How do you prevent “Forgotten Baby Syndrome” (FBS) — a medical term that explains how a parent can walk away from a car without realizing their child remains inside?
On the surface, it seems like a silly question. Most parents assume they would never accidentally forget their child in a car. Unfortunately, even the most loving parents have experienced near misses or even painful tragedies. Hundreds of children have died in the U.S. from being forgotten in hot cars and the number is sadly increasing. In fact, 2018 and 2019 had the highest number on record according to NoHeatstroke.org.
The stories are heartbreaking and they can happen to anyone at any time. There are a few contributing factors of which parents should be aware.
Motor Memory Takes Over in Daily Routines
Each day, people perform tasks that become routine, which means very little conscious thought goes into them. Have you ever driven home from work and realized you have no recollection of the drive at all? It’s because that routine is now governed by a part in your brain called the motor cortex. Your motor memory is in charge, and therefore, allows you to think of other things while you drive – your dinner plans, grocery list, etcetera.
The problem is when a change in your routine is thrown at you, like having to pick up your child at daycare when your husband is sick, your motor memory isn’t in control. When this happens, you might drive home and go inside as usual, completely forgetting your child is in the backseat.
Multitasking Makes It Easy to Forget
No matter how focused you are, no one can be 100% focused on one thing when they’re thinking about 100 different things. Most modern lives are fast-paced and hectic. People can become easily distracted. Because of this increase in multitasking, even the best parents can leave home on a stressful day and end up forgetting their baby.
Technology Is a Major Distraction
Answering phone calls in the car while you’re driving can be a huge distraction. If you’re lost in conversation for a 20-minute drive, your quiet baby in the backseat is not top of mind. It’s easy to forget or accidentally ignore what is around you when you’re giving all of your attention to a phone conversation or even texting and browsing social media.
How to Prevent Forgotten Baby Syndrome
According to KidsandCars.org, the vast majority of hot car deaths occur because parents are unaware that their child is in the car. Only 13% of children involved in these incidents are knowingly left by caregivers.
So, with that in mind, no parent should assume they are immune to FBS. All parents should take the necessary precautions and put reminder alerts in place — from sticky notes on the steering wheel to setting an alarm on the phone. These can keep you from accidentally forgetting that the baby is in the car.
Awareness and proactive mindfulness are key to keeping our babies safe.