Did you know September is Child Safety Month?! Even better, did you know that last week was Child Passenger Safety Week?! Sure was! This really got us thinking about how complicated it can be to figure out car seats and child safety. So we took this opportunity to cover some tips and tricks to help simplify Car Seat Safety 101.
First, let’s talk statistics…
WOW… These statistics are astonishing. As mamas, we all realize the risks that come with transporting our little ones. And the majority of us spend A LOT of time in the car, for one reason or another. This makes it even more important for us to make sure our children are properly restrained in the correct type of car seat so that they have the maximum amount of protection.
It’s important to note the importance of placing your children in rear-facing as long as possible (most commonly up to age 3, but also beyond.) It’s a bit of a misunderstanding between mamas that once your kiddo meets the weight requirement noted by their car seat’s manufacturer it’s safe to turn them forward facing. There’s plenty of great information out there on the topic, research has shown that no matter their weight, or the manufacturer’s guidelines your child CAN and SHOULD remain rear-facing for as long as possible while the child can still sit comfortably.
These days, it’s pretty hard to come across a car seat that doesn’t have a 5-point harness. But just to review, a 5-point harness includes…
- 2 leg straps
- 2 shoulder straps
- 1 crotch strap
Something SO many families DON’T think to do is to try the car seat/s in your car before you buy them. Although most car seats are similar in dimension, there are a few that may impede on the driver or passengers ability to adjust their seat back. This can be a problem for both the driver and your kiddo’s safety.
The next thing that’s important to know, is to steer clear of second hand or used car seats. There are SO many factors to consider when it comes to car seat safety. Buying second hand or even borrowing from a friend can pose many risks including…
- Manufacturer expiration
- Missing parts
- Missing product manual
- And even a missing model number and manufacture date label. Again both essential to staying on top of recalls, and car seat expirations.
Lastly, always take into consideration your child’s specific size and weight measurements when choosing and installing a car seat.
Infant vs. Convertible…
There are two basic options when it comes to car seats for your kiddos. Either infant, or convertible
INFANT CAR SEATS – Infant car seats are usually seen as a better option to accommodate newborns. Most newer models are designed to accommodate and protect children up to 35 lbs. The super functional and nice thing about infant seats is they are portable, can be used as infant carriers, rockers, or a safe place to set an infant in or out of a vehicle.
CONVERTIBLE CAR SEATS- Convertible car seats can comfortably fit a child both rear-facing and forward-facing. The fantastic thing about convertible car seats, especially those that can accommodate newborns, is that they grow with your child and can be used over a period of several years. Because of this, many see convertible car seats as a better value.
It’s important to note that Consumer Reports recommends infant seats as a first step because of their heightened security and better fit.
Always, always make sure to read the manufacturer’s instruction manual before installing or harnessing a child in the seat. Some basic tips are as follows…
0-2 YEARS OF AGE
- At a minimum, car seats should be rear-facing until your child turns 2 years old.
- Keep your kiddo rear-facing as long as possible, as it provides better back and neck support in the event of an accident.
- When rear-facing seats, make sure the car seat is installed at the correct recline angle. Most car seats have built-in angle indicators or adjustors that help with this step.
- Every car seat needs to be installed using either the lower anchors or the seat belt to secure it in place. If you choose to use a seat belt to install your car seat, pay close attention to how to lock your seat belt in the vehicle owner’s manual.
- A car seat is BEST placed in the middle of the back seat of your car.
- Harness straps should lie flat, not twisted, and be placed through the slot that is at or below your child’s shoulders.
- Make sure the chest clip is at the same level as the baby’s armpits.
- The car seat must ALWAYS be secured tightly in the vehicle. It should not move side-to-side or front-to-back more than 1 inch when pulled at the belt path.
2 YEARS OF AGE AND UP
- Children should remain rear-facing up until 2 years of age, and may remain rear-facing beyond this time.
- Sometimes, children can outgrow the rear-facing size requirements before they turn 2, in this case, we encourage you to continue to go rear-facing until it impedes their comfort.
- Once a child is no longer comfortable rear-facing, and has met the forward-facing minimum height and weight requirements, it’s considered appropriate to make the switch,
- For forward-facing seats that have a tether strap, connect it to the tether anchor and tighten. This step is very important as it limits forward head movement in a crash.
- Harness straps should lie flat, not twisted, and be placed through the slot that is at or above your child’s shoulders.
- It’s encouraged to continue to forward-face a child in a convertible car seat until they’ve outgrown its maximum forward-facing height and weight limits.
UP TO 12 YEARS OF AGE
- If a child has outgrown the maximum forward-facing height and weight requirements for their convertible seat, it’s recommended they should use a booster seat along with the car’s seat belt up until 12 years of age.
- Children under 13 should remain seated in the back seat due to the dangers that the front seat airbag presents in the event of a collision.
If you’re still feeling nervous about installing your child’s car seat solo, you can find a Car Seat Safety Technician near you who will properly install and teach you how to install your car seat. Many of these technicians reside in fire stations or police stations around the country. In this case you will always want to call ahead of time to ensure someone certified is available.
To find a Car Seat Inspection Station near you visit http://www.safercar.gov/cpsApp/cps//index.htm
We encourage all families to become familiar with the following resources to help you keep your kiddos safe and sound...
Safe travels, mamas…
Maggie Price MA, CLC | Founder of www.babytalkco.com