Confession time: I have said my creed time and time again on this blog. "Whatever works for your family," right? Well - I was lying. There's one thing that I can't be so flexible on - where there really is only one right way to parent responsibly. Car seats.
Buckle up, I'm about to get all preachy on you.
I live in America - where our population density is typically sparse and nearly everyone needs a vehicle to maintain a normal life. Of course, with so much time on the road, accidents are bound to happen. Kids are particularly susceptible to injuries at high speeds because their bodies are still developing. I don't want to go into too many gruesome details here - nobody needs that trauma. If it won't be too overwhelming, go ahead and look up a few crash dummy videos.
Listen, I have installed a car seat incorrectly myself. I'm certainly not a perfect parent, but this is an important enough point that we all need to swallow our pride. There are already enough barriers to kid car safety, we don't need to be standing in our own way, too. Let's talk about a few of these pitfalls.
Lies and Propaganda
I'm sure you've heard someone of an earlier generation say, "Well, we didn't do it this way and we survived!" Unfortunately you never hear the 50's kids who *didn't* survive, because - well, you know, they aren't around anymore. There's a pretty commonplace practice nowadays that I like to call, "Know better, Do better." It's pretty simple - if we learn that there's a better way to do something, we simply switch to the better method. There's no shame in admitting you were wrong - that's how growth happens!
We can combat this pushback against modern safety protocols by simply saying, "It's my kid, and my rules." If you're lucky enough to have a family member who wants to learn, provide them with your car seat's manual and any relevant YouTube videos. Help them find a certified transportation safety technician to properly install a base, and demonstrate for them how to properly harness a kid in.
If you haven't tried to install a Latch belt on a rear-facing convertible car seat before, get ready to sweat. No, I'm not a body builder - but I'm certainly no weakling. It's pretty difficult for me to even get a proper install - let alone tighten the 5-point harness around my wriggling toddler. If a caregiver has any sort of weakness, inability to grasp, or joint pain, they might struggle to secure a car seat.
This is why I double and triple check my kids when someone else puts them into the car. It might offend the person who was helping you, but really - what's more important? The safety of your precious babies, or someone else's hurt feelings? That one is an easy call. It might also be a good idea to have any caregiver demonstrate a proper fit for your before leaving them alone with your kid.
We've hit the root of the problem with this one. Be honest - did you read every word in your car seat's owner's manual before you installed it? If you're like most people - probably not. I've seen some pretty scary examples of improperly fastened children. My throat tightens and my stomach turns, knowing that these kids have almost no chance of surviving a serious accident. And this is where I'll speak up - usually I message the parent if possible so they know I'm not trying to make some sort of example out of them. I direct them to great resources like Car Seats for the Littles.
Unfortunately, there are some common practices that aren't safe but somehow remain popular. Lots of moms add after-market enhancements to their car seat: strap covers, extra cushions, wraps, toys on the handle. None of these have been tested for safety and most (if not all) of them can invalidate any insurance coverage. The cuteness isn't worth it. A shocking number of car seat users don't know where to place the chest clip - which means the kiddo's shoulders could slip out upon impact, or the clip itself could cause injury to the abdomen. Scary, right?
As much as I want to be the laidback mom, I can't be casual about car seat safety. If I ever step in to correct a parent, it's because I want them and their baby to be safe and happy in their travels. Since most parents aren't using them correctly, it's a safe bet that you might need to do a safety check. Find a local car seat tech, read your manual, and be diligent. Safety first, always.
Have you ever seen a kid in an improperly installed or fitted car seat? Did you speak up? What did you say? @pi3sugarpi3