The newborn was sleeping soundly, tucked into a car seat , with a note pinned to the baby blanket. “My mum’s in doing the shopping, call her if I need anything,” the note said, along with the mother’s cellphone number. Bystanders were shocked by the scene, but decided to call the mother instead of the authorities.
“As parents ourselves we know it is hard to get a baby to sleep, and once you start moving them they can wake up … we thought it was just a silly decision by a tired mother,” said another.
Leaving a young child or a baby alone in a car is extremely dangerous. By locking a child inside a car, even the most well-intentioned parent is potentially exposing their child to a variety of dangers, up to and including death in some cases (as we saw several times over the summer of 2012).
“Babies can dehydrate quickly and become very distressed. So for a newborn that’s one of the key issues. Plus there’s a security issue – a small baby is unable to defend itself if need be, or call for help, or anything like that,” said Plunket national child safety adviser Sue Campbell.
She continued that the mother in question may have felt overwhelmed due to a potential lack of family support.
“There are numerous support groups out there for parents … if they are in a place where there is a Plunket Family Centre, there’s the opportunity to take your baby in and get some support, and perhaps a few hours sleep while somebody’s watching your baby for you.”
In New Zealand, it is illegal for a parent or guardian to leave a child under the age of 14 alone in a car for an unreasonable amount of time in unreasonable conditions. It is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000.
All parents would know how trying looking after a baby could be, Campbell concluded. “If a mother is having difficulty coping, there is concern for the mother as well.”
Do you think it’s “okay” for a mother to leave her baby in the car … if she leaves a note with her number on it?