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
Part 1 of the “Your Kids are Worth it” series.
I’m writing you today because “you survived it” and “you’re just fine”. I hear these phrases so often. “Well, we didn’t even have seatbelts and we survived!”.
It’s probably true. You are here reading this so I’m guessing you haven’t had any severe head trauma or ever died in a car accident. You’re fine. Your kids probably will be too. Probably.
According to the NCSA, 1,591 children were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2003. That was 6 children per day between ages 0-14 and 694 children per day were injured.
So, yes, your child will probably not be one of those children but the chances are great enough. The chance is there that you could be in a major accident and your child could be injured or killed in it.
Why am I telling you this? Because you have options. Your actions can give your child a better chance of surviving an accident by taking carseat safety seriously. I happen to be of the belief that our kids are worth it. They are worth buying the better carseats for. They are worth inconveniencing ourselves for. Their safety and their lives are worth us putting a little extra effort into keep them as safe as possible when we travel.
The best thing to do when you have young kids is keep them rearfacing! Most convertible carseats sold now have high rearfacing capabilities, allowing kids to rearface to 40 lbs and even 45 lbs. When a child is rearfacing and in an accident, the carseat takes the impact and not their necks.
There should be no rush to forward face a child. ALL people are safer rearfacing in the car than forward facing. The only reason we turn forward facing is because we do not have the seats to accommodate bigger kids and adults eventually need to drive… which requires seeing! Rearfacing is actually 500% safer for a young child! That’s a lot of percentage.
Once a child truly has outgrown the ability to rearface with the seats we have here, they should go into a 5 point harnessed seat that forward faces. Again, being harnessed is massively safer for the child than being in just a seatbelt. Every step UP towards a seatbelt is a step DOWN in safety for your child.
With using the correct carseat for your child, also comes the need to use the carseat properly. Read the carseat manual. And I mean actually read it. Then get it installed into your car per the manual’s direction and if for some reason it is not making sense or the seat is not installing right, find a certified carseat technician who can help you. When putting your child in the carseat, the straps should always be snug against them and the chest clip on their chest (about nipple height).
For more info on using carseats safely, Click Here.
If one day you are in an accident, I want to see you on the relieved end of possibilities- relieved your child was safe and secure and made it through with no serious injury. And even if there is a chance that your child will come out ok without being safely secured, is that a risk you want to take? The odds may work out but there is also a good chance they won’t. Will you be left wishing and wondering if you could have saved them? If taking some extra precautions and making the extra sacrifice could have been all the difference for them? Your child is worth it. They are worth going the extra length and doing everything that is in your power to do to keep them from getting hurt. I know times are hard. I know money is tight. I know time is limited. But in the end, they are still worth it.
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