New AAP Car Seat Safety Guidelines: Rear-Facing Until Age 2

Summary:

In a new policy statement published in the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics now advises parents to keep toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age two, or until they exceed the height or weight limit for the car seat, which can be found on the back of the seat. Many […]


In a new policy statement published in the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics now advises parents to keep toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age two, or until they exceed the height or weight limit for the car seat, which can be found on the back of the seat. Many parents currently choose to flip their child to forward-facing around his or her first birthday.

Previously, the AAP advised parents to keep kids rear-facing as long as possible, up to the maximum limit of the car seat, and this has not changed. But it also cited one year and 20 pounds as the minimum for flipping the seat, which many parents and pediatricians interpreted as conventional wisdom on the best time to make the switch. The new policy clarifies the AAP’s recommendation, making age two the new guideline—a real game-changer for parents of toddlers.

A 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention found that children under age two are 75 percent less likely to die or to be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing. Another study found riding rear-facing to be five times safer than forward-facing.

“A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body,” said Dennis Durbin, M.D., F.A.A.P., a pediatric emergency physician and co-scientific director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphiaand lead author of the policy statement and accompanying technical report.

Parenting talked to Ben Hoffman, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and a child passenger safety technician, to get answers to parents’ most pressing questions about the new policy.
Although the new baseline is now age two, the AAP has advised parents since 2002 to keep kids rear-facing until they reach the height or weight limit of their car seat. Why are parents so eager to turn their car seats?

“Parents are interested in milestones, and the minimum of one year and 20 lbs has been interpreted as gold standard instead of the minimum,” says Dr. Hoffman. “Parents are always looking for the next stage of development because in every other scenario, that’s a good thing. With car safety seats, however, that’s often not the case.”
But isn’t forward-facing easier for everyone?

Yes, it’s easier to interact with your child when she is facing forward, and less awkward to get her into the seat. But safety should be the main concern. “I would ask parents to consider the protection of the child in addition to comfort,” says Dr. Hoffman. “It’s minimally acceptable to change to forward-facing at a year, but parents can do better than that.”
What about squished legs?

Kids who have only been rear-faced will most likely not be bothered, since they don’t know anything else. And it’s completely fine for their feet to touch the seat back, or for their legs to bend. “Once you make the switch, it’s hard to go back, so try not to ever switch them before they are ready,” says Dr. Hoffman.
Why are so few parents aware of even the older guidelines that say kids should stay rear-facing as long as possible?

There may have been some confusion with the message, with many parents mistaking the minimum for the ideal age to make the switch. The AAP hopes that by making age 2 the new guideline, the message will be less confusing for parents and for pediatricians.
If my child turns 2 before he reaches the height or weight limit for the seat, should I keep him rear-facing?

Yes. The safest decision is to keep him rear-facing until he reaches the height or weight limit for the seat.
If my child reaches the height or weight limit for my seat before age two, what should I do?

Once your child exceeds the height and weight limit of his infant car seat, purchase a convertible car seat with a higher height or weight limit (most go to 35 pounds rear-facing) and continue to use it rear-facing until age two, or until your child hits the height or weight limit for rear-facing use. At that point you can make the switch to forward-facing—or you can purchase a convertible car seat with a higher weight limit for rear-facing (some go up to 45 pounds). “That’s a very personal decision for the parent,” says Dr. Hoffman, one that may also be influenced by the size of your car, the arrival of a younger sibling or your budget.
What should I do if I’ve already switched my under-two child to forward-facing?

The best advice is for parents to consider switching their child back to rear-facing. But the next best thing is to, at a minimum, make sure you correctly use the seat you have: Make sure the seat is harnessed tightly to the vehicle, that the harness is snug over the child and the chest clip is in the correct position, and that the seatbelt or LATCH system are installed correctly.
Why didn’t my pediatrician tell me about this?

