Monday, October 15, 2012

My take on car seat safety

Before I write anything, let me tell you that I am not a car seat expert. In no way shape or form. I'm not claiming to be. I'm also not perfect... Are you as surprised as I am?  I know, it's astonishing, but I'm not.

Gideon in his car seat

Now why am I writing this? Because I see pictures pop up in my Facebook newsfeed all the time of kids sitting in their seats improperly. Whether it's a baby forward facing (FF) instead of rear facing (RF), or a chest clip in the belly, aftermarket additions, or who knows what else. I see these pics all the time! I've said something a couple of times. It really depends on the person and/or what it is. By the way, I do see pictures of kids who look perfect in their car seats. Not everyone does it incorrectly. Do I think these people are bad mothers? No! I just think they don't know. I didn't know. I honestly don't know why I didn't considering I research EVERYTHING. But for whatever reason, I didn't. I knew the basics. Keep baby RF till 1 year  (this is outdated, it's now 2 years old) . I switched Gideon right at 1 year and I thought I was doing good. I knew others who switched their babies around earlier then that but that wasn't me.

We moved to Korea when Gideon turned 2 and moved right before he turned 4. We brought a FF car seat that had RF limits of 35 pounds and a booster seat that has no harness. You just use the seat belt across it. I know we started with using the original car seat (this is what Gideon used in the states) FF but at some point we started using the booster instead because it was easier and what really was the difference? What's worse is Gideon did not like the seat belt over his chest so we would tuck it behind him in the seat and he just had the lap belt. Thank you Jesus that nothing happened to him and we didn't get into a car accident! Really. I am so thankful.

Some point in time I met a girl name Sheleah who I knew was quite particular about car seats but I just thought it was a quirk of hers (I hope you don't mind that I mention you Sheleah!). I honestly didn't pay that much attention to it but just thought she was a little too particular. I mean we all lived without these extra car seat regulations, right? Of course those of us that didn't aren't here to tell us that... But I honestly didn't think it was that big of a deal.

After we moved back to the states, for whatever reason I looked the info up. I don't know if it was because Sheleah had posted a video or I just happened to read something about it online, but all of a sudden I started researching and I couldn't believe what I was seeing! Crash test videos do it for me, and when I saw one of a child FF vs RF, I felt so bad that I chanced Gideon's life like that. I would have been devastated if something had happened to him. In case you're curious, now that Gideon is almost 40 pounds which is the max FF limit on my car seat, we upgraded him to a Graco Nautilus that FF's to 65 pounds in a harness. This way he is as safe as I can get him.

So now i'm on the thought that "you know better, you do better." Here's a few things that i've learned that I want to share. This is not an all encompassing list. This is just a few things on my mind.

1. Rear Face your child's car seat as long as possible! The new AAP recommendation is to FF a child's seat until at least 2 years old or they outgrow their limits on their car seat. What does this mean? This means you RF as long as possible! The average convertible car seat is 35 pounds however there are better options out there that have even higher weight limits. That means that if a child's legs are reaching the back of the seat, that is not a reason to turn them around! The child can cross their legs. They're not uncomfortable or scrunched. Actually my son who is FF crosses his feet up on his seat because he doesn't like to leave them dangling. It's more comfortable for him. I understand some children want to look around and may get upset that they can't. Either stick to it and hope they get over it (some will!) or buy them a mirror that hangs on the back of the car so they can see more (or both!). A child's safety should outweigh EVERYTHING! Here's some great videos on RF vs FF.

This first video is not in English but gets the point across

This breaks down what parts of the body will be hurt in RF vs FF

Here is a great article on why to RF as long as possible. It also explains how front and side impact crashes are 96% of the car crashes out there and that's why these safety videos are shown with frontal impact. In the small chance you are in a rear impact crash, your child is as safe as you would have been FF in a frontal impact crash. CPS Safety.

2. Chest clips belong on the chest. What does this mean? That means they are not supposed to be down by the lock but up by their arm pits or nipple level. Why is this? Because a chest clip is meant to break away in a car accident. It's what keeps the the belt positioned correctly. If the belt is too low it might not break away and could cause internal damage. Not to mention since the belt is now not positioned correctly, the baby could be ejected from the seat. Move that chest clip up!

3. No aftermarket additions. What does this mean? That cute bear cover that goes on the straps, not a good idea. The pretty zebra one? Not that one either. If it was not made by the car seat manufacturer to go with the car seat, you should not use it! It alters the fit and/or can compress in an accident which could void the warranty and cause the car seat to not work properly. After all, that's what we want right? To have the car seat work properly. If there is issues with the straps rubbing on the baby, it is safe to take baby socks, cut off the toes, and slide those over the straps. They are super thin and have no padding to them to alter the fit in any way.

4. Harness straps need to fit snugly.  What does this mean? There should be no slack in the straps whatsoever. Try doing the pinch test. If you can pinch any of the straps up, then it needs to be tighter.

The one on the left is correct, the one on the right needs tightened

5. No bulky clothing. What does this mean? This means a child should not be using bulky jackets or blankets, or any type of bunting in a car seat. I understand you want your children warm, we all do. But if you child is wearing any type of bulky jacket you will have to loosen the straps. You may be able to do the pinch test afterwards and it may be snug, but in the case of an accident the compression could be so much that the child could fly free from the straps. Try using a really thin jacket or laying the bulky jacket/blankets on top of the car seat after child is properly restrained.

There are so many other things out there to watch for that i'm not even touching on but like I said, i'm addressing all of those random Facebook pictures that pop up through my newsfeed every day. If you are one of these people, i'm not judging you! I'm just trying to educate you on something you may not know, just like I didn't know. There are people out there that are misinformed that shouldn't be. I tried to share some info with a mom who had turned her less then 1 year old FF because his feet were touching the seat. The mother was adamant that it was OK because a firefighter told her it was. I know he's a firefighter and should know, but they're not always trained in car seat safety. They may not know! You are the parent and it is your job to educate yourself for your child's safety. It's one of those things that I thought I knew so I never thought twice about. There's nothing wrong with not knowing. It's when you do know and you still make bad decisions where it's a problem. Our children's safety should be our #1 priority. Not convenience. We always think it could never happen to use, but every day it happens to thousands. Don't be a statistic. Here's some more great websites to check out for more information:

Is rear facing safe when you're rear ended?

11 DEADLY mistakes you didn't know you were making!

Car Safety Basics


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