Feeling perplexed is a universal emotion in parenthood but is there any device specifically designed to be more confusing than a carseat? You’ll need one for what feels like forever and there are so many different types for different age ranges. And then you throw weight and height into that equation and it’s just… a mess.
Even if you’re shaking your head that no, you actually know what you’re doing- we know that your heart is nodding yes. Scientifically, we have proof that no one knows what they’re doing. Seriously, a study proved that.
That means that in the States, we’re probably putting our babies in upside down or some nonsense. Anyway, there are plenty of ways to mess it up but there’s also a lot of help out there for how to do better. They’re common mistakes that everyone has made, unless a major part of their curriculum growing up was pouring over carseat manuals. Which would be a useful education but super unorthodox.
20 They're Not Meant For Sleeping Outside The Car
What’s a trauma injury prevention coordinator's worst pet peeve? Just ask Sharon Evans of Cook Children's Hospital- “There's nothing about the car seat that's designed for sleep. Of course, if the straps aren't tight, the child can kind of slump down. I walk around town and see people using a car seat on the seats at restaurants or putting them on the floor or tables”.
Yup, car seats have “car” in them for a reason and it’s because they’re not prams or strollers.
So if a new parent thinks the transition from car to outside is too good to be true if you keep the kid in the carseat, it’s because it’s not true at all. Or just not a good move.
19 Car Seats Have Expiration Dates, Too
Did you have any idea that many car seats come with a six year expiration date? Of course, that varies between brands and models so don’t take six years as the rule. Be sure to read up your specific seat so you know and don't just make an assumption.
It’s a common mistake parents of multiple children make when passing along a car seat from elder to younger child.
What seems like an easy way to have one less thing to buy, and granted the purchase is a short-term investment whose value begins to immediately depreciate, it is actually flirting with trouble.
18 Some Common Rules Are Outdated
Here’s the good news- car seats are improving every year. As safe as our parents felt when we were in our car seats, we weren’t nearly as protected as today’s little ones. Of course, there's no reason to be jealous since, like… we made it this far. That said, many rules formerly taken as gospel about car seats are no longer relevant. For instance, "The guideline of “12 months old and 20 lbs” is no longer relevant. Instead children SHOULD sit rear-facing as long as possible, at least until age 2. Like, 35 pounds minimum if possible (which is usually the upper weight limit of a convertible seat).
17 Rear-Facing For Longer Than You'd Think
It was just mentioned but here’s more- "In Sweden, children sit rear-facing until they are three or even five years old, then move directly to booster seats. Just because a child’s legs are long enough to press up against the back of the seat does NOT mean they are ready to sit front-facing. It is not unsafe for them to have their knees bent while they sit rear-facing. They are only “too tall” for their seat if the top of their head is less than an inch away from the top of the seat…. the WEIGHT LIMIT is the one to really pay attention to".
16 Back Seat - Always
The effectiveness of a car seat can be diminished due to one thoughtless moment and bad placement- "The safest place for a car seat or booster is in the center position in the back seat. It is 43% safer than the side positions. Obviously, this isn’t always possible if you have multiple small children in seats in a small car, but if possible, try to keep the most vulnerable passenger in the center section.”
While a car seat should absolutely never be in the front seat, be sure to reserve that special spot in the back seat for the smallest baby.
15 Car Seats In The Taxi, Too
Experts positively demand that children always be in a car seat while in a vehicle- no it does not matter who’s driving or if you have to stop home to pick up the car seat because you’re taking an Uber. One expert shares, "Yes, your child should ride in a car seat in a taxi. No, holding them in a Baby Bjorn or carrier does not offer ANY protection from a crash. And if you absolutely must ride sans car seat or booster, sharing a seat belt or holding them on your lap is the most dangerous option of all. Sit them down, buckle them in using their own dedicated belt."
14 Avoid Secondhand And Donating Yours
It’s such a sweet gesture from a friend or relative who just wants to help and it seems like an appropriate way to save some money- those diapers really add up.
However, you have no idea upon accepting a secondhand car seat whether the model was recalled due to irreparable defects and if the gift doesn’t come with a manual, you’re seriously lacking a lot of information.
This gift-giver may have the best intentions, but by accepting that gift, you’re literally trusting them with your child’s life by taking on their decisions, choices and past use of the car seat as your own.
13 Keep The Manual
That brings us to our next point- keep the manual. Keep it next to your car manual so you can compare the two and read up on where what is supposed to go and why. Just keep those in the dashboard at all times- you never know when you'll need them and when you might just not have Wifi. It's easy to skim through those dense little lines of endless text, but it’s not humanly possible to remember it all on one go through and we all need practice to be perfect. Or slightly closer to perfect than we were before reserving some time to read a car seat manual.
