A Simple Decision at Daycare Killed This Baby & Her Mom Is Still Haunted

Lisa Smith

Lisa Smith
Lisa Smith

If you look at Lisa Smith's family you may see parents and their two beautiful baby boys. But what many might not know is that back before having her sons, Lisa was the mom of one precious girl. Amelia, known as Mia to her loved ones, died in 2015 at 17 months old at daycare. Although time has passed since her tragic death, her mom is speaking out so that nobody forgets that this unthinkable loss was completely preventable

  • Mia was with her typical daycare provider when she was put down for a nap in her car seat.

    Lisa Smith
    Lisa Smith

    Instead of waking her up or having her sleep somewhere else, the care provider let Mia nap, which is a decision that cost Mia her life. “I got a call while I was at work,” Lisa told WFAA. “Worst call I’ve ever had in my life. ‘Drop everything. Mia didn’t wake up from her nap.’”

    Lisa tells CafeMom that she and her husband weren't aware that Mia was ever sleeping in her car seat while at daycare. "We assumed that she slept in a crib, and even on the day she died, she was only feet away from an empty crib that could have been used," she says.

    She also explained that just weeks before Mia's death, she had been transitioned into a larger toddler car seat that remained in her vehicle.

    "The car seat that the daycare provider used was one of her own. We were not aware of this practice, did not supply a car seat fitted to Mia's size and most importantly did not give permission for this practice," she says. "I had, in fact, read a Facebook article when Mia was a baby about a family who lost a child while it was sleeping in a car seat, so it was our practice to always remove Mia from her car seat or bring her inside asleep and place her at our feet so we could monitor her."

    Lisa says that because of that Facebook post, how dangerous sleeping in a car seat could be (especially unsupervised) was always in the back of her mind. "We were devastated to have that choice taken away from us. It felt like such a betrayal of trust because we expected our daycare provider to know the dangers of car seat sleeping," she says.  

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  • Mia died from positional asphyxia, which is a mistake more common than many parents realize.

    Lisa Smith
    Lisa Smith

    Positional asphyxia occurs when a baby's airway is restricted from sitting upright and the baby ends up suffocating. This can happen in car seats and bouncers because depending on their age, babies don't have the strength to hold their necks up. That means they can end up sleeping with their chins against their necks, cutting off air, or in some cases they can scoot down, with the car seat strap also blocking their airway. 

    This type of incident is known as a silent killer because babies die in their sleep, making no noise to alert anyone of their distress. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, of all deaths that took place between 2004 and 2008, 48 percent of car seat deaths were because of positional asphyxia (and not car accidents), and 75 percent of swing deaths were also due to it.

    "Infants and children 2 years of age and younger should be properly restrained and not be left unsupervised in sitting and carrying devices," the study concluded. "Car seats should not be used as sleeping areas outside of the vehicle, and children should never be in a car seat with unbuckled or partially buckled straps." 

  • Lisa didn't find out that Mia had been sleeping in a car seat until police told her at the hospital.

    Lisa Smith
    Lisa Smith

    "We were shocked and absolutely blindsided," she says. "Our daycare provider had come to the hospital twice to visit Mia and never once mentioned how Mia was found." 

    During the investigation, Mia's parents learned that car seat naps were actually part of her routine and that the daycare provider believed it helped with "better" sleep.

    "The reports we read after the fact, explained that Mia even knew that the car seat was her 'spot' at nap time. She would apparently run into the nap room and straight to the car seat ... so this must have been a long-standing practice," she says. "This haunts us because we did not know and this could have easily been prevented." 

  • Lisa believes too many caregivers (both parents and professionals) still don't know how dangerous car seat naps can be.

    Lisa Smith
    Lisa Smith
    "Why is this such a surprise in 2018 with all of the fatalities reported from this practice?" she says. "When I share our story with others they are shocked that something like this could happen. I hear all the time that 'I let my child keep sleeping and didn't even think about it' or 'I used to do this with my kids all the time' or 'Doctors would tell us when they were small to keep them in a sitting position for re-flux.'"

    That's why Lisa speaks up and says something whenever she sees something because no family should have to go through what hers did.

    "When we see unsafe sleep practices we say something because even if caregivers decide to ignore us or get uncomfortable by our conversation, we want to share our story so that they can make informed decisions regarding their child's safety," she says. "We were not given a choice about Mia's car seat sleeping and it devastates us to know that it was so easily prevented. She was feet away from the safety of a crib."
  • "Losing a child is beyond earth shattering: it is soul crushing. Mia was literally the flesh of my flesh, my first child and my absolute love."

    Lisa Smith
    Lisa Smith

    Mia's death was completely preventable and this fact still haunts her parents. "I read every book, article and listened to all the doctor's advice," she tells CafeMom. "Mia got all her shots on time and was completely healthy."

    After her death, Mia became an organ donor, which was incredibly difficult for her parents, and it's this type of grief that she's trying to protect others from:

    "When we were in the hospital watching our beautiful baby girl disappear before our very eyes, we pleaded for a miracle. How could this be happening to our healthy, happy, beautiful child?" Lisa says. "I didn't sleep for three days because I wanted to memorize every detail of her perfection. When I let myself go back to that hospital room ... I hear the quiet, muted noises and beeps of her life support, the hear the squish of the medical teams' shoes coming and going. I smell the adhesive tape and tubing that was all over Mia's body. Along with a hint of the smell of sweat and outside every time I kissed her hair because she had been playing in water outside before nap time. It will be forever unfair that I must live without my daughter. Every Mother's Day, holiday, or special occasion I miss her and feel a physical pain of sadness."

  • "Mia was taken from our family and it was 100 percent preventable." 

    Lisa Smith
    Lisa Smith

    Now, Lisa and her family are learning to live with a lifetime of grief and loss. "Safe sleep is more than just a SIDS prevention. It's an awareness of all hazards," she says.

    "Parents are given a ton of information and I get that this could be just one more thing on a list, but if our daycare provider had simply put our daughter in a crib for nap time instead of a car seat, my entire family and even the daycare provider and her family would be living a very different life. One with Mia in it."