Many parents would do anything to avoid waking a sleeping baby, but Erin Lynn wants other moms to know how dangerous that can be.
As the Minnesota mom shared on Facebook, her daughter Susannah died on August 8, 2016, after her day care provider let the 6-month-old nap in a car seat.Erin Lynn
According to the Star Tribune, Amy Jo Englebretson told police she’d left Susannah in the car seat on a bed. When Englebretson went back to the bedroom to check on her, Susannah had slipped down in the seat and become tangled in the straps.
Englebretson tried to revive Susannah, but the little girl had been asphyxiated, strangled by the car seat straps. After calling 911, Englebretson reportedly told police:
“I didn’t do it right. [The car seat strap] was too loose.”
According to the Pioneer Press, Englebretson later pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in Susannah’s death. Though she said she never intended to hurt Susannah, she agreed that her reckless care was responsible for the baby’s death. Englebretson has not yet been sentenced, but faces up to ten years in prison.
On the anniversary of her daughter’s death, Lynn pointed out that the incident was avoidable if Susannah’s day care provider had followed safe sleep practices:
This was not a freak accident. This was someone who had been trained in safe sleep practices and knew car seats were not safe for sleep, but she used it for that anyway out of convenience.
But she went on to point out that it’s a more common mistake than many people realize — and it isn’t only day care workers who can fall into that trap. She wrote:
This could happen to anyone. If you or someone you know uses car seats outside the car for naps, or lets little ones stay napping in car seats outside the car if they’ve nodded off during a car trip … it could happen. Strangulation isn’t the only danger either.
According to the Utah Department of Health, infants are especially vulnerable to positional asphyxia, the suffocation that occurs from an unsafe sleeping position or dangerous sleeping environment. If an infant’s airway becomes blocked (whether by a blanket, pillow, toy, or the position of the head and neck), the baby can die from lack of oxygen.
The car seat position puts infants at risk for positional asphyxia. And as Lynn explained, parents are often tempted to leave the baby in the car seat rather than disrupt a nap:
Many parents (myself included!) let babies sleep in car seats after a car ride. Many babies wake up and are just fine. You may feel this way because you did it, and your baby was fine too. What happened to Susannah won’t happen to your daughter, or son, or grandchild, or niece, nephew … She’ll be fine.
Lynn’s recollection of the pain of the day when her baby didn’t wake up after a nap in the car seat is heartbreaking. She wrote:
Until she’s not. And you get a call from the police, saying you need to get down to the hospital right away. You rush there, only to be told your daughter has died. You hold your dead child for hours in a quiet hospital room. You have to leave your little girl there, knowing she’ll never come home again. You have to pick which cute outfit your baby will wear in her casket. You take pictures of purple flowers instead of your little baby girl. You keep buying plants because it never seems like enough. You visit her grave on weekends and on a random Tuesday afternoon. She has a heavenly birthday in addition to her regular birthday, which leaves you feeling so lost because you don’t know what to do on either day. You deal with extreme guilt over decisions you made, convinced you are the reason she’s gone and that some people secretly feel that way too. You have to learn how to properly answer, “How many kids do you have?” depending on the situation or person.
That pain is why Lynn has a message to parents — and to anyone who cares for children. In addition to reminding them to follow safe sleep guidelines themselves (putting baby to bed on his or her back, in a crib, alone), she recommends making sure your day care provider also knows and practices safe sleep habits.Erin Lynn
Most of all, don’t leave the baby in the car seat. Lynn told Dearly that she realizes how difficult it might be for tired parents, but it truly is a matter of life and death:
“Sometimes, it feels like a miracle that the baby stayed asleep while bringing the car seat into the house! It’s so easy to “let sleeping babies lie” so you can get some rest too. But please, don’t. Deaths in car seats used outside of a vehicle happen more often than most people know. It does happen. It happened to my daughter.”
Lynn wants to honor her daughter by helping ensure no other child dies the same way. That’s why she asks moms to help her save a life by making sure their little ones get to sleep safely. She told Dearly:
“Please keep your baby safe and remove him or her from the car seat once you’ve reached your destination. Follow the ABC’s of safe sleep and place them Alone, on their Back, in a Crib. He might wake up, but he will be alive, and that’s what matters.”
As she wrote on Facebook:
“A shortened nap is far less regretful than a shortened lifetime.”