This picture would not earn me “Mother of the Year” awards now! There are so many mistakes with this car seat I can’t name them all. My only excuse is that this was 25 years ago! Don’t beat yourself up if you have made mistakes with your child’s car seat…just make the changes now! Information is empowering!
The car seat, one of the best protection devices developed for children. It makes me cringe to think of the days when children would ride next to their parents standing on the seat, or in Mom’s arms. I also cringe when I think about some of the mistakes I made when my kids were little…I certainly did not have them restrained correctly when I look at current recommendations. The incidence of death and serious injury of children in accidents when properly restrained has decreased dramatically. The key is properly restrained. In order to do ALL the right things when you use your car seat, a parent often needs an engineering technology degree. Have you seen those instructions?! There are several common mistakes that many parents unknowingly make when putting their precious child in their car seat.
1. The chest clip should be positioned at the nipple line, or directly even with your child’s arm pits.
- This keeps the harness straps positioned correctly and places the clip over your child’s chest protecting their soft little tummy and organs from the clip in an accident.
2. The harness straps should be snug.
- When your child is buckled in, with your thumb and forefinger try to pinch up the harness strap. If you can pinch any excess, the harness is too loose. A harness that is too loose could result in your child traveling up the back of the car seat during a crash and being ejected.
3. The car seat must be installed tight.
- When installed, you should not be able to move the car seat more than an inch side to side or front to back. If the seat can move more than that amount, during the force of a crash it will loosen even more and your child could be violently tossed and whip lashed in the seat.
4. Car seats expire!
- Just like milk, car seats have an expiration date! Because there are safety developments over the years, an older car seat may not follow the latest safety recommendations. The plastic on the car seats will also tend to break down with the continued heating and cooling. Materials just wear out! Straps become looser, and the plastic may develop microscopic cracks that you can’t see. Many car seats have an expiration date stamped on the bottom of the seat. If there is no expiration date, your car seat expires 6 years after the manufacture date. That is the MANUFACTURE date, not the PURCHASE date. So, if you buy a car seat at an overstock store like a Big Lots (which is perfectly fine) those seats may have sat on a shelf for a longer period of time. Be sure to find the manufacture date stamped on the car seat.
5. Dirty harness straps are safer than washed ones!
- Kids are messy, and often the harness straps have everything from food, to spit up to something worse on them. They are NOT meant to be washed. The straps can be stretched and the material broken down from detergent and water. The fire-retardant also will be removed when you scrub with detergent. If you must wash the straps, the best way is spot cleaning with a damp cloth. If you have already scrubbed those harness straps clean, contact the manufacturer and explain what you have done. Some will send you a new set.
- You can wash the car seat pad if it is removable and your manual states that this is OK. Sunlight can do wonders for odors…set that seat out and let it bake in the sunshine!
6. The correct harness strap position depends if your child is backward facing or forward facing.
- When your child is facing backward, the harness straps should be coming out at or below your child’s shoulders. Put your child in the car seat, be sure their little bottoms are down in the seat well, put the chest clip in the correct position and take a look. If the harness straps are entering the seat above your child’s shoulders, you need to change the positioning of the harness straps. This positioning of the harness straps prevents your child from traveling up the back of the seat to far in a crash. The more movement a child has in a crash, the greater the force on his or her little body.
- When your child is forward facing, the harness straps should be coming out at or above your child’s shoulders. Once again, when your child is correctly positioned in the seat, if the straps are coming out below your child’s shoulders they need to be adjusted. This positioning of the harness straps protects a forward facing child’s head and neck during a crash keeping it from being thrown forward.
7. Car seats need to be replaced after a crash.
- Car seats protection is for one crash only. If you have been involved in a crash, even if the car seat looks fine, the entire seat should be replaced even the base. If the crash was a “fender bender” you can look at your car seat manual and see the recommendation. Many still suggest replacement. Most insurance companies will cover the cost of replacing the car seat. Once again, it is difficult to see any microscopic damage to the plastic or the stress on the harness straps that can occur with a crash, minor or major.
