Yes, most people are usually making at least one of these mistakes, if not more. And just one of these mistakes can be difference between a safe and happy baby/child and an injured (or worse) child.
1- Placing your infant carseat on the shopping cart
Yes, this common way of traveling with your baby is dangerous and is warned about in your carseat manual! Carseats are not safe on shopping carts. Even when they get “clipped on” that little clicking device was not created for carts- it is specific to snapping the seat into the base and having it double as a shopping cart clip won’t help your baby if the cart tips over going off the curb wrong. Babies are actually injured and even killed every year from this! When out, make use of a good baby carrier. And if you really need to use the bucket seat, put the bucket seat into the main area of the cart and drag another cart around with you to put belongings in. Annoying? yes. That is why I recommend using a mai tai carrier or a soft structured carrier like an ergo.
For more info on infant seats in shopping carts- Click Here
2- Using thick/fluffy Jackets in the carseat
It’s cold out now for our little ones so every other picture on FB has turned into parents showing off their bundled baby in their carseat, all ready to hit the road. Do not do this! When a child is in a winter coat, there is no way to make carseat straps secure against their bodies. No matter how much you tighten the straps, it won’t really be fitted to them but the force of a car accident will be able to flatten that Jacket like a pancake and suddenly the child’s body can be ejected from their seat because of all the slack in straps. To keep your little one warm this winter- use fleece as a carseat jacket. Fleece compresses really well. Then keep blankets in the car, let them keep their hats and gloves on, and you can even use their big ole winter jacket as their blanket over them in the car.
3- Using after products with your seat
I know you love the pattern and color of that etsy shop carseat cover or feel that infant insert will help make your baby fit into their bucket seat better but it’s a big no no. The only products that are approved with YOUR carseat are the ones made by the same company that they say is for use with that carseat. You see, if you have a Graco Snugride whatever, they have only tested it to make sure it worked well in a crash with their own products. That etsy shop cover make not stay secured to the seat in a crash. It could slip off and instead, bunch around your child in a dangerous manner. Or the slots may not be in the exact perfect spots to not interfere with how the straps function. Remember, the point of your carseat is to keep your child as safe as possible in the event of a crash so you don’t want anything coming around that could cause it to fail it’s job and not keep your child as protected as it should.
For your little newborn bundle, if your seat does not come with it’s own extra padding to keep them snug, it is far safer to roll up recieving blanket to put between the (already harnessed in) baby and the sides of the seat.
4- Not properly harnessing your child into their seat
There are so many ways to harnesses your child incorrectly from twisted straps, to loose straps to a chest clip that is too low or high to be considered on their chest. Each and every harnessing feature on the carseat needs to be correctly done 100% of the time. If even one aspect of it is off, it can result in severe injury, or even death, during a car accident.
Straps- The straps should never be twisted. There is no way for the seats to be snug like they need to be if they are twisted up. By snug, that means you shouldn’t be able to pinch them once child is buckled in. The straps need to be at the proper height for you child as well. If your child is rearfacing, the shoulder straps should be Even to their shoulder or BELOW their shoulders. If they are forward facing their shoulder straps need to be even to their shoulders are ABOVE shoulder height. This makes a big difference in how they will be impacted in a crash.
The chest clip is pretty self explanatory, yet I never fail to see chest clips down by belly buttons. The chest clip always goes on the chest. This is about armpit height. It’s really important that the chest clip is appropriately placed. When the straps of a seat are loose and the clip is in front of the belly, there has been circumstances where the clip broke during the accident and actually injures the child. When used correctly, the straps and chest clip on your seat are life savers. When used wrong, they are useless in an accident and can even be dangerous.
5- Using the wrong seat for your child
Did you turn your child forward facing as soon as it became legal (they have to be a year old AND 20 lbs or more) or even sooner? Did you start boostering them at 3 or 4 or 5 years old? Did you know this really is not at all recommended? The AAP recommends a minimal of 2yrs Rearfacing or until you meet the maximum limits of your convertible carseat (which usually means LONGER). Many convertible carseats allow kids to rearface now to 40 and even 45 lbs! For those worrying about their legs, rest assure your child is very comfortable sitting with their legs crossed or up on the back seat of the car. Kids are extremely flexible and it’s often more comfortable for them to have something their legs can rest on instead of being left to dangle. On the safety concern many parents have about carseats rearfacing toddlers, there has never been a case of broken legs or death because of rearfacing a child with long legs. There have been many cases of internal decapitation (a broken neck) from forward facing a child whose spine is still immature and fragile (which, is the case until closer to 3-4yrs old, no matter what their size is).
Once forward facing a child there are so many seats that can keep them harnessed for years and years longer. Many seats harness to 80 lbs! Again, keeping your child in the more secure seat keeps them safer longer. Every step “up” towards a seat belt is a step UP in likelihood that they will be injured in a car accident. When it does come time to booster, because eventually they all hit that time where they ARE too big for the harness (though it’s much older than most kids harness to) they need to be trained in how to properly sit and be mature enough to sit that way 100% of the time. For help on determining if your child is ready to booster- Click Here
6- Letting kids have hard toys to play with in the car
Or even semi hard. All things in the car should be restrained and anything left not tied down, like their carseat toys, should be SOFT. In a car accident everything loose becomes a projectile and even a small toy can become deadly when it hits someone. Stuffed animals are usually the best way to go. Also, this includes letting them have sippy cups in the car. If you want to know more about an incident where this has occurred- Check Here
7- Not reading your manual
I know! We are Americans. We do not need or like manuals. They are long and boring and sometimes just downrigh confusing. Not to mention, we can figure everything out without them. We ARE handy, after all. When it comes to your carseat, though, SCRATCH that! Each and every carseat is unique and has a unique set of instructions. If you don’t know this seat and wing it, you could be throwing your child into a really hazardous situation. Know your seat. Understand what needs to be done because those instructions were written to let you know what needs to be done for that seat to pass our accident test results. One change away from their instruction could lead to having a seat that would not even pass our national standards.
8- Using expired seats
This is not a trick to get you to buy new seats. The carseat manufacturers don’t get to sit in a board meeting and make up numbers for how long their seats are good for. “Hey. let’s make this one 3 yrs! That’ll make them buy another one even sooner”. NO. There is testing that has to be done to determine how long it takes a carseat to start deteriorating and wearing beyond what is safe. Plastic is not a long lasting material. Put it in a place where the sun beats on it through glass, and it wears even quicker. Do yourself a favor and do not use, give away, sell or encourage anyone else to use an expired carseat no matter what its condition looks like to you. Treat it like it’s been built out of bombs. For more info on expiration dates on seats Click Here