Parenting Doesn’t Come with a Manual, but Car Seats DO

I am in total awe of the overwhelming support and encouragement from my previous blog post. I’m hopeful that when parents see it, minds are opened, and better decisions are made. Like so many of you say, “When we know better, we do better.”

Like I said before, and many others have said, parents make mistakes every day. We have to hope for a little grace to make up for our short comings. Parenting doesn’t have a how-to. Lucky for us, car seats do come with a how-to!

  
I wasn’t alone in thinking my one-year old was AS safe front facing, so I’m going to go out on a limb here and cautiously assume I’m not the only 22 year old mom who thought warning stickers and manuals are there to protect companies from being sued.

Window screens tell you not to let kids lean on them because toddlers have fallen out. Cribs tell you to have a certain size mattress because babies have suffocated. Swings tell you to use child restraints because children have gotten hurt without them. Toys come with “small pieces” warnings because babies have choked.

Car seats come with manuals so that WHEN accidents happen, children don’t have to get hurt or lose their lives.

I’m going to stand up on a soap box here and tell you, if you’re reading this, you’re trying to do better. That’s wonderful, but I’m not your car seat manufacturer. I’m not a car seat technician (yet, but maybe soon). I’m a mom who used the internet to learn and I’m passing down what I’ve learned onto you.

However, go above and beyond.

Get up now, and go find your manual.

In your manual you’re going to find things that surprise you. I did!

We own two Clek Foonfs, and I love them. I’m not getting paid to say that. These car seats rock my world. They’re space ships. 45-pound-each crash cages. I trust them to save my children’s lives.

Right on the first page they included a checklist for me. The next page is a table of contents. I can find any and all information I need to know about properly using, cleaning, and traveling with my car seat. On the very back, they have a phone number listed. So in the instance that I have a question that their manual doesn’t answer, I can Call THEM. They know their seats better than anyone else. Utilize that.

  

This blog post is a quick list of things that are commonly unknown about car seats. In the instance that you don’t have your manual with you, because in today’s modern world you could be reading this anywhere. (Hopefully not while you’re driving. Or while your kids are playing). Maybe you’re in line at the bank and holding your three year old’s hand and you see something you’ve installed incorrectly or been doing wrong all along. This list is for you.

It’s not your car seat bible. That’s what your manuals for, okay? So read it.

  • Rear Facing is recommended by American Academy of Pediatrics until at least age TWO, or until they have MAXIMIZED their seat’s rear facing requirements. Here
    • In Sweden, which has very low child-passenger injury and death rates, children often ride rear-facing up to 4 years of age.Here
  • Children should be in a FIVE POINT HARNESS until at least age FIVE, but in reality, most kids aren’t ready for a booster until ages 6-7! Here
  • American Academy of Pediatrics also advises that most children will need to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years of age. Here
  • All children aged 12 and under should ride properly buckled in the BACK SEAT. Airbags can kill young children riding in the front seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat or in front of an airbag. Here (EDIT: Emily in the comment below has brought to my attention that if the air bag is disabled, there are circumstances that the front seat is still an appropriate location.)

Above are my laws for my car. I’m the grumpy car seat lady. Know better, do better.

For rear-facing infant carriers remember to lower the carrying handle to its resting position, unless your seat specifically states it can remain up. Leaving the handle up can interfere with the function of rear facing seats and/or shatter into the child’s seat. Check your manual. Here — thanks Sandy And here

Strap-Did-You-Know?

  • Rear Facing shoulder straps should be at or below the child’s shoulder. Forward Facing shoulder straps should be at or above. (DOUBLE CHECK THIS INFORMATION WITH YOUR MANUAL).
  • Crotch buckles should be at or behind the child’s crotch. I use cloth diapers, which means added bulk. To satisfy my concern, I place my child in the seat diaperless and adjust the buckle accordingly.
  • Car seat straps should never be submerged in liquid. Never use abrasive or harsh chemicals when cleaning your straps. These weaken your seat’s integrity.  — No Really. READ YOUR MANUAL
    • “Surface wash straps with a damp cloth and mild detergent” — Clek Manual, page 95

If you didn’t know and you made this mistake, PLEASE contact your car seat manufacturer. Chances are, they’ll send you a replacement hassle free!

  • If your straps show wear from age, CONTACT YOUR MANUFACTURER. They usually replace them free-of-charge (with the exception of seats not registered with their company and EXPIRED seats)

You read that last one right.

  • YOUR CAR SEAT HAS AN EXPIRATION DATE. Most car seats expire in 6 years. The only way to know for sure is to FIND THE STICKER. If your seat doesn’t have a sticker, you don’t know the model number, and you’re not the first owner, TIME TO REPLACE IT!

Not the first owner? Do you KNOW your car seat’s history?

  • Only buy car seat’s from trusted a friend or family member. Car seats are designed for ONE IMPACT ONLY. If you are the original owner and you’ve been in an accident, Replace it! If you get in an accident, my prayer is that you most certainly never do, but if it happens, your insurance company *should* reimburse you up to the value. This depends on your insurance policy.
  • IF YOU HAVE CHECKED YOUR CAR SEAT TO AN AIRLINE WITHOUT THE PROPER PACKING FROM A MANUFACTURER, YOU DON’T KNOW ITS HISTORY. — Have you seen airlines load cargo? This one is the reason we replaced our infant seat… << I MADE THIS MISTAKE.

ON ANCHORS AND BELTS

  • “Unless you have a Nuna Pipa base or a Forward Facing Clek Foonf, (do not use anchors and belts together).” Here
  • Anchors have a WEIGHT LIMIT.  “If child weighs more than 40 lbs, this seat must be used with a lap belt,” Clek Manual, Page 1!

Emily has also brought to my attention that your vehicle has its own weight limits for latches. Read your car manual.

WINTER COATS

  • NEVER ALLOW YOUR CHILD TO REMAIN IN THEIR WINTER COAT IN THEIR CAR SEAT. Here
    • to test this, put your child in their seat wearing the coat, buckle them, pull tight, unbuckle, remove the coat, and try again! WAY too much excess!

We’re going to finish with the checklist:

  • Your car seat straps should NEVER be twisted. They can’t be tightened enough.
  • Pinch the strap at the shoulder, if there’s no excess, the seat is tight enough. Here
  • Check your manual’s requirements for the head rest!!
  • NEVER use after market products. They haven’t been tested with your seat in a crash.
  • If your seat wiggles less than an inch side to side, it’s good to go! Here

I basically just summarized my manual. MY manual. Not your’s. So in case you didn’t catch the hint, READ YOUR MANUAL. 

Keep your manual in your glove compartment (cleks have a spot in the car seat!) It’s as important as your title, registration, and insurance.

Contact Manufacturers. Call Highway Patrol in your state. Contact a local car seat technician.

I’m more than happy to make edits. PLEASE correct me KINDLY. Add additional information in the comments.

In closing, Please find a location to recycle your car seat (expired, prior accident, unknown history)!

Here< For Clek Users

The Day A Friend Corrected Me

 I’ve been thinking about this blog post for months, the problem is, every time I start to write it, another friend chooses to forward face their child and I don’t want them to think I wrote it because of them. Here’s the thing: if this post convicts you, maybe you’re feeling convicted because you reasoned the same way. To some extent, forward facing your toddler is a preference. Statistics, and in some states, laws, recommend AT LEAST 2 years, but most states, despite American academy of pediatrics research, recommend (not require) AT LEAST 1 year and 20 pounds (minimum. That’s minimum.) 

Look up your state’s laws here. If you’re unhappy with your state’s decision, contact your local state representative. It’s also beneficial to contact car seat manufacturers, they are very supportive in lobbying for these changes. — thank you Krystina.
I’m writing this post not to make other parents feel guilty. If you feel guilty, deal with it on a personal level. This post is how I decided to extend rear face, not why you should. If you’re reading this and my reasons are your reasons, then do what you want with the information.  –

  
 I am as human as the next person. Moms and dads make mistakes everyday, and I was making one that could have cost my son his life. 

Above is Salem. Salem has always been in the 90th percentile for height/weight and between 75-85th percentile for his head size. As a first time mom, I was so proud of how big he was and by his first birthday, I just couldn’t wait to turn his car seat around. 

So I did. I shared the photo. A friend of mine commented, “just because he’s big enough doesn’t mean he should be!” I shrugged it off. This was a MILESTONE. Don’t ruin it, lady. 

Then I posted sleeping Salem. And she wrote me a book. 

“Listen, Candace. Hear me, please. Salem’s car seat straps are incorrect. The manual states he needs to have his chest buckle at his arm pits. In an accident, that buckle would dig into his soft stomach and cause serious damage to his organs, his upper body would have no support, flinging his so sweet and adorably large head so hard, that he is guaranteed to have serious spinal, nerve, and brain damage.

That is 100% the only wrong thing in the photo. (EDIT: a reader has brought to my attention “His straps were too loose and they were coming from behind his shoulders when we know they need to be at or above for forward facing. Now I know! It’ll be awhile before we are FF though 😏)

However, I need to address extended rear facing with you. Most states recommend a MINIMUM of 1 year and 20 pounds. While Salem meets that, it’s really best if he rides out the maximum rear facing seat requirements. I own that seat, they are 5-40 pounds and 40 inches rear facing. Meaning, he should be rear facing til about 2, which is what AAP recommends. Please consider turning him around?”

Crap. I’m so humiliated. She’s right. 

But rear facing is awful. I can’t see him. He whines. It looks uncomfortable. Plus, it’s SO OBNOXIOUS AND INCONVENIENT! 

Wait, what self? If you got in a wreck and you lost him, would any of those reasons stand a chance. 

Never. 

Not. One.

So I researched. I read every article on car seat safety. I joined Car Seats for the Littles on facebook. I asked my pediatrician. 

She was 100% RIGHT. 

Toddlers vertebrae aren’t connected by ossified bone; they’re connected by cartilage. Meaning it’s easier for serious damage to occur, ESPECIALLY in a car accident. HERE

Rear facing is 5 TIMES SAFER, 500%, for your child. HERE

And in case you came up with plenty of other myths to try one last time to keep forward facing, JUST LIKE I DID, Here.

A letter to myself: 

My child’s life is priceless. (As is your child’s.) I get one shot. I can’t put a price tag on it. I can’t put convenience ahead of it. I’m happy to share the information with you all and I will not be made to feel guilty. (Because I was you.)

I don’t care if you know you’re a super incredible safe driver. The car next to you isn’t. Don’t trust them to put your car seat to the test. 

If your child has outgrown their rear facing limits and you can’t afford to purchase one with higher limits, you shouldn’t feel guilty. NEVER FEEL GUILTY. You are educated and you are doing the best you can. 

  • This post is for the me’s out there. 
  • Front facing isn’t a milestone.
  • Front facing isn’t as safe. (With the exception of cars that don’t allow for proper rear facing installation).
  • Pride. Isn’t. Worth. It. 

Please consider Extended Rear Facing. Please.
 

If my post changed your mind (like many emails I’ve received!) or you already ERF your littles, post a picture on Instagram and

 #rearfacingforwardthinking 

It takes a lot to swallow our pride as moms. It’s ok to change our minds. Let’s support each other.

I have compiled more research, information from comments, and common car seat mistakes Here

Cameron’s story can be read Here