Keep your precious cargo safe by using a car seat correctly!
Parents must be sure that their child’s car seat is being used correctly…we all have precious cargo!
I read an article this week that really shocked me. There was a study where 22,000 children in car seats were randomly checked at gas stations. Only 3 percent of children between the age of 1 and 3 were in a properly installed backward car seat. Only 10 percent of 8 to 10-year-old children were in a properly installed booster seat or car seat! That is such a scary thought since car accidents are the leading cause of death for children. To be honest however, car seats are not easy to install correctly! The manuals are long and sometimes confusing, there are different recommendations by auto manufacturers, and to be honest the installation of a car seat has caused many an argument between Moms and Dads!
The newest recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics say that until age 2 your child should sit in a rear facing seat or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer (that means your child could be older than age 2). Children over the age of 2 can sit in a front facing seat with a harness until their weight and height exceeds the car seat’s recommendation. A booster seat should be used until a child is 57 inches tall, which is the average height of an 11-year-old (wow…bet you didn’t realize that!) No child should sit in the front seat until age 13!
Types of car seats:
- Rear facing only
This seat is used for infants up to 22 to 35 pounds depending on the seat. They are small and have handles to carry the seat. Some have a base that can be left in the car.
- Convertible seats that can be used for rear facing
These seats can be used rear facing and then “converted” to forward facing when your child is older. They are bigger than infant seats and do not have handles or a separate base. They often have a higher rear facing weight and height limits which is great for larger babies. They should have a 5 point harness.
- 3 in 1 seats
These seats can be used rear facing, forward facing and as a booster. They may be used longer by your child. (But remember every seat has an expiration date…about 5 years)
Installation for rear facing
- The shoulder straps should be at or below your baby’s shoulders.
- The straps should be snug (you shouldn’t be able to pinch any slack) and the chest clip should be at the nipple line.
- The seat should be tight in the car. You should not be able to move it more than an inch side to side or front to back.
- Never put a rear facing seat in the front seat of a car!
- Make sure the seat is at the correct angle so your baby’s head does not flop down. Many seats have an angle indicator or adjusters that can help with this.
- I recommend having a certified car seat technician help install the car seat. This will help with the many questions parents have and may even prevent Mom and Dad from having an argument! 🙂 Check out this website for information on locations of car seat technicians in your area. http://www.nhtsa.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm
Common questions about rear facing infants
- What if my child’s feet touch the back of the car seat?
No problem…your baby will cross his legs and find a comfortable position. There are few reports of leg injuries from a crash with a baby in this position, but a leg injury is a much less severe injury than a head and neck injury which you are helping to prevent by keeping your child backward facing until at least age 2.
- What do I do if my baby is slouching in the seat?
You may put blanket rolls on both sides of your baby and a small cloth diaper or blanket between the crotch strap and your baby for a while until your baby grows a bit. Do not ever put padding or blankets or anything behind your baby or add any car seat insert unless it came with the seat or was made by the manufacturer of the car seat. Any additions to a seat may make it work a bit differently and provide less protection for your baby!
- What do I do about winter coats?
Remember that thick winter coats, blankets, or clothing should not be put under the car seat harness or straps. Dress your baby in thin layers and then tuck a blanket around your baby over the harness straps if necessary.
Installation of forward facing seats
- Always know the restrictions of your model. Know the maximum weight and height limits for your seat!
- The shoulder straps should be in the slots that are at or above your child’s shoulders. (This is the opposite from the rear facing position)
- You may need to adjust the angle of the seat when you turn it to forward facing, check your car seat manual.
- Choose to use the LATCH system if your car or van has it OR the seat belt. Do not use both. Check your car or van manual and your car seat manual for proper installation with the LATCH or seat belt.
- Use a tether if possible. This is a strap that attaches to the top of the seat. It is often on the seat back of the car or van. This gives extra protection by not allowing the car seat and your child’s head to move too far forward in a crash. All vehicles manufactured from 2000 on have them. Check the weight limit for the use of the tether anchor.
Common questions about forward facing car seats.
- Where is the safest spot for the car seat in the back?
The safest spot is where the seat can be installed properly, it is convenient for you to use safely every time. Some LATCH systems are only on the sides of the back seat. Some car seats only fit well in the middle. It depends on your car seat, your vehicle and the number of children you have on where is best for the car seat!
- Should we use a car seat on a plane?
Most infant and convertible car seats can be used on planes. The seat must have a FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) approval label on it. The FAA and the AAP recommend that children use car seats when flying until age 4. This keeps your child safer during takeoff and landing and in turbulence.
So much information…but so important to keep your child safe. We will continue the conversation over the next few days with more tips. What car seat do you use? Why do you like it?
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
- Posted in: Childhood safety ♦ Growth and Development
- Tagged: air travel with children, booster seat, car seat, car seat installation, car seat recommendations, car seat safety, childhood safety, forward facing car seat, infant, infant car seat, LATCH, preschooler, safety, school age, seat belts, teen years, tether, toddler