A mother is sharing the story of her 17-month-old’s death to warn parents about the potential dangers of car seats

A mother said her daughter (not pictured) died after sleeping in a car seat in a position that blocked her airway. Arkom Suvarnasiri/Shutterstock
  • Lisa Smith said her daughter, Mia, died when she was 17 months old while napping in a car seat.
  • Smith spoke out about the experience in an interview on the “Today” show on October 30.
  • An investigation found that Mia died of positional asphyxia, which occurs when someone’s position prevents them from breathing.
  • Experts say car seats should only be used for travel, and children should never be left unsupervised in sitting or carrying devices like car seats, bouncers, or swings.

A mother is speaking out more than three years after her daughter’s death in an effort to warn parents and keep other children safe.

In an October 30 interview on the “Today” show, Lisa Smith said her 17-month-old daughter, Mia, had been sleeping in a car seat at a home daycare in June 2015 when she failed to wake up from a nap.

“This was our beautiful little girl. Perfectly healthy in every way,” Smith said. “Losing a child, it’s beyond soul-crushing.”

An investigation found that Mia had died from positional asphyxia, which occurs when someone is in a position that prevents them from breathing. It may occur when a baby’s head slumps forward as they sit or sleep, resulting in a blockage to their airway, as pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert previously explained to INSIDER.

Babies who are left to sleep or sit in car seats or other carrying devices (like swings and bouncers) may be at risk for injuries including positional asphyxia, according to a 2015 paper published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

In that paper, researchers analysed 47 deaths in children under age of 2 that all involved a sitting or carrying device. Of the 31 deaths that occurred in a car seat, just over half were caused by strangulation from car-seat straps. All the other cases were caused by positional asphyxia.

Read more: Study finds 2 out of 3 car seats are installed incorrectly – here’s how to get yours professionally checked

The authors of the paper stressed that infants and young children shouldn’t be left unsupervised in any sitting or carrying devices, whether they’re awake or asleep.

“Car seats with a child inside should never be placed on a soft or unstable surface because the car seat can tip over or fall. Infants in bouncers, strollers, and swings may be able to manoeuvre into positions that could compromise their airway,” the authors wrote. “Parents should ensure that infants cannot twist their heads into soft bedding or slump forward in a seat; and parents should always use the restraints provided according to manufacturer’s instructions.”

And when it comes to car seats in particular, the American Academy of Pediatrics says they should be used only for travel, not for sleeping or any other use outside the vehicle. Parents can ensure their baby is properly placed in a car seat by reading this car-seat guide from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and can also find free car-seat-installation help from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Smith told Texas ABC-affiliate WFAA back in August that she often sees other parents using car seats outside of vehicles – and that she hopes that being open about her heartbreaking loss will raise awareness about the risk of positional asphyxia.

“I walk around town and see people using a car seat on the seats at restaurants or putting them on the floor at tables,” she said. “I literally walk up to people and I say, ‘You know, I had a daughter who was 17-and-a-half months who passed away and I just want you to be really careful.'”

“She was our first born, our only child, and she didn’t deserve what happened to her,” Smith told WFAA. “But other families don’t deserve this to happen to them either.”

Watch Smith’s full interview with the “Today” show below.

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