FACT: PREVENTABLE INJURIES ARE THE #1 KILLER OF U.S. KIDS
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I have seen so many pictures/comments lately relating to car seats that absolutely terrify me. In a time when everyone is driving at high speeds everywhere & like 8/10 people I pass on the road are on their phone in some capacity, car seat safety is more important than ever.
It's not a judgement thing at all. Every parent I know wants to keep their child as SAFE as possible, so most of the time it’s that we don’t know better. Still, we can’t allow our lack of knowledge on proper car seat safety to be an excuse. We have to make the effort to educate ourselves & others. When we know better, we do better.
There have been a few different times that other moms have reached out to me after seeing me post a picture on FB to let me know that I may need to look into something I was doing with the car seat. (One time with Jase I didn’t have his chest clip in the right place. Once it was about having after market products I’d added to make it more comfortable. And another time I needed to move the straps because he had grown.) I was NEVER offended, and always thankful they reached out to let me know. My child’s safety is WAY more important than my pride, and they were just trying to help. I always feel weird about telling anyone when I see something because I don’t want them to feel any judgement, and people seem to be very insecure and sensitive about it. So, I wanted to share a few of my favorite tips here.
So, if I’m being totally honest, I don’t think I’ve ever installed a car seat. Jonathan does it very thoroughly & according to the manual to a T. Because he is much stronger than I am and so thorough, I feel way more confident in his installation abilities than my own. If he didn't do it for us though, I'd take it to a car seat safety technician (can sometimes be found at a local fire department )to make sure it's installed correctly. And although we do research to try to find the safest car seat available, the bottom line is that MOST car seats are safe & meet industry standards, so the issue is improper installation. It is VERY important to actually read the manual that comes with the car seat. (For the record, our favorite car seats so far are Chico KeyFit 30 for infants and , Britax Frontier ClickTight, & Britax Advocate ClickTight. We went to Babies R Us during their great buy back and returned older products to get a 25% coupon for newer ones. We have two of each so we each have a car seat for both boys in our vehicle in case of emergency. If we didn’t do that, we would simply switch vehicles.)
Once it is installed correctly, we want to make sure we strap them in properly. When they're strapped in, it should be TIGHT. Not cutting off circulation or anything, but the point of a restraint is to hold them safely in place if there were an impact. (So they should NOT be able to buckle themselves in on their own at a young age. Maybe they can connect the chest clip, but we should always, always tighten it!) We can use the "pinch test" to know how tight. The chest clip is also for the chest- not belly, upper abdomen, or neck. It should line up with armpits. These two things are probably the biggest issues I see on a regular basis. I always, always double check them after anyone besides me or Jonathan straps them in. This is not to be rude or question their ability, but the reality is most people don’t know since things have changed so much (& are always changing- which is why we need to stay up-to-date on the manual).
It is also important to stay up to date with the seat type necessary for our children’s size & the appropriate strap location for their growing bodies. Children can/should remain rear facing and then in a 5 point harness much longer than we think, despite what the law says. That is a MINIMUM requirement. They are NOT uncomfortable and don’t know what they don’t know. Kiddos don’t think they’re missing out on anything, so I have found that most of the time it’s more for parent convenience (or assuming it’s more comfortable for the child)than being in the child’s best interest. Jase is a big kid for his age, but we still have and plan to go as long as possible in each of those. Yes, his legs were halfway up the back of the seat when he was still rear facing, but he was not uncomfortable. I heard a few people comment about his legs being hurt if we were in an accident. I would MUCH rather his legs be hurt than his neck/spinal cord, and the fact is they have significantly more support while rear facing. Again, the manuals have info about weight/height limits. (The majority of car accidents occur from the front or rear.)
In winter weather, children should NOT be installed in their car seat in puffy jackets or clothes because it gives us a false sense of how tight they should actually be strapped in. It’s pretty horrifying, but look up some Youtube videos when you get a chance. We should cover them with blankets if it’s cold, then add their warm layers when we arrive where we’re going.
We should not use after market products. They aren’t necessary & can often void the warranty.
If a car has been wrecked (even a small collision with little to no damage), you need to replace the car seat. It stinks because I know they’re expensive, but it’s necessary.
Car seats DO expire. Know the date, especially if you’re hanging on to a car seat for your next kiddo. This is where the great buy back thing Babies R Us does can be very helpful.
Be sure to register your car seat when you purchase it so they can notify you if there are ever any recalls or issues. For this reason (& the fact that it could have been in a wreck), I do NOT recommend purchasing a car seat second hand. This is one that is worth saving up for and investing in brand new. I am all about saving money, but this is just not an area where we are willing to cut corners to save a few bucks. If you are on a tight budget, start putting some money aside before it’s time to purchase a seat (like when you’re pregnant or during their first couple of years).
I know there are SEVERAL more tips, but these are a few of the most common that are coming to mind.
Again, most car seats these days are pretty safe...but error user (incorrect installation, not strapping them in correctly, having them in the wrong seat, etc) take away from their effectiveness. Our children’s safety…NOT their comfort or our convenience….should be TOP priority.
Last thing, & this isn’t totally car seat related, but PLEASE, please, please put your phone down. Put the phone in the back of the car if you can’t resist the urge. I will admit that this is a struggle for me. (Not while actually driving, but I do sometimes look at my phone at red lights and I recently learned that is not even allowed.) I am going to stop all together because I want to be a great example for my kids, and because I know I also need to be super aware and hyper vigilant since so many others around us aren’t paying attention. Even semi-distracted driving makes it difficult to be a good defensive driver.
It doesn't take a ton of time to educate yourself; and once you know, you know! When we know better, we do better.
Please feel free to share your favorite resources if you have any. I know there are several websites & FB groups. Here are some of the best I found: