This is our first summer with a baby and there have been a lot of stories on the news recently of strangers breaking car windows to rescue babies who were left in parked cars. Before having a baby I couldn't understand how anyone could forget a baby in the car. After having a baby I'd still like to think that it would never, ever happen, but when you're sleep deprived, barely functioning and your baby is sleeping quietly in the back seat, I can see how it is possible. The shocking thing to me is how quickly the inside of your car heats up, even with the windows cracked. It's a good reminder to never leave your child in the car while running a quick errand, because you never know how long you'll be away. Just 10 minutes in the car on a warm (not even hot) day, can have lethal consequences for your baby.
I asked around to see what, if anything, people do as a reminder for having a baby in the back seat. A reminder is an especially good idea if you aren't used to taking your baby with you while running errands, taking them to daycare, or having them on certain days of the week. Here are some good reminders I found:
- Set your purse, phone, or office keys in the back seat near the car seat. That way you will be forced to look in the back seat when you get to your destination.
- Ask your childcare provider, daycare or school to call you by a set time if your child is ever absent.
- Wear a specific piece of jewelry (bracelet) that you wear only when your child is in the back seat and keep it in the car (on the gear shift) at all other times. Some people wear a hair tie on their wrist to accomplish the same thing.
- Purchase (or make) a "baby in back" or "look before you lock" reminder sign. There are lots of these on the market. Some clip onto your air vent while others clip onto your seat belt or onto the gear shift. These little signs are only used when you're driving with your child and are otherwise kept in the empty car seat so that they'll be handy.
Here are some tips to help keep your car as cool as possible and comfortable for your baby when you and your baby are done running errands and are ready to get back into the car together.
- Use reflective sun shades for the windshield. There are lots of sizes, shapes and styles available for these reflectors, so you are sure to find one that will fit your specific vehicle.
- The next time you purchase a new car, choose a car with a light colored interior. Darker interiors get much warmer than light tan or white interiors.
- A car seat sun shade. Just as the windshield sun reflectors help keep some of the heat out of the car, the car seat sun shades will help keep the surface of the car seat cooler to the touch. This includes the buckles which can feel extremely hot if left in the sun and have even caused second degree burns on babies.
- Use a car seat cooling liner. These are great for 2 reasons. The first is that most car seats are covered in black fabric. As mentioned above, a vehicle with a darker interior color gets hotter on the inside somewhat faster that a vehicle with a light color interior and that includes the surface of your car seat. Our car seat liners are a light silver color that helps reflect heat, so the car seat will feel cooler to the touch when your baby first gets in the car. The second benefit is that these mesh liners allow for air flow between your baby and the car seat, which will keep your baby cooler while riding in the car.
Please note, I am not encouraging you to use any of the tips above as a way to keep your baby cool while left in the car. Don't leave your baby in the car, even if you think you'll only be gone for a minute, and call 911 if you see a child alone in a vehicle.