If You’re Wondering When It’s Okay To Leave A Baby Alone In A Car, The Answer Is Never

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baby-alone-in-carApproximately how long can you leave a baby alone before you check on him? When I had my first child, I always wondered this. After he was born, I quickly discovered I wasn’t the calm, collected parent I thought I would be. Can I shower? Can I leave him in the bedroom while I cook dinner without checking on him every 30 seconds? I always thought these were the kinds of questions parents wondered about when they considered how careful they had to be. This mom on Reddit who asks the community if it’s ok to leave her kid strapped in his carseat while she runs into 7-Eleven makes me realize every parent’s definition of paranoia may not be the same.

Here are some scenarios that have made me wonder in the past — some from my life, some from friends — would you take the baby with you, or be ok leaving the baby alone in these scenarios?

  1. Running into a 7-11 to get cash from an ATM (baby is in carseat in the car)
  2. Going to the gym in the building you live in a few floors away with a baby monitor (baby is in crib in your apartment)
  3. Going to a hot tub in the building you live in a few floors away with a baby monitor (baby is in crib in your apartment)
  4. Returning a video to redbox (baby is in carseat in the car)
  5. Going into a place like Subway to order a sandwich (baby is in carseat in the car)

I brought the Reddit thread up at the Mommyish offices the is morning, and we all seemed to have differing opinions regarding when it was “okay” to leave your young child strapped in a car alone. Here comes the Sanctimommy! Barring complete and utter desperation -mine is never. I would never leave my infant strapped in the car alone. So this would mean, no, I would not run into a 7-Eleven and get cash from the ATM or run into a Subway to grab a sandwich without my infant in tow. When you become a parent, there are several annoying things you need to deal with – one is constantly carrying a little human when you are out. It’s not that hard to take an infant out of a carseat. Take him out, bring him into the store with you. It’s not rocket science. When you become a parent, you have to choose safety over convenience.

The argument that a parent who lives in a building with a gym should be able to leave their apartment with a baby monitor and go work out strikes me as odd. By this reasoning, it would be okay for a large majority of city dwellers to leave their apartments and run down to the bar, restaurant, or whatever else exists on the ground floor of their building. Are people okay with that idea, too?

Here’s the thing; when you have a small baby, you can’t leave it home alone. It’s not legal. A baby monitor does not replace an actual present human, caring for a child. This seems like common sense to me. I also really believe that leaving an infant alone in a car for any amount of time is negligent if you don’t have eyes on that infant. You wouldn’t leave an infant alone in public anywhere else – not sure why it would be considered okay in a car. This however is not illegal in and of itself – but egregious cases would probably be considered child neglect. Here are some guidelines I found:

Children newborn through age 4 must be in view of caregiver and in a restraint, the guidelines say. For kids age 5 through 11, the keys should be removed and emergency brake applied. A footnote states that “the parent should recognize their responsibility for using reasonable judgment and for any incident or mishap considered preventable which occurs.”

Lenore Skenazy – who I actually really like – would probably have a field day on this post. But I don’t care. Running into a 7-Eleven or a Subway with your hands free is not a necessity. This is not a dire situation. You don’t leave an infant alone in a car or in an apartment for the sake of convenience. Period.

(photo: Cro_Mary/ Shutterstock)