Car seat safety is something that often gets overlooked (especially as your family grows). Read below to find out more and if you still have questions, you can schedule a consult with Renée!
Expensive car seats are not safer
Many people wonder what makes an expensive car seat better or safer than a less expensive car seat? The answer is NOTHING. All car seats are heavily regulated and must pass the same intensive safety standards. So, what’s the best car seat to get? The answer is the one that fits the child, fits the vehicle and that the caregiver can use correctly every time. The key to making a car seat as safe as possible is how YOU (the caregiver) install them and safely harnessing your child in the car seat every time.
2. Harnessing correctly in the car seat
Tips for both rear-facing and forward-facing:
- Make sure the child is wearing nothing heavier than a light fleece and there is nothing behind the child’s back that didn’t come with the car seat when purchased. If the car seat came with padding, read the manual to find out at what weight of the child it should be removed.
- Harness straps should be flat, not twisted
- Pinch test – you should not be able to vertically pinch excess webbing at the shoulder once the harness is tightened.
- Chest clip should be at armpit level.
Note: rear-facing harness slots should be at or below the child’s shoulders and forward-facing harness slots should be at or above the child’s shoulders.
3. Once your child’s feet reach the back of the car seat doesn’t mean you should turn to forward-facing
The AAP has determined that children are not at an increased risk for leg injuries rear-facing rather than forward-facing. Leg injuries can heal more easily than injuries to the brain, neck and spinal cord.
What’s the logic behind this? Rear-facing car seats are designed to support the head and neck of an infant and a young child in a frontal crash (younger children’s heads are larger and heavier in proportion to their body). When your child is properly restrained rear-facing, the head and neck move together with the car seat (allowing the crash forces to be spread across the shell of the car seat).
4. When to change to a forward-facing car seat
The best practice is to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat until reaching the maximum weight and height limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer. I recommend keeping your car seat manual in the glove compartment with your vehicle manual because you’ll be wanting to refer to both when you’re installing or moving seats to different positions in your vehicle. Keep in mind that depending on your family and socio-economic dynamic, there are other ways to categorize “better” practices that can be determined and talked through with a car seat technician like Renée. Schedule a consult to talk out these scenarios.
5. Why booster seats are important
Booster seats reduce the risk for serious injury by 45% for children ages 4-8, when compared to seat belt use alone.
They raise and position a child so the vehicle’s lap-and-shoulder belt fits properly. The lap belt should be positioned low and across the child’s hips, touching the upper thighs. The shoulder belt portion should be across the child’s chest, making contact with the child’s shoulder. If the child was in a car crash and only wearing seat belt that didn’t fit them correctly, it would increase the risk of seat belt syndrome (severe abdominal injuries).
How do I know when my child is ready for a booster seat?
- When your child outgrows the weight or height limit of their forward-facing car seat
- If your child meets the weight and height requirements of the booster seat
- If your child is mature enough to keep the seat belt on properly while sitting in the booster seat (no slouching, sleeping, wiggling, etc).
- Proper seat belt aligning: The shoulder strap of the seat belt should be between the neck and the shoulder of the child and the lap belt should lie snugly across the upper thighs, low on the hips.
5 steps of readiness to transition OUT of a booster seat:
- Can the child keep their back against the vehicle seat without slouching (developmentally and maturity level).
- Can the child keep their knees naturally bent over the edge of the vehicle seat?
- Can the child keep their feet flat on the floor?
- Does the lap belt lie snugly across the upper thighs, low on hips, not the stomach?
- Does the shoulder belt lie snugly across the shoulder and chest, and not across the neck or face?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, your child will need to stay in a booster seat.
Remember, there is also a type of forward-facing-only car seat called a combination car seat that is sometimes best to transition to rather than going straight to a booster seat from a convertible seat. A combination car seat uses a 5-point harness that can be converted to a booster seat after the child reaches the maximum weight or height limit for the harness system.
Do you still have questions? Book a consult with Renée! She is a national certified car seat technician.
Car seat consults:
- Email 2 questions – Email Renée 2 questions that you have about your cat seat and she will respond within 72 hours.
- 20 minute video chat car seat check – if you want to make sure your car seat(s) are installed correctly, but don’t need a full hour consult, this mini consult is perfect for you!
- Help with choosing car seat(s) – If you feel lost with how to choose the right car seat(s) for your vehicle(s), Renée can spend time with you picking the right one!
- 1 hour video chat consult – Renée can help you install your car seat and educate you on the best practices for car seat safety so that you and your child’s caregivers feel confident (invite grandparents too!)
- 1 hour In-home consult – Chicagoland area only
Recorded car seat safety + tips for every stage workshop:
Renée discusses car seat progression, harnessing tips for every age, choosing the right car seat for your family, how to know when it’s time to move to forward-facing and booster seats, and other important things that most parents don’t know about car seat safety. This is a 60 minute workshop (30 minutes lecture and 30 minutes Q+A).
Click here if you want to read more about Renée and her background!
Helpful blog posts:
- Renée’s favorite car seats for all ages
- Top 5 must have safety items for under 1 year of age
- Medicine kit essentials
- 4 tips to educate your kids on fire safety
The information above is based off of the curriculum from the National Passenger Safety Technician Certification Training through NHTSA.
**This post is educational and not meant to take the place of your provider.