Car Seat Safety: The Awkward Conversation No One Wants to Have

We live in a time where no one wants to be told they’re doing something wrong. No one wants to be called out or corrected, but especially not a parent. And I get it, I do. There’s always someone who would do things differently or who wants to offer unsolicited advice, and it gets old.

We’re all just doing the best we can, right?

The vast majority of the time, I agree. But the one topic I can’t take that stance on is car seat safety. I don’t know why I’m so passionate about it or where the desire to research all I could on the subject came from, but now that I have, I can’t ignore the intense anxiety I feel when I see unsafe car seat practices. Do I say something? What if they’re offended? What if I don’t say something and something tragic happens? How will I live with myself? If I do say something, will they know it’s entirely out of love and concern and not in ANY way because I feel I’m a superior parent? (Lord knows I’m just trying to keep my head above water over here – I’ll be the first to say I’m a hot mess and am in no way superior!)

I’ve never had the guts to say something in person up to this point, and I’ve only said something – privately, of course, because who wants to be publicly corrected? – to a handful of very close friends when I’ve seen something unsafe. I usually err on the cautious (read: chicken) side and just share a general car seat safety post on my Facebook page and pray they see it. 

So, why am I rambling about this? June is National Safety Month, and this includes car seat safety. I really think unsafe car seat practices are almost always a result of lack of knowledge, so here are some common mistakes and what the recommendations are. When we know better, we can do better, right? 

Chest Clip Placement: The chest clip buckle should always be at armpit height, not lower on the stomach or higher on the neck. You want the clip on top of bone rather than internal organs. Most of those strap covers put the clip too low on the child’s body. 

No Coats or Layers Between Child and Seat: Strap tightness is deceiving when there’s a coat or extra padding for warmth between the child and the car seat. You shouldn’t be able to pinch the straps between your fingers when your child is in the seat without any jacket, cover, or additional padding in the seat if they’re tightened enough.

Shoulder Strap Height: If your child is rear facing, the harness/straps should be at the height of or lower than their shoulders. If they’re forward facing, the harness/straps should be above their shoulders. There are all kinds of visuals online if you’re unsure on this. 

Forward Facing vs Rear Facing: Laws vary between states, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends rear facing until age 2 at the MINIMUM. Obviously you can rear face much longer, assuming your child hasn’t surpassed weight or height limits on the seat. There is SO much research showing how much safer rear facing is – Please read articles and watch some of the crash tests on this subject if you’re on the fence. 

Use of Booster Seats: We haven’t reached this yet, and I’ll be keeping my kids in a five point harness for as long as possible. Seat belt placement is incredibly important when moving to a booster, and use of a booster in general is recommended far longer than most people realize. 

Car Seats on Shopping Carts: This is probably the most common thing I see – an infant car seat on top of the front section of a shopping cart. Even if you swear your seat latches onto the cart or if there’s a “dock” for a seat on the cart, it’s still not recommended as it makes the cart top heavy. All it would take is a child climbing on the side of the cart, hitting a bump in the parking lot, or someone pushing past the cart in an aisle for it to fall over, taking the seat with it. I know, it takes up most of the room for groceries to have the car seat in the basket part of the cart, but I still think it’s worth it when it comes to keeping your baby safe. 

I love The Car Seat Lady for simple, honest, and straightforward answers. Proper car seat installation is also vitally important, and there are frequent car seat checks at Wesley (both at the birth center and the 13th and Tyler location) with certified car seat specialists. Find upcoming dates and contact information here.

And promise me you’ll give anyone who works up the courage to kindly (keyword!) share car seat safety information with you the benefit of the doubt – I’m willing to bet that they just love you and your child too much to risk something happening to them.  

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2 Responses to Car Seat Safety: The Awkward Conversation No One Wants to Have

  1. Ashley June 29, 2017 at 4:17 pm #

    The bit on layers isn’t exactly right. Packable down jackets are fine (as long as you don’t have to loosen the straps to get your kid in) and thin fleece jackets are fine as well.

  2. Bethy July 2, 2017 at 3:22 pm #

    I’m all about this. I was babysitting this past week, and had to go on an errand. This one year old’s parent said “we’ve been front facing her, she just loves it so much better.” I just said ok. When I went to install the car seat in my car, I saw per car seat instructions that it was not designed for her seat to face forward. So i rear faced her. Wouldn’t you know, I was rearended by a drunk driver while driving this baby around. Baby is fine, but I can’t help but wonder if she would’ve been hurt if I had forward faced her as the parent suggested.

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