Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Carseat Safety--Infant Rear-Facing

This is something that people NEED to know. I've seen way too many babies in car seats that are just barely strapped in. I honestly think that the baby would be safer duct taped to the hood of their car. The biggest problem with this is that so many people have never taken the time to go to a car seat clinic and learn how to do this from an expert, and they've never bothered to read their car seat manual. (You know, it's that little booklet that comes with the car seat!) Just doing those two things could SAVE YOUR CHILD'S LIFE. It's basic, but so important!!

This photo shows the RIGHT WAY to put your child in their car seat.

Before our twins were born we took a car seat course at a prenatal health fair that we attended. We also had most of an entire night of our prenatal classes that was dedicated to car seats. Then, when the twins were in the NICU, I took an 1 1/2 hour course on car seat safety. (I was living in the hospital with them at the time and the nurses made me take the course to "get out and have a break".) I'm glad I did, though. It was by far the most detailed of the 3 clinics. Everyone should take go to a car seat clinic, and you can find out the dates and times of one near you by contacting your Public Health Unit. Just do it. It could save your child's life!

The most common problem I see when people have babies in car seats is where they locate the chest clip. I have seen them up at their neck, and down at their belly button, and everywhere in between! The chest clip belongs at ARMPIT LEVEL, to prevent damaging organs and to properly hold baby in place. It's not hard to do, and it can be one of the most important ways you can keep your baby safe. When these are put too low, they can no ONLY cause damage to organs, but your precious gift can come flying right out of the top of the 5-point harness. Don't depend on the leg straps to hold them in. All parts of your car seat are designed to work together to keep your baby safe. Many times parents who *think* their child is "being hurt" by the straps touching the sides of their neck, will go out and buy aftermarket strap covers. These can interfere with the positioning of the chest clip.

The next problem I see is with the straps themselves. People think that their child will be uncomfortable if the straps are tight. Better uncomfortable than dead, in my opinion. Straps need to be flat against the child's body, with just enough room under the strap for ONE finger. If you have any slack in the strapping, your child is NOT safe. Tighten, check, tighten, check... They need to lay flat on the child and not be twisted. Besides keeping your child from being ejected from their car seat, it also helps keep them sitting in it!!!

One of the worst things I've ever seen was just recently when a couple came to my home to purchase some of my baby items, and their son was wearing a thick winter coat. The coat forced the shoulder straps down around his ELBOWS. Seriously. (Grab the duct tape and knock the snow off the hood of the car, Ma! We's gotsta take the baby to town!) The shoulder straps are made to hold the baby in the car seat by holding them in by the SHOULDERS. (Not just a clever name here!) Unless that baby was secretly Superman's baby, I don't think he'd have the strength to hold himself in his car seat by the elbows. And coats often interfere with the positioning of the chest clip. See an example here.

On top of making it impossible to correctly position the shoulder straps, thick coats also add unnecessary bulk. If you strap your baby into his/her car seat and then take them out without loosening the straps, put them back in without their coat and see how much extra room there is. Are the straps still tight up against their body? If not, that coat is too thick. It will compress in an accident and your baby will be thrown from the car, or will become like a cannon ball flying around inside your car. Just picture that. I've read a story about a police officer who went to the scene of an accident and found the winter jacket of an infant strapped securely into the car seat, and the infant had been thrown out of it. Don't let it happen to your child!!! The car seat "bags" that you thread the straps through are also unsafe because it adds bulk. Never add anything to your car seat that was not included when you purchased it. To keep your baby warm, dress them in a long-sleeved shirt (there is no difference between a shirt made of jersey and a thin sweatshirt), and put them in their car seat. Once strapped in safely, you can either put a blanket over them (do not tuck it in behind them), or put their jacket on backwards, arms in sleeves. Again, don't tuck it in behind them.

My next pet-peeve is seeing babies in car seats that clearly exceed the weight and/or height limit specified on the SIDE OF THE CAR SEAT. Your child MUST be an inch below the top of the car seat for it to be used safely. When you get in an accident, the car seat is designed to push up against the back of the seat it's strapped to. It covers your child in what would look like half an egg. The "shell" of the car seat surrounds your child and keeps them safe. The weight maximum isn't just a suggestion, either. It's the MAXIMUM weight that can be safely put in that seat!!! When your child outgrows their car seat, buy them a seat that can be rear-facing until at least a year old...preferably until they reach the weight/height maximum stated on the side of the seat! Your child is 500% safer staying extended-rear-facing. Even if your child was the first one ever to end up with broken legs/ankles, wouldn't that be better than your child being internally decapitated?! I think so! Please watch this video. It will open your eyes.

This is my own daughter in her car seat, using a car seat cover. It slips on over the top of the car seat, and does not interfere with any aspect of the strapping whatsoever. In my opinion, this is the only safe way to keep your baby safe and warm at the same time. (I want to mention that I'm not a Leaf's husband is. So please don't judge me on that. LMAO!)

Another danger in car seats are the added padding some parents add to their child's car seat. These not only create extra bulk, but are not fire-resistant. Your child could potentially burn to death while strapped into their seat, unable to escape. Sound harsh? I speak the truth. Read what has to say about it. Never add ANY aftermarket accessories to your car seat except rolled receiving blankets...they are the ONLY acceptable addition to your car seat! Besides being a fire hazard, and having the potential to add unnecessary bulk, you will find that many after-market products proper positioning of the chest clip or shoulder straps impossible. Save your money. Things like this are dangerous and a waste of money.
Your car seat manual will tell you how to safely install your seat and/or base. PLEASE read it, and have it checked by your local fire dept. to ensure it was done properly.
And I shouldn't have to say this, but NEVER put your child's rear-facing car seat in the front seat of your car. It could kill them. Even if your air bags are disabled, it is possible that they could inflate in an accident. This warning should be clearly stated in your car seat manual, as well as on the back of the passengers sun visor.
My last statement on infant seats is this: The shoulder straps should come from AT or BELOW your infant's shoulders. If you are unsure of the fit, stick a Popsicle stick through the back of the seat to find where it sits on your child.
When your child moves into a forward-facing seat, those straps need to be AT or ABOVE their shoulders.

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