“Pediatricians should be talking about this,” says Dr. Hoffman. “But given everything else that needs to happen in a well-child visit, sometimes this message gets left behind. I would love to see a day where every family-care health provider knew the best possible advice and shared it with their patients.” Hopefully this new policy will keep things moving in that direction.

Baby Proofing Products

Summary:

Photo Courtesy of buybuybaby.com Lower cabinet and drawer locks. KidCo Swivel Cabinet and Drawer Lock from buybuybaby.com, $4.99 Plus: Babyproof Your Home Safety Mistakes Even Good Moms Make Babyproof Your Bathroom 11 Best Buys for Baby Health & Safety Stove knob covers to prevent your baby from turning on a burner. Safety 1st Clear View […]

  • Photo Courtesy of buybuybaby.com

    Lower cabinet and drawer locks.

    KidCo Swivel Cabinet and Drawer Lock from buybuybaby.com, $4.99

    Plus:
    Babyproof Your Home
    Safety Mistakes Even Good Moms Make
    Babyproof Your Bathroom
    11 Best Buys for Baby Health & Safety

  • Stove knob covers to prevent your baby from turning on a burner.

    Safety 1st Clear View Stove Knob Covers – 5 pack from amazon.com, $8.99

    Plus:
    Babyproof Your Home
    Safety Mistakes Even Good Moms Make
    Babyproof Your Bathroom
    11 Best Buys for Baby Health & Safety

  • Photo Courtesy of babiesrus.com

    Oven lock.  

    Safety 1st Oven Front Lock from babiesrus.com, $4.99

    Plus:
    Babyproof Your Home
    Safety Mistakes Even Good Moms Make
    Babyproof Your Bathroom
    11 Best Buys for Baby Health & Safety

  • Toilet lid locks.

    Mommy’s Helper Toilet Seat Lid-Lok from amazon.com, $7.29

    Plus:
    Babyproof Your Home
    Safety Mistakes Even Good Moms Make
    Babyproof Your Bathroom
    11 Best Buys for Baby Health & Safety

  • Tub spout cover.

    Skip Hop Moby Bath Spout Cover from target.com, $13.99

    Plus:
    Babyproof Your Home
    Safety Mistakes Even Good Moms Make
    Babyproof Your Bathroom
    11 Best Buys for Baby Health & Safety

  • Photo Courtesy of buybuybaby.com

    Corner guards and edge bumpers for coffee tables and raised fireplace hearths.

    Prince Lionheart Cushiony Corner Guards from buybuybaby.com, $7.99/4 pk

    Plus:
    Babyproof Your Home
    Safety Mistakes Even Good Moms Make
    Babyproof Your Bathroom
    11 Best Buys for Baby Health & Safety

  • Safety gates (the hardware-mounted style for the top and bottom of staircases).

    KidCo Safety Gate from amazon.com, $53.44

    Plus:
    Babyproof Your Home
    Safety Mistakes Even Good Moms Make
    Babyproof Your Bathroom
    11 Best Buys for Baby Health & Safety

  • Photo Courtesy of buybuybaby.com

    Railing netting or plastic guards (if you have an open railing).

    10’ Rail Net Mesh Guard by Safety 1st from buybuybaby.com, $19.99

    Plus:
    Babyproof Your Home
    Safety Mistakes Even Good Moms Make
    Babyproof Your Bathroom
    11 Best Buys for Baby Health & Safety

  • Photo Courtesy of buybuybaby.com

    Furniture straps, brackets, or other hardware that can be used to attach any heavy furniture to the wall.

    KidCo Anti-Tip Furniture Strap from buybuybaby.com, $3.99

    Plus:
    Babyproof Your Home
    Safety Mistakes Even Good Moms Make
    Babyproof Your Bathroom
    11 Best Buys for Baby Health & Safety

  • Outlet plate covers (not the plugs, which come out too easily).

    KidCo Home Safety Universal Outlet Covers from amazon.com, $8.95/3 pk

    Plus:
    Babyproof Your Home
    Safety Mistakes Even Good Moms Make
    Babyproof Your Bathroom
    11 Best Buys for Baby Health & Safety

  • Photo Courtesy of walmart.com

    Power strip covers.

