September is Baby Safety Month, so we’re putting on our hard hats and knee pads (okay, burp clothes and stroller clips) to bring you the latest news about car seats from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Car seat safety is our passion here at BGC. We see too many photos on Facebook of kids in cars with loose or twisted straps, and it makes our heart hurt. Don’t be one of those posters that makes everyone cringe! Read on for easy ways to make sure their carseat is ready to keep them safe.
Note: These tips are from my own personal experience, so be sure to check with your pediatrician before you act on our suggestions.
To celebrate Baby Safety Month, the folks at MAM are giving away a $30 gift package of assorted items. Follow babygotchat and mam_usa on Instagram to be eligible, then click here to enter. The contest will run until September 30. Here’s a message from MAM:
September is #NationalBabySafetyMonth. As parents, nothing is more important to us than the safety of our MAM babies. In conjunction with our friends at top baby registry site Gugu Guru, we are posting safety tips throughout #JPMABabySafetyMonth to help raise awareness of key things we can all do to protect our babies. Read their Baby Safety Tips here.
YOUR CAR SEAT CHECKLIST
1: ARE THEY REAR-FACING?
The American Academy of Pediatrics has just updated their recommendations on rear facing. No longer is 2 (or even 4) a magic age where kids are safe to forward face, because, sadly, their bodies don’t develop at such an even pace. The AAP has acknowledged that the safest way for kids to ride in the car is to rear face until they reach the maximum height and/or weight for their rear-facing car seat.
So what does that mean for us?
Basically that your kids rear-face as long as possible, to 4 years old and maybe even beyond if your little one is … well … little. Once they are faced forward, the AAP recommends delaying a booster seat until children have reached the maximum height and/or weight for their forward-facing seat, which for most seats is 60 pounds. Then they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until they are large enough for the seatbelt alone. And all kids younger than 13 should never ride in the front seat.
We at BabyGotChat had planned a whole moving-up ceremony on our oldest’s fourth birthday this December, but now that there is no age limit, we have scrapped this age milestone and we plan to turn her when she reaches 40 pounds.
She’s currently 36 pounds, so unless she gains four pounds in the next three months, it looks like she will rear face past 4 years old. Then she’ll forward face in her convertible carseat until she reaches 65 pounds or 49 inches, whichever comes first. Then it’s on to a booster!
Why all the drama about rear facing?
The reason forward facing is so much less safe for young children is because the crucial vertebrae in their spine haven’t fused yet. This fusing starts around age 3 and takes until age 6 to become strong like an adult's. They are much more vulnerable to being dangerously injured in accidents because the proportional weight of their head can pull on this not-yet-fused spine and stretch it as much as two inches. If it succeeds in pulling any more than a half an inch, their spine will snap and that can prove fatal.
2: ARE THEY COMFORTABLE?
If you think your child is unhappy in the car due to being rear facing, there are a few things you can try before you give up and turn the seat around:
Adjust the angle of the car seat.
Make sure all clothes or the belts aren't digging into them and making them uncomfortable. When you take them out of the car lift up their shirt, and if you see any red marks or indents on their skin from straps or wrinkled clothing, that’s a sign those need adjustment. Take off shoes and socks if their feet are too hot or their shoes feel heavy when their legs dangle.
Give them some special car-only toys.
Try a musical headrest mirror to for fun distraction.
Make sure the ceiling vent isn't blowing hot or cold air on them to make them uncomfortable.
And there’s always the basic what-ifs of toddler tears: Are they hungry/thirsty/tired/hot/cold/bored?
3: ARE THEY TOO BIG FOR THE LATCH SYSTEM?
When your child reaches 35 pounds rear facing or 40 pounds forward facing, you must use the seat belt instead of the lower anchors (LATCH) to secure the seat. Most carseat companies recommend using the top tether anchor with all forward facing car seat installations. Once you switch from the LATCH it will be a little more complicated getting the seats in and out, so give yourself extra time to get everything secure.
4: IS THE CHEST CLIP HIGH AND TIGHT?
Regardless of rear or forward facing, the car seat can’t help them if they’re not strapped in correctly. And it’s your job to make sure that you or anyone else strapping them does it perfectly every. Single. Time.
Sure, it’s tiring to cinch and pull several times a day, but you are their only hope to ride safely. See the photo above for tips to get a great fit. And make sure anyone who straps them in passes the test. Don’t be afraid to offend—your child’s safety is more important than ego.
5: HAVE THEY TAKEN OFF BULKY COATS?
Don't forget to remind grandparents and caretakers that big winter coats come off in the car seat. Why? Their bulk of those coats means that the carseat straps don’t sit as close to their bodies when cinched, but the coat will squish under the force of an accident. So even though it seems that they are strapped in tight with their coats on, in reality the straps are too loose.
BONUS TIP: IF YOU NEED TO REACH THEM, HAVE YOU PULLED OVER SAFELY?
If you need to pull over to check on your children (because they are crying, because they dropped their toy and are freaking out, because they made a noise they never made before and your mind is going to scary places) please PLEASE park somewhere safe before you get out of the car.
This does NOT include the side of the highway, a 2-lane road with no shoulder, or an on-ramp. I've seen so many cars lately pulled over dangerously close to fast-moving, unpredictable traffic. It's worth the extra thirty seconds to get to someplace safe and well-lit to park your car and check on them. Remember, the other cars racing by don’t expect you to be there, and they may not have time to get out of the way.
See you next time!