8 Carseat Safety Tips You Need To Know
Carseat safety is no joke! Modern moms are fortunate to have a great deal of information and research available at their fingertips to ensure they're using their carseats correctly. Unfortunately, it's still very common for seats to be improperly installed, improperly used, or removed from vehicles far too soon.
I know as moms we're busy but our children's safety should always be top priority. Here's 8 simple tips to help make sure you're using your carseats effectively.
1. Do Not Forward Face Until Age 2
Laws vary from place to place but regardless of what's "allowed" - forward facing before age 2 is not a good idea. Ideally, you'll want to rear face as long as you can. Thankfully, many seats at every price point now accommodate long term rear facing.
2. If It Didn't Come In The Box - Keep It Out Of The Seat
Despite the fact that it's been proven numerous times that aftermarket accessories pose risks in a crash - companies are still allowed to manufacture and market strap covers, seat covers which go between the child and the seat, and many more add ons that you don't need and truthfully, don't want. If there's something you feel you need like inserts or strap covers, contact the manufacturer of your carseat and see if they have options. Often they do have these items which have been crash tested and will sent them to you free or for cheap.
3. No Bulky Clothing
I get that we worry about keeping our babies warm but bulky clothing means that in a crash, your child will not be strapped in tightly enough. Many parents know this and won't use snow suits, bunting bags, winter coats, etc but what you may not realize is that even some sweaters are just too much extra fabric.
Take a test: Strap your baby in with just their shirt. Adjust the straps to fit properly. Now, put on the sweater or jacket you intend for them to wear and put them back in. If you can't do up the straps without adjusting - it's no good.
4. CHEST Clip
Considering the chest clip is called a CHEST clip, you'd think it'd be pretty straight forward yet everyday I see photos of babies in carseats with the chest clip at their stomach. Proper chest clip placement is right around the baby's armpits level.
5. No Twists
When it comes to properly securing your baby's seat in the car, you want to make sure the LATCH system or seat belt has absolutely NO twists in it. You'll want to do the same for the harness on baby. A twist means that in the event of an accident, the belts and harness are not going to do their job as effectively as they could, putting your child at risk.
6. One Inch
When you install your seat, most guides will tell you that there cannot be more than 1 inch of movement. (It may differ from one seat to the other so ALWAYS read every bit of the installation instructions!) This means you need to be able to get the LATCH or seatbelt tight enough that your carseat will not move more than 1 inch in any direction. It is critical for the seat to protect your child! If you can't get it tight enough with LATCH, try the seatbelt. A loose carseat is simply not an option.
Tip: If you're using the seat belt, you'll also want to make sure it automatically locks and that it is in the locked position once you've installed the seat.
7. Hit The Hips Or Back To Clip
Your child is not ready for a seatbelt until it fits properly. A seatbelt should be across your child's hips, not their stomach. So if even in a booster, the seatbelt is not lying correctly - they still need to be in a harness. If your child was in a booster and you're considering ditching seats altogether, the seat belt needs to sit properly or they must remain in their booster (for many children, this means using a booster seat long past the legal requirement.)
8. Check That Date
It's not just food that expires! Carseats have an expiration date of generally 5-10 years depending on brand and make. (7 is about average.) You will need to find the date your seat was manufactured which is usually on the back or bottom of your seat (NOT the date you bought it!) and cross reference it on the company's website or a trusted database to find out how long your seat is safe to use. Never use a seat past it's expiration date!
Tip: It's also a good idea to never buy a used carseat. In many places, the sale of used carseats is not allowed. Unless you can be 100% certain the carseat was never in an accident and always cared from properly (even cleaning a carseat wrong can cause damage!) then it's simply not safe to use. When you're done with your own carseats, cut the straps out before you dispose them off or bring them to a recycling program to ensure they will not be picked up and used by someone else, potentially putting their child at risk.
There's tons more to know about carseats and I fully recommend joining groups online, reading articles, staying up to date on the latest research, and speaking to professionals if you're unsure. An accident is an accident. We can't plan them, we can't always avoid them, and we never know what might happen. You need to be using the right seat for your child and using it 100% correctly every time to keep them safe!