Put your newborn to bed in his car seat

Important safety note 1/12/08: Many Parenthackers raised safety concerns about this tip. One reader sent us a link to an article which explains how sleeping in car seats can lead to breathing problems. Thanks to everyone who brought this to our attention.

Ana’s hack might net a few parents of newborns a few more hours of sleep:

Right after my son was born I realized how much easier it was to have the baby in our bedroom as opposed to down the hall in his room. However, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable having him in the bed with us and after spending a good chunk of change on the nursery furniture, I felt it wasn’t cost-effective to go out and buy a bassinet (those things aren’t cheap either) and the pack-n-play was too big to fit in our room. So, after about the first two weeks, I noticed that he absolutely seemed to love sleeping in his infant car seat that came with the travel stroller. Bingo! We started taking him, in the car seat, to bed with us. He slept in the seat placed on the floor right next to our bed so it made it much easier to get to him for feedings. And because of the shape and snugness of the seat, we didn’t have to worry about him rolling over as he slept. The seat also rocked just enough that we could rock him to sleep if that’s what he needed. He slept in that car seat until he started sleeping through the night and we could move him back to his crib.

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  1. radmama says

    There was a study published n 2007 that showed an increase in SIDS deaths in babies who spent a lot of time in their baby car seats. I’m not sure if the took into account baby seats that could be reclined to rock.

    If you want to keep your baby in your room, in bed with you or in a crib, bassinet, playpen, cradle, drawer might be safer.

  2. says

    We did this, but I have since found out that its not a great idea. Apparently the carseat position, while fine for the normal durations of travel, can cause breathing difficulties in tiny babies if they’re in the position too long. So take your baby out of their carseat! Here’s a quote and a link:

    “When the children do get home, leaving them in car seats for a prolonged period is not a good idea, Greeley said. “The more they are left in, the more predisposed they are to have partial blockage of the airways,” he noted. “Sleeping in a car seat is not necessarily a cause of death, but there is a higher likelihood that a baby somewhere will have difficulty with breathing.””
    from Health News Daily, which can be found here: http://yourtotalhealth.ivillage.com/infant-car-seats-might-pose-breathing-risks.html

  3. says

    I agree with all of the above comments.

    Additionally, Long amounts of time in baby buckets can also cause spinal issues because their soft bones are hardening into position, and baby buckets are not the correct shape for them to be in.

  4. Tom says

    All the advise we got when buying a car seat was that the baby shouldn’t spend more than two hours at a time in the seat as it isn’t a good position from a health view point

  5. says

    Ah, memories of going out to the garage at 2am to get the car seat and bring it up the bedroom. All three of my kids spent some nap time in the car seat/carrier. Almost never all night – that was saved for rare occasions when one of them had trouble breathing from a cold or whatever and needed more incline than the bed could be made to provide. And that was always a decision made late into the night after hours of trying everything else under the sun to get them to go to sleep. Such were the nights I slept on the floor next to the carrier, both to give it a rock when necessary and also to make sure it didn’t go tipping over.

    But who can define “prolonged periods”? Say the baby falls asleep during the car ride home. You unhitch the carrier and bring it upstairs. Do you wake the baby up to move her into the crib, or do you just let her have a nap there on the floor, all buckled and tucked in, for an hour or so?


  6. Melissa says

    I think I win the bad-parent award, but our baby slept in her carseat for nearly 6 months. She had GERD and screamed like she was on fire every time we put her on her back. She wouldn’t sleep in a swing, a bouncy, a cradle, a crib (even inclined), a co-sleeper, a laundry basket, a bassinet, a stroller, or our bed. After a few months we started putting the carseat into the crib, and gradually moved her out of it. I’m not sure if she had changed her mind about it, or if her GERD had cleared up, but we were really glad to get rid of that thing. I see that it’s not a good idea, but I’m not sure what we would have done without it, however.

  7. Ana says

    FYI – our pediatrician (after looking at our travel seat during a visit) agreed that it was fine for our son to sleep in the seat at night while he still needed to stay in our room. OBVIOUSLY, you should check with your pediatrician before doing anything that isn’t considered “normal” with your infant.

    ALSO, a few points that need to be emphasized here:
    1) I did say that as soon as he was sleeping through the night, we moved him back to his crib. This was around 4 months old.
    2) As far as the amount of time he spent in his carrier, it was really negligible. I did not leave the house to take him out much for the first 3 months since he was born in the winter and I wanted to limit exposure to flu and other nasties. So he spent very little time in the travel seat in the car.
    3) We limited his time spent sleeping in the car carrier to just when we were both going to bed for the night. And as any new parents can verify, there was very little sleeping involved anyway. Every two hours he was up to feed for an hour or so – he was, therefore, never in his travel seat for extended periods of time.
    4) The travel seat was PERFECT for when he got stuffy – helped him to breath more clearly.

    I hope these clarifications aren’t as scary for those of you who previously posted. Oh and our son is perfectly normal (as much as a 3yr-old can be) with a perfectly roundish head. :-)

  8. Samantha says

    When our daughter had to sleep on the bili light for her first week due to jaundice, we just plopped her in her car seat on top of it. She couldn’t squirm off of it and she would actually sleep on occasion unlike when we were holding her or putting her in her bassinet. My mother in law told me over and over how she was going to die of SIDS by sleeping in the car seat (she really knows how to reassure a person) or would never learn to sleep in a bed but the baby pulled through okay and after she was taken off the bili light she started sleeping in her bassinet with no difficulties. No matter what you do for your child, it seems someone is bound to tell you how it’s going to harm them irreparably. Do what works and invest in some earplugs to block out naysayers! :-)

  9. says

    We used a Moses Basket for our daughter. It worked great and she loved it. There was even a period of time that she would sleep in the basket and we’d put the basket in her crib.

  10. says

    Our twins also slept in their carseats for much of the first 6 months of their lives. They were preemies, and I think the carseat was more comfotable for them than either the crib or the pack and play. Our pediatrician didn’t have a problem with it, but both my mom and mother-in-law commented on it to an overwhelming degree. About once a month, I’d try to get them to sleep in their cribs, in vain. Lots of screaming and crying and little sleep always sent us back to the car seats. At about 6 or 7 months, they started to be less comfortable in the car seats and happier in their cribs. When I think back on those early months, I wish I had just accepted the car seat sleeping instead of getting anxious about it. There’s enough anxiety with newborns that I think if you find a way for your kid to sleep happily – and the Dr. OKs it, then you should just go with it. As a friend of mine reminded me at the time – they won’t go to kindergarted sleeping in their carseats – and no, their heads didn’t get flat, either.

  11. says

    I’m so glad to hear that so many of you let your kids sleep in their car seats!

    Our youngest slept in his car seat (placed in his crib) for six weeks. His grandparents were sure we were going to kill his back, his growth or something. It was heaven though. He only woke up once a night for the first month and then he slept through the night after that and hasn’t had a problem since.

    Although he does hate his car seat now …

  12. says

    Our two week old has spent basically all of her sleeping time in a glider that holds her at a 30-ish degree angle. We spoke to the doctor about it this morning and she thinks the baby may be suffering from GERD, considering any time spent on her back tends to make her spit up a huge amount. The doc had no concerns about the sleeping arrangement, only the fact that she was obviously uncomfortable on her back.

  13. says

    My son slept in his car seat from about 4 months to 6 months old- he just could not get through the night in an open crib. We put him in the car seat when he got a stuffy nose and he immediately began sleeping through the night. I bought a “Noggin Nest” (made by Boppy) to ensure that it wouldn’t cause him to have a flat head.

  14. says

    I guess I’m a bad parent too. We had twins and found that using a cradle swing (could swing forward/backward or side-to-side) in our bedroom would allow the girls to sleep more. The pediatrician told us not to not make it a habit, but we found that for tough sleep nights, this worked wonders.

  15. says

    I know several people who have had their babies with GERD or reflux sleep in car seats without any troubles. However, as just a general practice, I don’t think it would be the best idea. What worked for us was an heirloom bassinet. We also have a small house, and a big bassinet, a pack ‘n’ play, or one of those mattress extenders would have taken up too much room in our bedroom. I was given a bassinet that was purchased in the early ‘40’s for my mom and was used for her, her two siblings, my sister and myself, our two cousins, and two of my cousin’s kids, before ending up in my bedroom for my son.

    It used the smallest mattress available at Babies ‘R Us (Moses basket size or smaller), and is made of wicker, standing on tall legs with wheels. The legs fold down for storage. I made a liner and skirt for it from a Vogue pattern. I’ve seen similar styles around at consignments stores.

  16. says

    My son also slept in his carseat for the first 3 months due to GERD problems. We finally moved him to his crib, but we inclined it and wrapped a rolled up towel under his knees and around his side (or turned the detachable carseat head support thing upside down and used that. It gave him a feeling that he was still in the carseat, but he could lay out a little more. Also, when he could turn over, he slept on his stomach almost all the time. He is now definitely a stomach sleeper. I freaked out the first couple of times, but then I figured it was the only way any of us would get any sleep so I just let it go. And the carseat wasn’t bad at all. It wasn’t like it was in the ‘car’ position. When you take it out of the car and set it on the floor or in a crib, it reclines even more, so there’s minimal chance of his head bobbling over and cutting off his airways. You could also prop something underneath to make it recline more. Our pediatrician actually told us not to put him in a carseat, and we told him okay, but did it anyway! It was just something our family needed at the time and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

  17. says

    These articles cite less than 20 cases total … while unfortunate (and you wouldn’t want it to be your baby) it’s statistically unlikely to be a problem. Both of ours slept many hours in their car seats, in the house and on 6+ hour car trips with no issues at all.

    When our daughter was born, we bought a Graco folding bassinet (not the pack-n-play, an actual bassinet) to put in our room. It was less than $50 and we used it both at home and on the road for about six months before passing it on to friends. We had a Moses basket, too, but I felt the sides were too low to leave her in it overnight, and it was a tripping hazard on the floor.

  18. says

    All 8 of our children slept in a carseat next to our bed until they started sleeping through the night, around 6 weeks. They also took most of their naps in their carseats.
    Like some others mentioned, we leave the house very little so this is all the time they spend in the carseat. We don’t use swings or bouncy seats.
    They are all beautiful and well-developed, if I do say so myself, although strangers often remark on it as well. Oh, and The Boy has an exceptionally round head. We called him Charlie Brown for the first 6 mos. :)
    The semi-fetal position and gentle rocking motion really seemed to sooth our newborns and all of our babies have been very content and healthy.

  19. says

    My youngest had colic, and having him inclined helped…but I saw a story on the news about a mother who dopped her sleeping newborn off at the babysitters, asleep in his carrier, and when the babysitter checked on him, his head had slumped forward, cut off his airway, and he had died.
    After that I just got an inclined wedge, and he never slept in his carseat. It’s not worth the risk to me. You’re not a bad parent, as long as nothing bad happens. I’m not willing to take the chance.

  20. says

    I agree with Elana about this. For several reasons, we chose not to use an infant car seat. We used a convertible car seat for our son (i.e., without a removable base), and we would do the same again. While I’m sure he might have slept in the infant car seat, we found that his neck muscles were much stronger than most other babies his age. On that note, a friend who allowed her baby to sleep through the night in his car seat developed a flat head and weak neck muscles, thus requiring neck exercises to strengthen his muscles. Obviously, this is anecdotal, but worth considering. I also posted more reasons for our decision here: http://4theycallmemommy.blogspot.com/2007/09/car-seat-safety.html

  21. says

    yes, I too put my son in his carseat to sleep on occasion (rare), and at the specific recommendation of our doctor when our son was ill. Our doctor instructed us to put him in his carseat (or in his swing) to help him prop up with his congestion and his discomfort.

    I’m not perfect by any means, but am happy and proud to be a marvelously mediocre mommy that does what she needs to do to keep her child happy, safe, and healthy!

  22. Rob says

    Just a few weeks ago, a friend of a friend lost their baby after letting them sleep in a car seat. In this case, they were not following all the instructions to the letter for how to buckle the baby in properly.

    It’s easy to get lazy and not have all the straps and buckles in just the right place. The baby slipped and could breath. Tragic, but a good warning.

  23. says

    No flat head here, and my son slept in the car seat at night, bundled up as advised by Happiest Baby on the Block, for 6 weeks. He slept beautifully.

    He continued to nap in it in the kitchen, in front of the stove fan, for 3 months.

    We moved him to the crib around 3.5 months.

  24. WorkingMom08807 says

    Putting a newborn in a car seat every night is not an option – it’s only for occasional use. I have used it a couple of times on my 11-months old when she got a very stuffy nose – this way, her head is elevated and it’s easier for her to fall asleep.

  25. Erin says

    I hate to pile on, but this is a dangerous idea as previous posters have noted. Studies have shown that babies, particularly small or premature infants, are more likely to die while sleeping in a car seat for long periods. Like many hacks, it may work well for some families, but statistically speaking it puts babies in unnecessary danger so I would certainly not recommend it as a general cure for poor sleeping.

  26. Lou says

    as long as they move around and shift the car seat is fine. some newborns do not and should not be left in car seats. when they are over 6 months, 15 pounds the car seat is very good for children’s who shift often in their sleep and have colds. the position keeps their head up and may also prevent esophageal conditions like sore throats. But as long as they shift. Check them every half hour to an hour and make sure they move

  27. Anonymous says

    I put my son in his bouncy seat when he was an infant. He slept fine. Our pediatrician said that it was fine for him to sleep in it, and that many babies sleep in their car seats, especially if they suffer from GERD.

    I don’t see too many studies cited that claim that infant car seats cause SIDS. We’re all filled with such fear over SIDS as new parents, its probably best to check with your pediatrician before coming to any conclusions. The benefits of you and your child getting the sleep they need may outweigh any risk with the car seat?

  28. reva says

    I don’t know if this is dangeous or not, but we had some friends when we were living in Brasil that had their newborn sleep in his stroller. They laid it down so he was laying flat, but when he cried, they would reach their arm out and roll him back and forth to calm him down. We actually did this once when we stayed in a hotel, but it was a rickety one and would shake every time she’d move a little. It was easier than bringing a packn’ play though, which we couldn’t find in Brasil!

  29. says

    Our second spent his first six months sleeping in the car seat. He absolutely would not sleep in the crib.

    Was it the safest place for him? That’s questionable. What’s irrefutable is that it kept us all sane during his early days! :)

  30. says

    Well, one more in the we put the kid in the carseat category… for the first 8-12 weeks our baby was in the carseat, in the middle of the bed between us, usually with me curled around the carseat. He absolutely would not lay on his back to sleep. so, it was either the car seat or sit up with him all night. He was swaddled and not buckled in, but safely placed so he couldn’t roll over. Our pediatrician was fine with this, he had done it himself, and he’s currently head of pediatrics at a large children’s hospital.

    I have read that the flat head issue comes up with babies in cribs who always sleep on their backs…

    My two cents: if you are concerned about something you are choosing to do, or wondering if it’s ok, talk to your pediatrician.

  31. says

    Bring that expensive crib into your room and turn it into a side car. All you have to do is remove one side rail of the crib, get the mattress set to the same height as your bed, and then wedge the crib between the wall and your bed. Viola! Instant sidecar cosleeper!

  32. Amy Hays says

    I have two kids. Both of them slept in a carseat that was slightly reclined in a bassinet beside my bed for 3 or 4 months. It worked great for us and kept them happy.

  33. says

    My son took some great naps in his car seat and I was always thankful for the free time that it gave me.

    In response to the need for a product that is easy to take with you and gets your infant out of the car seat for a nap, a father developed a product called the AirCrib. You can check it out at: