Car seats. You strap your baby or child in and go, right? Well, unfortunately, there are a few common mistakes that moms and dads make that could have severe consequences. September 18th through the 24th is Child Passenger Safety Week, which makes this an excellent time to highlight car seat mistakes we may be making that we're not totally aware of.
Chest clips in the wrong spot
By its very name, we know that the chest clip on a car seat should be on a child's chest. However, during our busy days (and the daily grind), constantly putting a child into a seat and taking her out again can cause this chest clip to slide down. To avoid a tragedy, make sure you're putting it back up at around armpit height after settling her in.
Also, car seat straps can become loose over time for the same reason. If you can pinch the straps over your baby's little shoulders, they're too loose and should be tightened up.
Using the wrong car seat
Babies grow, and as they grow, their seats will need updating. Pay close attention to the height and weight limits on your car seats, and replace accordingly. Even older kids are able to be fully harnessed (for example, Graco's My Ride 65 can safely fit kids up to 65 pounds and 49 inches of height), and several companies make awesome high-back booster seats that provide seat belt guidance, like Chicco's line of boosters. High-back boosters help ensure correct seat belt fit, which your small child probably won't get using a regular booster or no booster at all.
Harnessing with a winter coat
OK, so winter is still a ways off, but before you know it, you'll be packing your kid up in winter gear. Don't, however, put a child in a car seat with a winter coat or bunting on. If you try, you'll notice that you'll have to loosen the straps for a proper fit, but if an accident happens, that fluffy coat will compress in a hurry, which means your little one isn't restrained properly. Instead, try a car seat poncho or dress your baby in layers that you can remove before placing him in his car seat.
Your baby's a big bruiser, so by the time he's one, he should be able to be turned around to the forward-facing position, right? Not so fast.
Using an expired seat
Some new parents are surprised to learn their baby's car seat has an expiration date. While it doesn't seem like a car seat can expire, seats are made of plastics and those materials can—and do—break down over time. Usually the expiration date is six years after the date of manufacture, so most parents don't use the same car seat for that length of time. However, using a hand-me-down seat or buying one used should trigger a date check. And if you do get one secondhand, make sure you know 100 percent of its history—seats that have been through even minor accidents shouldn't be used again.
Forward-facing too soon
Your baby's a big bruiser, so by the time he's one, he should be able to be turned around to the forward-facing position, right? Not so fast. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids remain rear facing until they are at least 2 years old or when they outgrow the seat manufacturer's limit for both weight and height. So, instead of popping them around to forward face at age 1, wait at least another year, and if you can, wait even longer.
Not installing the seat correctly
Even if your child is in the seat perfectly, it won't do her much good if it's not installed in the vehicle correctly. The seat shouldn't really budge if it's in there tight enough, and the leveler on the side should indicate it's at the proper angle. Not sure your child's seat is in the right way? Contact a local car seat inspection professional to get it in there correctly.