ABOUT CAR SEAT SAFETY
We have three kids, and we are still learning we are “doin’ it wrong” all the time. So, don’t take this post as, “You are a failure as a parent. Shame on you. You obviously don’t love or deserve that child.” This is how some parents take information that is perceived as criticism (e.g. the woman at Trader Joe’s whom I offered my awesome advice to). Take this as, “I know you love your kid(s). You want them to be as safe as possible. There’s always more to learn.”
Okay, here we go…
1) The child seat on shopping carts is no place to perch your car seat.
Car seat manufactures, American Academy of Pediatrics, the CPSC, shopping carts themselves, etc all warn parents NOT to do this.. yet, I see it all the time. Car seats were not designed to latch onto carts. Latching your seat to something, other than the base or stroller it’s designed for, can cause harm to the latching system. From 2003 to 2008 there were approximately 122,000 shopping cart injuries to children under five. 86% of these were children falling from the cart, or the cart tipping over. Children die from this. Why risk it if it’s preventable?
What to do instead?
Wear your baby in a baby carrier or wrap. Have baby ride in a stroller with a large basket. Push a stroller and a shopping cart. Bring someone to hold baby, or to push the cart. Schedule trips around times when someone can watch your kids (the last three can be super practical.. I know). Last resort? Put the car seat into the main cart basket. The cart is less likely to tip this way.
AAP’s Warning Regarding Shopping Cart Safety
2) Extended Rear Facing is Where it’s at!
All the cool toddlers are doing it. But, seriously.. it’s safest. Consider how large a baby’s head is. Now consider that their spines are not fused until the age of four. In a crash their necks stretch inches further than an adults. It takes only a stretch of 1/4 inch to break a neck. Combine this with a huge baby head = internal decapitation. In an accident where the child is rear facing, the back of their seat absorbs the brunt of the impact.. not their spine.
Current recommendations state a child faces the rear of the car until a MINIMUM of age two, but ideally age four. Many car seats now allow for rear facing until 40+ pounds. I often hear concerns for the safety of the child’s folded legs (i.e. how children often sit naturally). Another concern? My child is bored/unhappy/complaining facing the back of the car. Know this, a child has never died from crossed legs or boredom.. plenty have died, and been paralyzed, from front facing too early.
Watch this: Joel’s Story
3) Keep them in the Five-Point Harness as Long as Possible!
The average minimum requirement (by law) to graduate to a belt positioning high-back booster is four years and forty pounds. The recommended minimum age to graduate to a belt positioning high-back booster is five to six years of age. Only, guess what? Age and weight are not the only factors when it comes to car seat safety. What matters is the internal development of the child’s skeletal system. Also, maturity of the child.
When it comes to being ready to graduate to a booster seat, maturity is key. If your child moves around, the seat belt doesn’t ALWAYS stay in the appropriate position, they fall asleep and slump, reach for things in the car, etc THEY ARE NOT READY FOR A HIGH-BACK BOOSTER. Children are safest in a five-point harness until they outgrow their seat. Many car seats are now manufactured with an internal five-point harness for children 70-90 pounds.
These videos illustrate this point better than I can:
Five Pt Harness Vs Booster
4) Boosters are for Big Kids!
A child is not ready for a high-back booster until at least ages five or six. If they cannot keep the seat belt in the proper position for the entire trip, then they are not ready for a high-back booster. A child isn’t ready for a backless booster until they can sit with their head properly supported by the car’s headrest, sit with the shoulder belt across their shoulder and torso (not near the neck), sit up straight without slouching, and have the lap belt across their thighs.
Backless boosters come with a strap to properly position the seat belt away from the child’s neck. Read your manual, and use this piece. If you have to use the seat belt clip to keep the seat belt in proper position (otherwise the belt is too high and the child is uncomfortable), then staying in a high-back booster is safest. Children are generally ready for a backless booster around ages eight-ten. Children should remain in a backless booster until around age twelve.
*Remember to buckle unoccupied boosters into the car. In the event of an accident, they could become projectiles.
5) The Chest Clip Goes on their.. CHEST
It does not go on their stomach or waist. The seat straps should be TIGHT, and the chest clip at armpit level. If rear facing, harness straps should be at or below shoulder level. If forward facing, seat straps/belt should be at or above shoulder level. No aftermarket accessories should be added to the seat. This will void your seat’s warranty.
I often hear, “We didn’t even have car seats/seat belts/laws/etc, and I survived.” Well, congrats! You’re lucky. But, why put your child in harm’s way unnecessarily? Why is the minimum requirement good enough for your child? Don’t you want the BEST for them? Think how you would feel if your toddler was decapitated internally while forward facing in a crash. What would you say to your paralyzed preschooler when they ask why they can’t walk, and if they were in a five-point harness they’d be running? WHEN WE KNOW BETTER, WE DO BETTER. So, go do better.
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Car Seats for the Littles
Reference on shopping cart stats: