When Hannah McKinney placed sheepskin belt covers on her baby's car seat, she didn't realize something so soft could hurt her daughter. Unfortunately, during a rollover accident, her 2-month-old was thrown from her car seat toward the back of the van. Baby Robin Pope landed on the floor and had to be taken to the hospital.
The Georgia mom said her baby was all strapped in. She made sure all the straps were tight and intact, and that the car seat base was still attached to the seat. After she took a safety class at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta following the incident, it dawned on McKinney that the strap covers, which she initially added to make it more comfortable for Robin, may have contributed to her daughter's injury.
The mom believes that during the accident, Robin slid through the sheepskin straps instead of being held back by them.
Thankfully, the baby is now OK and only got a hairline fracture on her upper arm. But McKinney hopes other parents will never have to go through the same thing (or worse).
"DO NOT put things on a car seat that did not come that way from the manufacturer. Plus anything on a car seat in an accident voids the warranty! We had to learn the hard way and I thank God every day that he had his hands on her! They may look cute and it may be soft, but for your child's safety, don't do it," McKinney warned on Facebook.
Car seat experts ask parents to refrain from altering car seats in any way. This goes not just for strap covers but also harness inserts, seat covers, head pillows, mirrors and toys. Just because they're sold in a store doesn't mean they're safe to use with your car seat model.
"You never want to add anything to a car seat that doesn’t come with it. It’s not crash tested with the car seat," Johanna Martinez, a child passenger safety specialist, told WSB-TV.
While we're at it, here are other recent car seat safety warnings from parents to keep in mind: Remember to never relax car seat rules (here's a refresher on American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines), and think about keeping your child rear-facing for a longer amount of time.