We’ve all seen the heartbreaking stories on the news about a baby being left in their car seat in a hot car during summer months. It’s impossible to even imagine hot-car deaths of infants, but as parents, we all have been overwhelmed, overtired, forgetful, and distracted at some point.
Awareness is critical to preventing hot-car deaths, so here is the key question: When is it okay to leave a baby in a hot car? The correct answer, the only answer, is NEVER.
The temperature inside a hot car can increase in minutes and baby’s core body temperature can’t compensate, rises, and leads to heat stroke. That means that even a minute or two is too long to ever leave a baby inside a hot car.
I remember how difficult it was to get my kids out of the car with the stroller just to run into the post office for 90 seconds. I can also recall days that I was in a “mom fog” when my brain felt hazy from lack of sleep and my daughter was an infant and I’d practically forget where I was driving.
We’ve all been there and that’s why we need to support each other with helpful information to ever prevent another hot-car death.
Here are 5 tips for parents to follow when it comes to car travel with babies and hot-car prevention:
Put something you need in your backseat.
I always put my handbag on the floor of the backseat so I’d have to turnaround before getting out of the car and catch a glimpse of my baby in the car seat.
Remember to look before you lock.
Put a sticker or some kind of reminder near your dash or console so you’ll have to see it before you get out of the car. My son finger-knit bracelets that I still hang near my console for reminders.
Put the keys away and keep the doors locked.
In the case of toddlers or older children, prevent them from being able to “play” in the car.
Never make an exception to the rule.
Never tell yourself and rationalize that it’ll just be one minute and it’s okay. Stop before getting out of the car and have a gut check to remember that no matter how busy and how many errands we have to run, it’s simply never okay to leave a child in a hot car.
Tell yourself it can happen to anyone.
There isn’t a certain “type” of person or parent that forgets their child in a hot car. Dismissing the notion that you would never leave your baby in a hot car is natural. Of course, you would not intentionally step away from your car on a 90-degree day and leave your baby in the car. It’s the unintentional act that requires us all to be vigilant.
It seems unthinkable, unimaginable, and unsettling to talk about infant deaths from hot cars, but our parenting brains are overloaded. It goes without saying every summer that we’d all benefit from slowing down to be present in a moment...and that moment should occur every single time we enter and exit our cars.