a bouncy seat, or a swing, or a place to nap at daycare… you get the idea.

Use the car seat when baby is in the car, and then remove the baby from the seat when you arrive. We know it’s a shame to wake a sleeping baby! If you aren’t going to wake your sleeping baby when you get home, make sure to follow the rules below to minimize the risk.

2. Put the car seat in the CAR, on the STROLLER, or on the FLOOR.

Do not put the car seat on a soft surface – like a bed, sofa, or even in the baby’s crib. Car seats can overturn when a baby wiggles in them and babies have suffocated when their face gets pressed into the soft surface.

Do not put the car seat on a shopping cart, countertop, restaurant high chair, table, sofa, etc. Even though it might seem like a good idea at the time, car seats get knocked off of these high surfaces all the time and it leads to the nearly 10,000 head injuries in babies every year in the US.

3. ALWAYS keep the straps completely buckled AND snug.

Do not loosen the straps… even if the baby is just finishing his nap on your living room floor, or you’re just in the stroller, or just anything. Snug straps help babies breathe better by preventing the baby from slumping over and by helping keep the head better positioned. Snug straps make it less likely for the baby’s head to fall into a chin-to-chest position.

Do not leave the straps loosely buckled, or unbuckled. 

This is a an asphyxiation risk as the baby’s head can fall into an unsafe position for breathing, as happened to Shepard.

This is a strangulation risk as the baby can roll over and get his neck caught in the straps.

Do not buckle just the chest clip – this is a significant risk for strangulation. The crotch buckle is there to prevent your child from slouching down in the seat. Without the crotch buckle, babies have strangled on the chest clip; babies like 9-month-old John Norris, 14-month-old Jaxon Lemerand, 17-month-old Major Maxie, and too many others.

The mom of this 8-week-old said "I left him to make his bottle and came back to this!"

The mom of this 8-week-old said “I left him to make his bottle and came back to this!”


The mom of this 1 week old said "I "just" set her in the seat while I grabbed my toddler's shoes from the other room. I was gone for less than a minute."

The mom of this 1 week old said “I “just” set her in the seat while I grabbed my toddler’s shoes from the other room. I was gone for less than a minute.”


What about shopping carts?


TheCarSeatLady babywearing at a grocery store

Wearing baby is typically the best way to get through a grocery store safely and conveniently. TheCarSeatLady is a HUGE proponent of babywearing (just not in a car, obviously) and we own lots of carriers and wraps. We love the Lillebaby Complete Airflow – as it is super comfortable and lets you wear baby facing out (great for your littlest nosy shopper who wants to see everything you are putting in your cart) or facing in (because sometimes the grocery store can be overwhelming).

If you must use the car seat in the grocery store, either put the infant seat in the large part of the shopping cart (where it can’t fall), or put the car seat on your stroller and bring the stroller into the grocery store.


Safe Dock

With regard to the Safe-Dock by SafeStrap… while it is better than having the car seat atop a standard shopping cart since it provides a way to secure the car seat to the cart, it still leaves open the possibility for serious head injury as it requires the parent to do 2 things… which are not always done – namely the parent must buckle the car seat into the cart AND keep the child buckled into the car seat.

Shepards Watch V3 10.3.15 Safe Car Seat Use out of Car.001

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