Grieving mother warns parents after daughter died napping in the car seat

Lisa Smith is warning others that napping in a car seat can turn fatal for small children after she lost her 18-month-old baby, Mia Smith to 'positional asphyxiation.'


                            Grieving mother warns parents after daughter died napping in the car seat

Mia Smith lost her life three years ago while napping in a car seat. Now, her mother wants her story to reach every unsuspecting parent as a warning so that they can save the lives of their children.

It was revealed that Mia, who was barely 18 months old, was put to nap in a car seat by her longtime babysitter.

“I got a call while I was at work,” Lisa Smith, Mia's mother said, recalling: “Worst call I’ve ever had in my life. ‘Drop everything. Mia didn’t wake up from her nap,’” Dailymail reported. 

The coroner ruled Mia's cause of death as 'positional asphyxia,' a physical position where the air passage is blocked restricting the victim's breathing, at times leading to death, like in Mia's case.

Sharon Evans, a trauma injury prevention coordinator at Cook Children’s Hospital, said, “There's nothing about the car seat that's designed to sleep. Of course, if the straps aren’t tight, the child can kind of slump down.”

According to her, it is a common misconception that babies can be put to sleep in car seats outside the car. What is scary is that babies can easily be strangled by the straps, or risk cutting their airways off if their heads flop down.

The babysitter, Valerie Wackerly (pictured), was arrested and, in January 2016, she pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. (Pella Police Department) 
The babysitter, Valerie Wackerly (pictured), was arrested and, in January 2016, she pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. (Pella Police Department) 

Reportedly, 31 children have died while sleeping in car seats over a period of four years, according to a study conducted by the Journal of Pediatrics.

“How many parents do you think might not know this?” Smith asked. “Probably a lot.”

And that's the reason Smith wants to share her late daughter's story as much as possible.

“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 seventeen-and-a-half months who passed away, and I just want you to be really careful.’”

While Lisa knew the risks of letting her daughter sleep in a car seat, she didn't know that the babysitter, who ran a licensed home daycare in Iowa, had no idea of the same.

Smith does not want anyone to go through what she had to after having a child die in the way little Mia did.

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

What is positional asphyxia?

Little Mia's death was ruled as positional asphyxia, which happens when a person does not get enough air to breathe owing to their body's position.

According to West Bend, when a car seat is used in a vehicle, the seat is secured to a base at an angle which ensures that the child's airway is always open.

However, when a car seat is placed on a flat surface outside the car, the resultant angle could cause a child to slouch forward due to the weakness of their tender neck muscles, eventually cutting off their air supply.

That being said, if the child is not repositioned after being found to slouch forward, the lack of oxygen could result in permanent brain damage, and sometimes, even death.