- In a previous post, I wrote about the dangers of buying certain baby equipment used (Be Frugal and Safe) Take a look and see which equipment is not safe to buy used. Car seats that are used have no history coming with them, you have no idea if they have been in a crash, how they were cared for (were those harness straps scrubbed?) or even if all the parts are present. Save money in other ways….not on a car seat.
- If your car seat has expired or is damaged, cut the straps before disposing. This ensures that no one will use the damaged or expired seat.
- There are so many cute snow suits and jackets for kids, just don’t put your child in that cute coat strapped into the car seat! In the even of a crash, the puffy, heavy coat will be compressed by the harness straps due to the force of the crash. As that jacket compresses, the straps become loose, and your child could be ejected from the car. So how do you keep your child warm? Warm the car up first, throw a blanket over the child after the child is strapped in the seat, or for an older child put their winter coat on backwards after the child is strapped in.
10. No “add ons” to the car seat.
- No additional items strapped to or put on a car seat that did not come with the seat. Toys that hang from the seat, additional padding etc. may change the way your child is positioned in the seat, or come flying off and become a projectile during an accident. Things like mirrors attached to the back seat, or roller blinds to block the sun are also dangerous projectiles during a crash.
11. Make a choice—LATCH system or seat belt…not both!
- Every car seat manufacturer states that the LATCH system in a car OR the seat belt should be used when installing the car seat….not both. It does not make the car seat installation safer to use both. One or the other please!
- LATCH has a weight limit, 65 lbs between the car seat and your child. Once the seat and your child weigh over 65 lbs together, you must install with the seat belt!
12. Rear facing until your child out grows the weight limit of your convertible car seat for rear facing.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics is saying rear facing until AT LEAST 2! The weight limit for rear-facing is 35-40 pounds for most convertible seats, with a few seats going as high as 45 pounds. The height limit is the same for any rear-facing seat – the child’s head must be at least 1 inch below the top of the car seat. A child that is facing backwards is 5 times more safe in a crash. Children are flexible and can cross their legs easily and comfortably when facing backwards. The worry about leg injury is unfounded. Recent studies show us that forward facing children have more leg injuries that rear facing!
13. The handle on the infant carrier seat does not have to be down.
- This is the recommendation that surprised me the most. Depending on the manufacturer, the handle can be positioned in several different ways. You must check your car seat manual. Most will allow you to place the handle up. This actually allows the car seat to fit in cars easier as they take up less room. Check out that manual.
- Don’t add anything to your car seat that did not come with it. The car seat’s safety testing is not valid if you add items like toys to the handle, extra padding, strap padding, or anything else. Stick with what came with the car seat only!
- This was the most shocking information I found. Most of our older children are riding with a seat belt that is positioned unsafely. Here are 5 questions to ask to see if your child can use a seat belt only without a booster:
- Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
- Do the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
- Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip? (For squirmy kids, try switching the seat belt into the locking mode.) The car seat lady (love this site….written by experts in the field!)
- There are so many ins and outs of buying and installing a car seat. My suggestion is you have a professional install it the first time and show you how. If you have your seat in now, make an appointment to have someone check it. They will make sure your child is as safe as possible. Call your local Fire or Police Departments, usually they have a certified car seat specialist there. Most local hospitals will too. Ride safe!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
Here is a list for “tools of the Trade” for literacy! What items do you have in your home to promote the love of reading?
I admit it, I am a list maker. I love to make a list and cross off things I accomplish. There are days that I write something on my list that I have already completed…just so I can cross it off! So because I love lists, I put together a simple list of tools for literacy. These are items that every home with children should have to encourage a love of reading and writing. So, get your pens out and start crossing off the items you have….or make a list of things you need to foster your child’s growth in literacy.
1. Books in several places of your home that are accessible to your children.
2. More than one rhyme book.
3. Several picture books.
4. A book of nursery rhymes.
5. Chalkboard or white board.
5. Unlined paper.
6. Crayons, markers, pencils, and sidewalk chalk.
7. Magnetic letters.
8. Alphabet books.
9. Children’s Bookmarks.
10. Classic chapter books to read to your child.
11. Reading area in your home.
12. Supplies for your child to make their own book.
13. Children’s poetry books.
14. Sorting toys.
15. Puppets for your child to act out a story.
16. Books about colors.
17. Books about animals.
18. Books about how things work.
19. Books about nature and the earth.
20. Silly books.
21. Stationary for your child to write a letter.
22. Books about the seasons.
23. Music with rhythm.
24. Letter games.
25. Children’s magazines.
26. A library card for your child.
27. Books about feelings.
28. Books about childhood events like new siblings, potty training, going to school etc.
29. Alphabet blocks.
30. Shaving cream to draw letters in.
31. Finger paints.
32. Play dough and letter cookie cutters.
33. Letter matching games.
34. Pop up and flap books.
35. Touch and feel books.
What else??? Post your suggestions of “tools of the trade” for literacy!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
How anxious are you about vaccinating your child? How much of your anxiety is rooted in fact?
It seems at least weekly I hear questions from parents that are truly anxious about vaccines. There is so much information for parents to read, and much of it is very scary. There is a lot of untrue information circulating on the web, and it is very difficult to determine what is true and untrue regarding vaccines. There are so many questions today…and most of these questions are a result of true fear and misinformation. Most parents don’t really understand the vaccines that are recommended and don’t really know too much about the diseases they prevent. Parents have a right to know and to understand the “whys” for all the vaccines that are recommended and parents have the right to know what information is rooted in research based science.
So how can a parent find out the truths about vaccines?
- Do your homework. If you have questions about vaccines do a little research. The internet is great, but be sure that the websites are reputable. Sites you trust should be authored by people in medicine or science, not just parents of children.
- Remember, there are many alarming stories that are online, many are not based on fact! As parents, we always want a reason when our child becomes ill or is diagnosed with a disease. Many times vaccines become a convenient “explanation”.
- Bring your questions and the information you find to your child’s doctor. Your child’s doctor should take the time to go over any questions you have prior to giving your child his or her vaccines. As parents you need to have open discussions about your questions or anxieties. Have these discussions at the start of your child’s well child exam, not at the moment the vaccines are going to be given.
- Always know what vaccines your child is receiving and why. You should always receive a Vaccine Information Statement or VIS for every vaccine your child will be receiving. Read this information, it will tell you what vaccine your child is receiving, what disease it is protecting your child from, and any typical side effects you may see.
Remember, vaccines prevent our children from devastating diseases that most of us have never (thankfully) seen. We sometimes still see outbreaks of disease in pockets where there are children or adults who are not fully vaccinated. Your child is NOT protected from these diseases if he or she is not fully vaccinated, THAT is a fact. We will look very closely at all the recommended childhood vaccines this week and hopefully some of the anxieties that you have as a parent will be put to rest. Worry is a part of parenthood…but vaccines should not be on your worry list!
Here are some websites that I like…
- www.healthychildren.org This is a website the American Academy of Pediatrics publishes for parents. The information is up to date and easy to understand.
- www.nnii.org The National Network for Immunization Information provides up to date information for parents and health care professionals. All the information is evidence based with links to scientific journal articles supporting the information. The National Network for Immunization Information is an independent group that receives no funding from drug companies or the federal government.
- www.vaccine.chop.edu This website is from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Vaccine Education Center. It has reliable information about all vaccines and covers most of the “hot topics” that parents read online. There are videos and information on every vaccine recommended for your child.
- www.CDC.gov This website will give science based information and Vaccine Information Statements for all vaccines. Yearly updates for the vaccine schedule will be published here too.
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
As a young Mom, I had worries too….but so many of our worries are not worth the energy it takes to think about them.
I visited with a new Mom this past week, she had a precious, beautiful little girl. How I loved that time in my life! I have such wonderful memories of those times, but let’s face it….new Moms have a lot on their plate. I remember those days of trying to get to know this precious bundle who I had prepared for, thought about, and anxiously awaited for 9 long months. Who was this little person? How would I handle this most important job of my life? What if I wasn’t very good at it? What does she need when she cries? Is she eating enough? Sleeping enough? Is she sick and I don’t know it?
After 4 children and watching countless other new Moms navigate through those first few months of motherhood, I realize that many of those doubts, concerns, and yes worries were such a waste of my energy. If I could, I would definitely worry less. There are about 10 concerns that I hear over and over from new Moms….and were definitely on my radar as a new Mom, but in actuality most of the time they are not worth the energy of worry….
Even if you have dreamed, planned, prepared, and anxiously awaited your baby for 9 months, hours after birth you might just look at your baby and feel more exhaustion and questions than love. That is normal! Some Moms feel immediate connection; some Moms need a few days of feedings, cuddling, and interaction to feel the bonding process. Your baby will respond to you feeding, holding, and cuddling. Even if you are still struggling to feel connected with this new little being…fake it until you feel it…Bonding deepens over time and you will fall in love with your baby, trust me.
Babies cry…..it is a fact. Some babies cry more than others….that is a fact too. Newborns will cry when they are hungry, tired, wet, bored, over stimulated, under stimulated, or maybe for no reason at all. Crying in itself will not hurt a baby, although it can be alarming to you. Rather than worry about why your baby is crying, it might be better to learn how to comfort your baby. Many times you may never know why your baby is crying….but you may learn what comforts. The first 12 weeks is a learning curve for you and your baby, and crying usually will decrease between 12 and 16 weeks. Of course, if your baby is inconsolable, a talk with your pediatrician is a wise option, but most of the time your baby’s crying is simply part of mothering a newborn.
So many Moms worry if their baby is eating enough….or eating too much. New Moms need to learn feeding cues and adjust to breast-feeding or bottle feeding and this takes a little time. If your baby is having 6 wet diapers in a 24 hour period, seems content after eating, and has gained weight ….relax. Unless your pediatrician is concerned about weight gain, don’t become obsessed with a baby scale. Trust your baby’s cues and your instincts.
Babies strain, get red faced, make noise, and pull their knees up when pooping. Babies usually poop a lot in the beginning. Breast fed babies will often poop with every feeding in the beginning and then will slow down later and may even skip a few days without pooping. Babies are not constipated unless the poop is hard and “marble like”. Call if your baby’s poop has any blood or is mucousy…but don’t be poop obsessed!
5. Spit up
Most babies will spit up. Some babies spit up a lot! If your baby is gaining weight well, most of the time spitting up is nothing to worry about. Be sure that you are feeding your baby slowly, burping frequently, and keeping your baby upright for a bit after feedings…but most spitting up will stop with time. Happy spitters, babies who don’t cry after eating and spitting up, are just fine. Once your baby is sitting up well the spitting up will diminish.
Newborns sneeze…sometimes a lot! Sneezing helps them clear their nasal passages from fuzz (from all their new blankets and clothing) congestion (remember their little nasal passages are very small) and open up a nostril when it is pushed shut from being pushed up against you when nursing. No worries unless your baby is running a fever, seems ill, or has difficulty breathing. Most sneezing is simply normal!
New Moms can’t wait to get a stretch of sleep, and many worry that they will never sleep again! Time and patience those first few weeks are the key to success. Your baby simply will not sleep through the night right away….that is normal. Knowledge is power, but reading sleep books, putting pressure on yourself to establish sleep routines and worry about if you are doing it right is a waste of precious moments. Follow your instincts and all babies will eventually sleep through the night. Be proactive in establishing good sleep routines, but lose the obsession. With healthy routines, and trusting your instincts most babies will start to become more predictable and begin to self soothe and sleep longer stretches by 16 weeks. Time is usually the key. Trust me, you won’t remember if your baby slept 6 hours at 12 weeks or 12 hours at 6 months when you watch them head off to their first day of school.
Call it competition, comparison, whatever; it is normal for Moms to compare babies and read books to see if their baby is progressing on time. Babies often develop at different rates. There is a sequence of milestones and a general age at which babies should reach them but there is a wide range of normal. Ask your pediatrician to give you a heads up on what is expected at each age, but don’t become competitive with other babies in your play group! Let your baby learn and develop on his time frame, and guess what, a baby who walks at 9 months and a baby who walks at 14 months look the same at 5!
9. Losing baby weight
Wow is there pressure to lose the baby weight.! Pick up any magazine and there
will be a celebrity looking svelte just weeks after having a baby (Can you say photo shop?) New Moms need to lose this worry and embrace reality. It is unhealthy to try to get back to pre-pregnancy shape in just a few weeks. Focus on your baby not your weight. Eat healthy, sleep when you can, get outside and walk and you will feel more like yourself. Be patient, give yourself time and grace….learn to be a Mom and embrace your new role, the weight will come off in due time.
10. Wanting to read it all
Sometimes new Moms spend a huge amount of time reading books, articles, and surfing the internet in order to gain the knowledge needed to be a Mom. Knowledge is power, but there are times when a book is not the best choice over your own Mom’s intuition. Parent by trusting your “gut”. If it doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t most of the time. Don’t waste too much precious time reading about being the perfect Mom….just be who you are, the perfect Mom for your baby. Read less, enjoy more.
If I could talk to my younger self, I would give myself permission to be an imperfect Mom with a house that wasn’t clean and a child who had spit up on his shirt. I would tell myself to savor each moment and to stop worrying and just live life. I would give myself more permission to eat ice cream and chocolate after a hard day, and to know that some days are successful if the only thing I could say I did was that I fed, loved and kept my kids safe. I would tell myself to ask for help, and that it is fine not to have it all together, and that it is fine for people to see that I didn’t have it all together. If I could sit down with myself 20 years ago, I would say to myself to simply love your kids, breathe deeply, give yourself a break, don’t sweat the small things in life….and don’t worry…..your kids will turn out great in spite of you!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year 60,000 children end up in an emergency department because they took medications while their parent was not looking and over a half million calls each year are made to the poison control centers for the same reason! In recognition of National Poison Prevention Week, the CDC is encouraging everyone to program the Poison Control number into their cell phones: 1-800-222-1222. Take a moment and do it now!
Tips for parents: http://www.cdc.gov/MedicationSafety/parents
- Never leave children alone with medicines. If you are giving or taking medicine and you have to do something else, such as answer the phone, take the medicine with you.
- Do not leave medicines out after using them. Store them in medicine cabinets or other childproof cabinets that young children cannot reach.
- When purchasing medicines for young children, check to make sure they are in child-resistant packaging that you are comfortable using.
- Put the poison control number, 1-800-222-1222, on or near every home telephone and save it on your cell phone.
Poisonous substances in the home:
- Always read labels before using a product.
- Keep all products in their original bottles or containers. Do not use food containers such as cups or jars to store cleaning solutions or other chemicals. Children could drink or eat these substances when in confusing containers.
- Never mix household products together. For example, mixing bleach and ammonia results in a toxic gas.
- Think about using fewer chemicals in your home. Try “green” cleaners like vinegar and baking soda.
- Store all medicines and poisonous items out of reach and locked. Think of layering protection for your child. Store items up out of reach and in a latched cabinet.
- When you are taking or giving medications, do not put the next dose on the counter or leave the bottle out near your child
- Secure the child safety cap every time you use a medicine.
- Never call medicine “candy”.
- Always put cleaning supplies or other chemicals away as soon as they are used.
- Dispose of outdated medications. Do not flush them. Many pharmacies will have medication collection days, check with your pharmacy. If you do not have access to that type of disposal, mix the medications in coffee grounds or used kitty litter and dispose of them in the trash.
- Remain calm.
- Call 911 if you have a poison emergency and the person has collapsed. If the person is alert and awake call poison control immediately.
- Try to have this information ready:
- the victim’s age and weight
- the container or bottle of the poison if available
- the amount consumed if possible
- the time of the poison exposure
- the address where the poisoning occurred
- Stay on the phone and follow the poison control directions.
- If there was something toxic on the person’s skin, begin rinsing with water, and follow further instructions from poison control.
- If there was something splashed into the eyes, begin rinsing with water, and follow further instructions from poison control.
- If the poison was inhaled, have someone bring the person outside for fresh air, and follow further instructions from poison control.
- If the poison was swallowed, wait for instructions from poison control.