Grieving parents warn of dangers of napping in car seats

Photo: Facebook/Rachel Jungling
Photo: Facebook/Rachel Jungling 

The grieving parents of a baby boy who died after a daycare worker left him napping in a car seat are speaking out to warn others about his "100 per cent preventable" death.

Ryne and Rachel Jungling of North Dakota were thrilled to welcome twins, Anders and Linnea in January 2018, after struggling to conceive for seven years. But less than a year later, their beautiful baby Anders was dead.

"When we got to the hospital I just remember being so confused, because there was a detective there," Ms Jungling told KX NET.COM. "The detective said something about how Anders was in his car seat. The daycare called 9-1-1. The [paramedics] came and they were able to perform CPR. [The paramedics] did CPR for 40 minutes and they got his heart started again."

Photo: Facebook/Ryne Jungling.
Photo: Facebook/Ryne Jungling. 

But there was little they could do to save him.

"Rachel asked one of the doctors a question, 'What are his chances of coming back from this?' and the doctor's response was, 'It was pretty unlikely that he would wake up from this," Mr Jungling said.

An investigation later determined that the eleven-month-old died of "positional asphyxia" after his airway was cut off when his chin fell to his chest.

The daycare provider was unlicensed.

"When a car seat is in a base," Ms Jungling said, "the baby's airway is open because they are tilted back a little bit, but on a floor, they are not in a base and your head can kind of slouch down.

"[The daycare provider] purposely sat him down in his car seat to nap," she added. "In a licensed daycare you are not allowed to do that."

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The couple have now joined forces with Safe Kids Worldwide, to ensure their baby's tragic death serves as a warning to others around the globe. "We want to ensure this never happens to anyone else," Mr Jungling said.  The pair are also focused on educating those who care for children, such as a grandparents, who may not be aware of the latest recommendations.

"It's important to stay up to date on the latest safety guidelines," Mrs Jungling wrote in a post to Facebook. "Just think of all that's changed since the last time a grandparent cared for their own child (babies sleeping on backs vs stomachs, no blankets, crib bumpers etc.) There's a lot to know! Expecting parents may take classes to prepare for a new baby, but what about their parents?"

That children are more likely to die in sitting-devices when in the care of someone other than their parent was one of the key findings of a recent study published in  Pediatrics in May.

"There are higher odds of sleep-related infant deaths in sitting devices when a child care provider or baby-sitter is the primary supervisor," the authors concluded adding that "using child safety seats for sleep in non- travelling contexts may pose a risk to the infant."

The research, which used fatality data spanning a ten-year period from 2004-2014 and included almost 12,000 infants, found that three per cent (348) of the infant sleep-related deaths occurred in sitting devices, with 63 per cent of these happening in car safety seats. In 90 per cent of cases, seats were not used as directed.

Compared to other deaths, those occurring in sitting devices, (car seats, strollers, bouncers, swings and other infant seats) were more likely to happen under the supervision of a child care provider than a parent.
 

According to co-author Dr Jeffrey Colvin, while car seats are always the best place for babies when they are being transported in a vehicle, "that doesn't mean they are the safest place when they're sleeping outside of the car". "Parents should bring along a portable crib or bassinet for sleeping when they arrive at their destination," he says.

And the AAP's recommendations are clear.

"Babies should be placed for sleep in a supine position for every sleep by every caregiver until the child reaches 1 year of age," they say. "Loose bedding and soft objects must be kept out of the sleep area. Sitting devices should not be used for routine sleep."

The recommendations are in line with Australian advice from Red Nose.

"Once the car journey is over it is very important that you remove baby from the car seat or capsule, even if this means waking baby, because it is not safe for baby to spend long periods in car seats, capsules or infant seats," the organisation says. "Research has shown that babies left in a sitting position for a long period of time may be placed at increased risk for SIDS (sudden infant death).

"This is because car or baby seats cause an infant's neck to flex forward which may block a baby's airway, not allowing airflow."