Car seat safety has long been a conversation in the parenting community, as the improper use of them can easily lead to a child’s injury or death.
But after the tragic loss of her 17-month-old daughter Mia, mother Lisa Smith is speaking out about a lesser discussed — yet no less deadly, danger regarding car seats: positional asphyxia.
A thorough investigation concluded that her little girl died of positional asphyxia after she fell asleep in her car seat and failed to wake up from her nap while at a home daycare.
Mia’s airway was cut off as her car seat sat on the floor of the Texas daycare.
“This was our beautiful little girl. Perfectly healthy in every way,” Smith reportedly told TODAY. “But when they came in and told us that she didn’t have any more brain activity, all I did was I turn to the doctor and said, ‘I know,’” she continued through tears.
“Positional asphyxia is when the baby’s sleeping position prevents him or her from breathing adequately,” says Dr. Natalie Azar, a medical contributor for NBC News. “When a car seat is in the car, it’s reclined at 45 degrees. This allows the baby’s head and neck to rest [backward] so that it’s not slumped forward and blocking the airway.”
“Most new parents will hear that they should never wake a sleeping baby, but in the situation of your baby falling asleep in the car seat, in the car, transferring them to a safer place, such as a firm mattress or crib is really the recommended thing to do,” Dr. Azar added.
After the heartbreaking loss of her precious daughter, Smith is now turning her tragedy into a warning about an occurrence that happens way more often than people tend to realize.
According to a study that evaluated the dangers of kids under 2-years-old in car seats, a whopping 48 percent of car seat fatalities occurred due to positional asphyxia between 2004 and 2008.
But sadly, Smith says she spots parents putting their infants in car seats outside of their vehicles frequently.
“They go out to restaurants, they’ll put them in carts at the grocery store. They’ll be on the floors, the pews in churches,” she said.
Her prayer is that sharing her tragic loss will boost awareness about the little-known hazard.
“Losing a child, it’s beyond soul-crushing,” Smith told TODAY. “The hardest part is that this was so easily prevented. And we lost a daughter needlessly. No family deserves this.”