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Infant seats can pose danger to sleeping babies

Thirteen years ago, Staci Tober lost her 8-month-old son Trevor when he was in a baby swing at day care and was strangled by the straps. "He had been left alone for about six minutes while she [the day care worker] was tending to other children," she told CBS News.

Tober is not the only parent to lose a child this way, according to a recent study. While it's common for infants to move around and even doze off in car seats or baby swings, researchers say this could be extremely dangerous if they are left unsupervised.

Dr. Erich Batra from Penn State's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center looked at 47 deaths among children under two years old that occurred in baby swings, bouncers, and car seats. All but one death occurred by asphyxiation. Many times, the child strangled on the straps after falling asleep. "In a swing or bouncer chair, these are fine to use if a parent is supervising the infants, but the infants can maneuver themselves often in positions that compromises their airway," Batra said.

Staci Tober with a photo of her son Trevor. CBS News

Two-thirds of the infant deaths Batra studied occurred in car seats. Generally, he said, car seats are safe in vehicles, but it's when parents remove the seat from the car with the sleeping baby inside and loosen the straps that things can turn hazardous. "You should not use a car seat outside of the car and an infant should never be in a car seat with partially buckled straps," he said.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Pediatrics, found that the time elapsed between when the children were last seen alive and when they were found deceased ranged from just four minutes up to 11 hours.

Researchers say that the lesson for parents and caregivers is that infants should only sleep in cribs and should not be left unsupervised in car seats, swings, bouncers, and other sitting devices, whether they are asleep or awake.

Tober now volunteers her time educating other parents about this message so they won't have to suffer through what she did. "I wasn't done being a mother to a little boy when he died," she said.