I am going to admit something I really don’t like to admit. I unknowingly put both of my children in danger. I didn’t take car seat safety seriously. I wasn’t informed. I didn’t read the manual. I made a mistake. However, I am so very lucky that my mistake didn’t cause anyone to be injured or worse because thankfully I did not get into an accident.
I’ve been tossing around the idea of writing this for a while. I’m afraid of the haters & what they will say about my ignorance but what ultimately changed my mind was a recent comment in a mom group. “Mind your own business, it’s my right as a parent to do what I think is right. I would never put my child in danger. What are you a perfect mom?” The mom had posted a photo of her child improperly restrained and a well-being mom tried to offer some help. As the momma-bears we are, she jumped into defense mode & shut down. It’s the exact reason I don’t offer unsolicited car seat advice publicly. So this is my advice to everyone, learn from my mistakes. No one is perfect & there is nothing wrong with fixing things you didn’t realize were a problem.
Here is my little boy, all comfy & cute in his car seat at a skating rink. We weren’t in the car at the time but I am still going to use this as an example of what’s wrong.
- The strap covers- Only use strap covers that come with the car seat. Aftermarket covers are often bulky and do not let the straps sit where they belong.
- The bundleme- Nothing should go between the baby and the car seat. It will interfere with the straps and can compress in an accident, allowing the child to slip out of the seat.
- The chest clip- Chest clips belong on the chest, not the belly. When on the chest the clip is ensuring that the straps are lining up correctly on his shoulders.
My oldest is two in this photo, this one is probably one of the ones that make me shutter the worst.
1. The puffy jacket- Puffy jackets can compress, they aren’t safe, don’t do it, it’s not worth it.
2. The chest clip- As mentioned before, it belongs on the chest, not the belly.
3. The headrest & straps- When forward facing, the straps should come from above the shoulders. The headrest & straps are much to low to be safe.
Finally, Here we have my oldest, when she was just shy of 4 years old.
1. The lack of harness- She was only 3 years old. At 3 years old most children are recommended to still be rear facing. They then will move to a harnessed forward facing seat. A high back booster should not have been used until around 5+ years old.
2. The shoulder strap- A shoulder strap should be threaded through the shoulder strap guide to ensure a proper sit over the shoulder, not across her arm.
3. The headrest- This seat has an adjustable headrest which is not on the correct setting. It should be higher to ensure her shoulders are flat on the back of the seat.
Know better, do better. I had someone approach me when my youngest was about 3 months & let me know that the first picture wasn’t safe. I got very upset & defensive. Then I sat down & started researching. I am insanely neurotic about car seat safety now. It’s far too easy and important. I already had the tools(all my car seats were perfectly fine & safe) I just needed to use them correctly. What was I gaining by not using them correctly? Nothing. What was I risking? My child’s life. It was so simple, I didn’t understand how I never saw it earlier.
So here are a few pointers for anyone looking to fix things asap.
#1. Call a local CPST to come help. Not all firefighters or police officers are properly trained. You can locate one on https://cert.safekids.org/find-tech and they will always be happy to help.
#2. Nothing puffy or thick between the child and their seat or the harness. This includes puffy coats, blankets, etc. I know its cold but it is worth the two second to take that coat off when you get to the car. We personally would just wrap our some in a blanket & carry the coat. I even made a fleece poncho that went over the car seat They now also make car seat specific coats, they aren’t cheap but they can be worn in the car seat. Check out BuckleMe Baby Coats and OneKid Outerwear.
#3. Proper fit. When rear-facing the straps should come from at or below the shoulders(the closest setting) when forward facing they should come from at or above(The closest setting). Also, make sure the straps aren’t too loose or too tight. You shouldn’t be able to pinch the harness together vertically at their shoulders.
#4. Chest clip. It belongs right about armpit level, over their sternum. You want that chest clip to ensure that the shoulder straps are lined up correctly.
#5. Read the manual. Your car seat came with one & it very easily explains installation. All seats are a bit different. Reading it will help & if you’ve lost it you can usually find them online.
A good thing to remember is that by changing the way you do things you are not admitting or saying you are a bad parent, you are simply changing what you are doing because you’ve learned more. If you have questions reach out to a CPST and read your manual. Remember that kids grow and car seat safety needs to be regularly reassessed to make sure straps are correct, children are in the right seats and weight/height limits are not exceeded. Also, don’t refer only to the minimum requirements, just because a child falls into the range for a certain seat or position does not mean it is the safest option.
Giant shout out to Staci Nouri, CPST, for her proofreading & input on this post!