12 The Built-In Anchors May Not Be The Best
This is that confusing intersection of car safety legislation, automobile jargon and car seat use… Wow, add insurance into the mix and everything seems vague and complex. So, although the law states that all cars manufactured in 2002 (or later) must have UAS anchors… it's not necessarily always the best option. This is where you refer to your car’s manual as well as your car seat’s manual to decide on the optimal anchor hooks. It’s not fun but somebody’s gotta do it and the best person for the job is the one who cares the most- you!
11 Don't Harm The Seat While Installing
Take your rage out on the television set when it doesn’t work but a well place kicked isn’t going to fix your car seat. Actually, it could do just the opposite.
In order to provide some extra pressure, a properly positioned knee in the seat is alright … although the full weight of one's body is not recommended. If that installation anxiety is rising up inside of you, take a breather and maybe a lap.
10 The Angle Is Essential
So much of the intricacies of car seats come down to weight and angle.
No rule of thumb is nearly as good as a triple-checked instruction from the actual brand about their actual product. Car seat knowledge is no place for old wives’ wisdom and it’s okay to ignore your parents or even friends with older kids- do the reading for yourself since it's so specific.
9 Graduating To A Too-Large Seat Because Of Height
Not all children are created equal.
While you should always check with your specific car seat, it’s typically recommended that children stick to the model appropriate for their weight.
That’s the one that matters much more than length or proportion of limbs although congrats on the tall baby! But even if they’re the tallest baby on tomorrow's basketball court, they’re not ready to size up until their weight catches up.
8 What You Might Not Think Of As An Accident Could Be Cause To Replace
Just as what seems like a little bit of room to an adult can be a big deal for a baby’s gear, the same goes for minor collisions requiring replacement.
Sure, you might end up feeling like a paranoid parent on the phone with your car seat manufacturer, but better safe than sorry and now you’ve got a new friend! Also someone besides your partner to complain to about the rest of the world’s bad driving.
7 Be Confident In Requiring Insurance-Replaced Seats
It’s better to give the manufacturer and your insurance some grief and have your car seat replaced than not. Almost nothing is worth the hassle of that phone call more than your baby's safety. Just like everything else, insurance companies have various policies when it comes to boosters or car seats.
What’s being a parent without endless, aggravating phone calls? No, but this is a completely reasonable thing to expect help with.
6 When You Do Throw It Out, Take Precautions
Just like there are laws about throwing out refrigerators on the street for children’s safety, there are precautions you should take so that your defective car seat isn’t adopted by someone else.
Yes, it feels wasteful and maybe a bit spiteful to purposely destroy a car seat and it makes more sense on the surface to donate any and all hand-me-downs, but another parent’s momentary desperation may lead to something awful happening.
There’s a reason you’re throwing it out and that’s because it’s no longer suitable for protecting children. Experts recommend cutting the restraints and UAS straps so that your old carseat can’t be easily resold or used again.
And here are 5 slip-ups that happen every day...
5 Children Need Breaks From The Car Seat Every Hour
There are some cautionary tales out there about a day trip or some other mundane slog running long thanks to unexpected traffic. There have been incidences when a baby had a seizure out of nowhere. Of course, it’s not out of nowhere at all- the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to stop driving and give yourself and your child a break about every two hours. The organization attributes this mistake waiting to happen to,”curvature of the spine and the baby being uncomfortable in the car seat for a long period of time rather than restricting breathing or oxygen."
4 The Straps Should Be Tighter
No one likes to feel like they’re restraining their child or cutting off circulation to those little chubby limbs, but those straps have to be pretty snug to actually do their job.
What might feel like a generous amount of breathing room could prevent your car seat from being effective.
So if you can even grip the straps or squeeze a finger through- that’s way too loose.
3 Airbags Must Be Avoided
You know car seat safety is complex when commonly accepted contraptions for life preservation are actually dangerous.
Air bags are too forceful and when combined with a car seat’s shape… look, just save the backseat for the baby and anyone or anything else can ride up front. It’s like a game of reverse-shotgun where kids always have dibs on the backseat and that bulky load of laundry can sit up with you.
2 The Chest Clip Might Need To Be Higher
We want to be gentle with our newborns, but that chest strap needs to be high and tight for their overall safety. What feels like an acceptable amount of wiggle room to adult fingers is not safe to very young infants. So if the chest clip really low, the gap is actually much larger than it should be. Oh right, their body literally just flew out of a hole much smaller than it is so you have to be extra firm until their tiny body gets less squishy.
1 There's A Way Lap Belts Should Be Used
Plenty of parents are wary of lap and seat belts before a certain age and deal with the uneasiness of little limbs getting stuck or tucked awkwardly. One mom who is more than aware that she'll always be learning shares that,
"If your child must use a lap and shoulder belt, tucking the shoulder strap under their arm or behind their back is a big no-no. (Good to know: I rode this way for YEARS as a kid.) It increases their chance for serious injuries in the event of a crash.”
Well, it’s good that she learned this from reading and not from experience, but the wisdom of other parents is the best resource new parents have.
Sources: todaysparent.com, stv.tv, mother.ly