In honor of National Child Passenger Safety Week, here are a few reminders on how to properly use a car seat. Some of this information might sound obvious, but I have seen so many car seats being misused that I think it's an important refresher for all parents.
The seat in the picture is not being used properly. That little claspy thing? It's called a chest clip. It is intended to be worn at...wait for it....the chest! It should be even with baby's armpits. Wearing the clip lower than it's supposed to can cause serious damage to internal organs because baby's sternum is not acting as a barrier to protect them. The baby could also fly out of the seat if it's too low.
You should not be able to pinch the strap when it's on your baby. Those things need to be tight! Also...
- Straps in REAR FACING seats need to be AT or BELOW baby's shoulders
- Straps in FRONT FACING seats need to be AT or ABOVE baby's shoulders
Most car seat accessories are unapproved for use and will void your warranty. More importantly, they can affect how the seat performs in an accident. Things like Bundle Mes, strap cushions and chair covers should never be used with your car seat.
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Some car seats, including ours, have strap covers that come with the seat. Those should be used with your seat, but ones that were purchased separately should not be used. Mirrors that attach to the seat are also dangerous, for a couple reasons. First, they can distract parents while driving and they could fly off during an accident. We bought one when I was pregnant but never used it.
Last winter when Harry was in his infant seat we used a First Years car seat cover. These, and similar products, are perfectly safe to use because nothing goes behind the baby to affect the way the seat works. They were even recommended at the car seat safety class we took through our hospital.
Bulky, puffy clothes should not be worn while the child is in a car seat. If you have to adjust the straps to fit properly, the clothes are too bulky. As I mentioned above, straps are meant to fit snugly. If you remove the bulky layer of clothes, the straps will no longer fit as they should. Fleece jackets are great for winter because they keep baby warm without adding any bulk.
Those are just a few tips for using your car seat safely. Feel free to pass the info along! I've seen way too many photos posted Facebook with kids in their seats improperly. It breaks my heart that so many parents are undereducated on car seat safety.
Disclaimer: I am not a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, but I have done a lot of research on car seat safety. Please consult your car seat's manual for safety specifics regarding your seat.