It’s no secret that the misuse rate for carseats is of a skyrocketing percentage so here is some info on how an infant bucket seat and how to properly use it.
1) Every seat is different with the handlebar rules!
It once was pretty standard that all infant seats needed the carrying handle positioned back while the seat was in the car. That is now no longer the case. While some infant seats still require the bar all the way back, some seats give the option of it being in either position and some *require* the handle up forward as a rebound bar in an accident! Make sure you check your carseats specific manual on what is the safe way. Do not just assume whatever way you’ve been doing it is safe and will be effective in an accident as different seats are designed to react in different ways in an accident and have been tested with the bar in the spot required by the manufacturer.
2) Never use an infant seat on a shopping cart!
I know you are all tired of hearing this but it truly is not safe and is going against the manufacturers instructions. Many infant seats have that ability to “click” into a cart but that metal snapping device is not designed for a cart. It is the device that securely attaches the infant seat to it’s base and it can be damaged or worn down by shopping carts, which will prevent it from working properly in the car. While placing an infant seat on top of the cart may not feel like the biggest crime, babies have died from this common misuse. If the infant seat absolutely needs to be used in a store put in in the body of the cart, where it is slightly more protected if the cart takes a tipping. Better yet, when able, wear your baby in a baby carrier.
3) Don’t use it as an all around infant seat
I know how much we want to let the sleeping baby sleep and use that infant carrier as a way to bring the baby into any and every place but Carseats are for cars! The less you use the seat outside of the car, the better. Babies left in their seats for extended periods of time have even had their oxygen levels diminished, which can carry some extreme consequences including death.
4) Outgrowing an infant seat does not mean time to Forwardface!
We know that infant seats are NOT made to forward face but what not everyone realizes is that being past the infant seat stage does not mean it is time to get a forwardfacing seat. The next stage after an infant seat is a convertible seat (preferably one with a nice, high rearfacing weight!). a 12 month old has a very immature spine and the force put on his or her neck in a forward facing crash can be severe enough to cause some major life long injuries and even internal decapitation. The longer a child can rearface, the better!
See in this video (below) how the forward facing infant is violently thrown forward. Imagine how much stress that is on a neck that is not strong and able to handle any real force yet? I mean, these kids haven’t even been supporting their heads very long! Meanwhile, the rearfacing child, in the same impact, experiences very little movement. His seat takes on the impact while he stays safely cradled within it. This is what we want for our children! The best chance possible of walking away free of injury in an accident. So move into a convertible carseat that will allow your child to continue rearfacing until at LEAST 2 years old or until he meets the max weight/height restrictions of the seat.
5) Never buy or use a USED or EXPIRED carseat
This goes for ANY kind of carseat. What is wrong with a carseat from a yardsale or consignment shop? Who knows! That’s exactly the problem. We do not know the seats history, if it has ever been in an accident, if it was stored improperly, washed in a way not permitted by the manual, ect. And sure, we can ask a previous owner but how well do you know them? It is nice to believe that every owner out there is honest about their carseats condition but the fact is, THEY may not even realize that they misused the seat in a way that permanently damaged it. Expired seats can never be trusted for use because it is beyond it’s years of what it has been tested to last. Do not forget that it is just a hunk of plastic and plastic warps and distorts with time. Not to mention that harness straps wear and stretch and become less reliable with age. You do not want to trust an unknown or expired carseat with your child’s life.
6) Do not Wash the harness straps unless Manual permits it!
Most carseat manuals tell users not to wash the harness straps! That even includes very mild soaps at times. Harness straps can be deteriorated or weakened when they have outside agents and chemicals added to them. Even a natural solution like a simple Distilled White Vinegar is an acid that could do a lot of harm to the harness and keep it from holding up under the stress of an accident.
In the end, the biggest rule is to read your infant seat manual. Never assume that your last infant seat will be a reflection of your current one’s rules. The carseat is the main thing protecting your baby in a crash so properly using the seat 100% of the time gives them the best chance of never being hurt in an accident. If you need help with installation or understanding your seats manual, find a seat check or CPST in your area to help you. CLICK HERE and HERE to find a seat check near you
-Bess Bedell/A Warrior Mom is a Safekids Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician