Search

Dr. Sara responds to reader comments on Forgotten Baby Syndrome

Every so often, one of our articles hits a nerve—and based on the many passionate responses we received on Facebook, my last article on Forgotten Baby Syndrome: Why parents leave children in hot cars hit a whole nerve bundle. We always welcome feedback and even disagreement here at Bundoo, and I thought this was a good opportunity to talk about how parents treat each other. Many of the commenters felt strongly that when a child is injured or dies due to hyperthermia after being left in a hot car, it is murder. Very few commenters expressed empathy for the families that claim to have forgotten their child.

To me, it felt like in many cases the readers confused an explanation with an excuse. In fact, explanations are essential to increasing our understanding of something, even something as terrible as forgetting a child in a hot car. Explanations are the first step toward preventing it, because while it might be easy to simply demonize parents who forget their children like this, no deaths will ever be prevented if we refuse to understand how it can happen in the first place.

After reading the comments, I went back to Dr. David Diamond, professor of psychology, molecular pharmacology, and physiology at the University of South Florida, Tampa. Dr. Diamond is arguably the national expert on Forgotten Baby Syndrome. His research formed the basis of the article, and here’s what he had to say about the outpouring of response:

“Some people, perhaps the most vocal, have a ‘me versus them’ mentality, which is that, ‘I am a good parent and I would never forget my child—only bad parents forget their children because they are thoughtless and negligent.’ This is a false distinction. I’ve sat with these parents in their homes and in the courtrooms. I’ve seen the suffering they endure on a daily basis. They constantly relive the day they forgot their child, wishing they could have that day to live again, this time to remember their child in the car.

I have known wonderful, attentive and loving parents who have forgotten their children. In an ironic twist, some have been as judgmental as your readers. They are parents like Lyn Balfour, who considered herself immune from forgetting her children and then became a member of the group of parents that had forgotten their kids. Here is an interview with her.

Finally, I can say from personal experience how easy it is to forget a child. No one can adore a child as much as I love my grandchild. But one day I was driving with my wife, and my 6-month-old grandchild was in the backseat. When we arrived at our destination I exited the car, ready to go to the store, and then my wife said to me: “Did you forget about the baby?” I had completely lost awareness that my grandchild was in the back seat. If I had been alone I might be one of those parents your readers judge so harshly. Imagine the irony and the headlines: ‘Memory expert forgets grandchild that dies in his car.’

All I can say to your readers is that this is a tragedy that truly can happen to anyone. We need to understand how this can happen and take steps, including developing technology, that can stop good parents from forgetting their kids in cars.”

Food for thought. I welcome your continued responses.

Read More Blogs

About Dr. Sara Connolly, Bundoo Medical Director

Sara Connolly, MD, FAAP, is a Board Certified Pediatrician who practices in Palm Beach County, Florida. She completed her residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital at the University of Miami, where she served as Chief Resident. She has a passion for child advocacy and has worked on the local, state, and national level to increase access to care for children. Her interests include nutrition, breastfeeding, and parenting skills.

Comments

  1. I have an idea that isn’t a solution but could reduce the number of deaths. Children are required to be buckled in. Why can’t cars be made with backseat buckle alarms that go off if you exit the car without unbuckling the backseat belts. Or something like that.

    Reply
    1. Jaymie, I like the way you think! I bet there are any number of great solutions to this problem. The car industry needs to hear from concerned people like you so they understand that consumers want better safety measures.

      Reply
    1. Brigid, I think it is the term “syndrome” that bothers people about this… but I agree with you regarding your take-home message. Regardless of what name these tragedies are given, they are happening to parents with loving intentions. I hope everyone who reads this article, whether they agree or not, has that take-home message or reminder in their head.

      Reply
    1. Thank you for sharing, Betty. From reading the comments on this post on our Facebook page, I noticed that no one understands how it can happen until it happens to them. By speaking out, you’re doing your part to warn other loving parents about the possibility. I also thought your point that having a new addition to your family might increase the chance of it happening was a good one.

      Reply
    2. Thank you for being willing to share your story. We are all here to support each other and I hope that by at least entertaining the idea that “this could happen to me” will help save a life. And thank you for your service to children!

      Reply
  2. “Very few commenters expressed empathy for the families that claim to have forgotten their child.”

    Ya think? In my mind, we are far too forgiving of parents who make breathtakingly stupid decisions (“She was out on the river, rafting with the other kids… I never thought she’d need a life jacket!”) and cause the death of their children. “Haven’t they suffered enough?” No, they haven’t suffered as much as their children did from their stupidity. Once you have a child, your life is not your own and the child comes first.

    Incidentally, I’d recommend that your grandchild’s parents never let you drive alone with their child. Clearly this would be dangerous, by your own confession, which completely failed to instill in me any empathy whatever for careless, neglectful parents

    Reply
    1. I am with you on that…was not enlightened to any better understanding by that example.

      I do believe we need to bring about a greater awareness – clearly – because this has happened so many times in recent years, but I have a problem with naming it a syndrome. The definition seems misapplied when the only link binding the event is that a child was forgotten.

      Reply
    2. Way to completely miss the point of the article, as well as fail to understand the difference between bad parenting and a legitimate mistake. Not to mention showing an astounding lack of empathy despite your stance of putting the children first (notice that the article never said they don’t come first). The article even states that people just like you have ended up forgetting their children, too. These people are not careless or neglectful, they are *human*. Humans make mistakes, and it’s easy to say that any mistake was one that only a careless or stupid person would make, but that’s usually not the case.

      Reply
  3. What a wonderful, balanced response to the attention your original blog post got! I am 100% guilty of thinking, “I would never do that!” and having a similar response to this being named a syndrome….just like I thought I’d never yell at my child, let him eat McDonald’s, or do many of the things I could not relate to until I was in that position. While those examples are obviously more minor than forgetting your child in a car, the point is we are all capable of mistakes and judging others when we haven’t walked in their shoes. If calling it a syndrome gets it more awareness and saves lives, so be it!

    Reply

Tell us who you are! We use your name to make your comments, emails, and notifications more personal.

Tell us who you are! We use your name to make your comments, emails, and notifications more personal.