I've neglected the blog for too long, so sorry, I'm sure I've lost my millions of readers....I'll get back back to posting adorable pics of my boys soon enough, but I have to share some of my newly acquired knowledge on car seats! I loved the class and learned so much, I knew most of the basic info, but was surprised at all the other- did you know there are different kinds of seat belts? I didn't... Anyway, this is some very basic info on car seats, stuff that if you have a child in a car seat you should already know! But read it anyway, just to make sure ;)
--Reading the Manuals- It's something most people don't like to do and probably quite a few don't do, but definitely a must before installing a car seat. And not only the car seat manual, you also need to read the vehicle manual. Different vehicles have different specifications for car seats. We actually had a very expensive car come in during our class that actually stated in the manual that the middle backseat (which is typically considered the safest) was not to be used for a car seat! You never know what you are going to learn- so you MUST read the manuals!!
--Rear-Facing- I have a bunch of rear-facing links to share, so I'll try to do a post soon just on rear-facing, but the bottom line here is- rear-facing is the safest way for anyone to travel! Of course the problem with that is that obviously we can't all travel that way. The current minimum recommendation from the AAP is that infants should be rear-facing until they are 1 year and 20lbs. The actual recommendation is to leave them rear-facing as long as possible, which would be until they are too big for the Convertible seat they are using to be used rear-facing. In case you are unsure a convertible seat is one that can be used both rear and forward facing. The reason rear-facing is the safest is because the seat cradles the babies whole body (head and neck included) in the event of a frontal collision (the most common). When a child(or adult) is forward-facing and there is a frontal collision there is nothing to hold the head in place so it has to go forward (think of whiplash, but in a very small body...not good). Since babies and toddlers heads are proportionally large for their body they need that extra support.
--Belt Path- Convertible seats are great because they can hold larger babies rear-facing longer and still be used forward facing once they get to that stage. Something you must pay careful attention too is the belt path (don't forget to read your manual! ;)) There is one for forward facing and one for rear-facing. I've actually seen infant-only seats (that are rear-facing only) in cars being used forward-facing, I don't know how you would even do this, but it is not safe!
--Seat Tightness- Once you have your car seat installed grab it at the base close to the belt path (for the seat belt or LATCH) and try to move it from side to side. If it moves more than 1 inch it is too loose. I have personally seen seats that were strapped in and could be picked up and turned because they were so loose. During our class we watched some videos of crashes and you would not believe how much a properly installed car seat will move in an accident, I can't imagine what would happen with the one I saw that could be moved....
--Harness Slots- These are where the straps go that go over the shoulders in a 5-pt harness.
If the baby is rear-facing these need to be in the slots that are at or below shoulder level. This keeps the baby down and in the seat if there is an accident. If the child is forward-facing the straps should be in the slots that are at or above shoulder level. In a convertible seat usually only certain slots can be used for rear-facing (typically the bottom ones) and certain slots can be used for forward-facing (typically the top ones) you must read the manual to find out which ones to use!
--Chest Clip- The chest is just that a clip that goes on the chest (this the top buckle in case you are unsure). Notice how it is called the "chest" clip, not stomach clip.... This should be buckled and placed (not necessarily in that order) at armpit level on the child. This is where it goes no matter which direction they are facing.
--Strap Tightness- After the child is buckled into the car seat, try to pinch the straps at the shoulder between your thumb and finger, if you can pinch any slack at all- the straps are too loose! I'm sure we've all seen pictures of kids in car seats and the straps are hanging off their shoulder's, right? (although I'm sure no one reading this has actually done that, right...?) What is going to hold that child into the seat if there is an accident? It wouldn't be that hard for a child to slide right out of those straps!
**I think that about covers the "basics." I really don't understand why so many car seats aren't used correctly every time- something like 80% of kids aren't as safe as they should be- all of the stuff above is simple stuff- having the seat in tight, the child in tight and correctly, reading a manual.... this is stuff that can potentially save our children's life so why do so many parents simply not do it right?
**I recommend having your car seat checked by a CPST to be sure if it is being used correctly, locally Safe Kids is the organization that does it, but just check out Google and you can find something close to you.
**I am adding this because of come recent discussions I've had...;) I didn't talk about boosters at all (maybe I will later), boosters are perfectly safe for older children (4 is usually the recommended age, but you know best when your child is ready) and like any other seat as long as they are used correctly they protect the children as much as any other seat. I would think (hope) that there would be a little less user error in a booster seat because you don't actually have to install the seat, just the child in the seat. They obviously provide less protection than being in a 5pt harness, but the forward-facing harness obviously provides less protection than rear-facing...every "step" they move up provides a little less protection, but they will move up so it's not something that can be avoided...unless seat belts begin to be made like they are in race cars...