I've written posts in the past about car seat safety but felt lead to write on this topic again because I've noticed a trend of three things that parents are often not being mindful of when it comes to car seats!
As a refresher be sure to read over this post on car seat safety and this one on car seat safety beyond age 2.
Even with all the information I included in the posts above, here are three things you still may not know about car seat safety:
1. Do Not Add ANYTHING To Your Car Seat: I had a friend post on this recently and it's something that is very, very important. Yes. Baby stores sell TONS of cute little things you can put on your baby's or child's seat. Strap covers that are soft and cuddly. Cushions to give them extra comfort. Just because a store sells it does not make it safe. Adding things to your child's seat not only causes a safety concern but will actually void your manufacturers warranty with your car seat. So in the event that an accident does occur with the seat, the company won't be helping you out. This is an excellent post with more information about the importance of avoiding "extras" with your car seat!
2. Read and Re-Read Your Manual: Every single car seat on the market is unique in it's own way. Even different production years of the same model of car seat vary. It is VITAL to not only read through your seat's entire manual when you purchase the seat, but also to re-read through it on a regular basis. As your child grows, the seat has to change to still be safe for your child. I learned this with my first child, I never thought to check the car seat manual and at a couple months old I still had the newborn insert in the seat that was supposed to be removed by 11 pounds! It was a rookie mistake but one I've been mindful of not to make again. I constantly see pictures of kids on social media who are in the correct seat for their height/weight/age but they are not in it correctly. A top quality seat still can't protect your child if it's not being used the way it's meant to be used. Each seat has different specifications for the strap locations, headrest locations, tilt of seat, even how to latch the seat into the car. All of these things change as your child changes so it's imperative to stay current with it! My son is 48" tall and his seat can only use the harness up until 50 inches. I am aware of this and know by his 8th birthday he'll probably need to convert to the high-back booster. It didn't surprise me to read this when I read over his manual last week...but what did surprise me was that at 50 lbs we have to use both the latch and the seat belt system to install the seat. He's right at 50 lbs so it's important that we make sure we have it installed correctly! Even the smallest things make a big difference in keeping your child safe.
3. Recognize The Importance of the Word AND: And is a much different word that Or. Many people look at car seat safety guidelines and replace the word AND for the word OR. Back when the recommendation for forward facing was 1 years old AND 20 lbs often people would say "oh I can turn my kid forward on their first birthday!" and never look at the rest of the recommendation. This happens often with car seats. I see all the time people saying "my child is two so they can forward face!" when in reality the rule of thumb is age 2 AND the max height/weight your seat allows. Same goes for graduating from a booster to a regular seat belt. Car seat safety is NOT about an age. I'm so happy to see things changing in the world of seat recommendations. Every child grows at a different rate and it's wonderful to see more of a use of weight/height recommendations than age.
The goal when purchasing a seat should always be to keep the child in the safest possible position for as long as possible. Rear facing - buy a seat with a high weight/height limit. Forward facing - buy a seat that allows for a 5 point harness to be used for as long as possible (my son is 7 and still in a 5 point). Booster - buy one that has both a lap and shoulder belt then keep them in that booster as long as possible (most kids are between the ages of 10 - 12 when the graduate to a regular seat belt without booster use). This is an excellent post on booster seat safety and when it's appropriate to switch from the booster to a regular belt!
For people who are passionate about car seat safety, such as myself, we can be the ones that people whisper about. I'm sure Kye is among the very few kids still in a 5 point harness in the drop off line. Tess will be rear facing until kindergarten for sure and I'm pretty sure she'll be one of the only ones then as well (I'm sadly pretty sure she's one of the few still rear facing at a couple months older than 2). It's not about what everyone else is doing. It's about what is best. What keeps my children as safe as possible. When you know better, you should do better and I hope that sharing these things with others will help spread the knowledge about car seat safety!