    Mommy’s Helper Power Strip Cover from walmart.com, $5.54

    Plus:
    Babyproof Your Home
    Safety Mistakes Even Good Moms Make
    Babyproof Your Bathroom
    11 Best Buys for Baby Health & Safety

  • Photo Courtesy of buybuybaby.com

    Window blind cord wraps (or cut cords short, or replace them with shades).

    Safety 1st Window Blind Cord Wind Ups from buybuybaby.com, $1.99

    Recall Alert: All Roman shades and roll-up blinds have been recalled for repair. Read more here.

    Plus:
    Babyproof Your Home
    Safety Mistakes Even Good Moms Make
    Babyproof Your Bathroom
    11 Best Buys for Baby Health & Safety

  • Window guards (if your windows don’t lock securely).

    Guardian Angel Child Safety Window Guard from onestepahead.com, $49.95-109.95

    Plus:
    Babyproof Your Home
    Safety Mistakes Even Good Moms Make
    Babyproof Your Bathroom
    11 Best Buys for Baby Health & Safety

  • Doorknob or lever-style handle covers for any off-limits areas.

    KidCo Door Knob Lock from amazon.com, $10.95/2 pk

    Plus:
    Babyproof Your Home
    Safety Mistakes Even Good Moms Make
    Babyproof Your Bathroom
    11 Best Buys for Baby Health & Safety

  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (one on each floor, near the bedrooms).

    Kidde Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarms from target.com, $30.99/2 pk

    Plus:
    Babyproof Your Home
    Safety Mistakes Even Good Moms Make
    Babyproof Your Bathroom
    11 Best Buys for Baby Health & Safety

  • Veer

    Stuff You Don’t Need for Babyproofing

    We can’t think of anything, because we don’t know where you live or how curious your child is. Maybe you live in a ranch and don’t have a staircase, which would negate your need for a gate.

    Bottom line: Assess your needs and then implement them. And by all means, don’t take any notice of others who may wonder if you are overdoing it. When your baby is at this death-defying age, there is no such thing.

    Plus:
    Babyproof Your Home
    Safety Mistakes Even Good Moms Make
    Babyproof Your Bathroom
    11 Best Buys for Baby Health & Safety

Nearly 1.3 Million Evenflo Car Seat Buckles Recalled

Summary:

The recall includes Evenflo’s Momentum, Chase, Maestro, Symphony, Snugli, Titan, SureRide and SecureKid convertible and booster seat models manufactured from 2011 to 2014. Similar to the Graco seat recall in February 2014, the Evenflo recall has to do with car seat buckles that latch too tightly, which could make it difficult to get children out […]


The recall includes Evenflo’s Momentum, Chase, Maestro, Symphony, Snugli, Titan, SureRide and SecureKid convertible and booster seat models manufactured from 2011 to 2014.

Similar to the Graco seat recall in February 2014, the Evenflo recall has to do with car seat buckles that latch too tightly, which could make it difficult to get children out of the seat and out of the vehicle quickly in an accident or emergency.

The harness crotch buckle may become resistant to unlatching over time because of exposure to food, drinks and various other contaminants, according to the company’s website.

These convertible car seats and harnessed boosters still meet all requirements for crash worthiness and can continue to be used to transport children safely, if there is no difficultly unlatching the buckle. No risk exists if the buckle is functioning normally.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating several models of Evenflo seats in January, and regulators revealed that they are still investigating the safety of one of Evenflo’s rear-facing infant seats.

Evenflo has not received any reports of injuries to children in connection with the recalled buckles.

The company will provide parents a remedy kit, free of charge, that includes a replacement buckle and instructions for installing it.

Owners of these car seat models may contact Evenflo at (800) 490-7591 or go online to place an order for a replacement.

3 Water Safety Tips

Summary:

The next time you take your little guy to the pediatrician, you just might come home with an unexpected prescription for swimming lessons. A new Water Smart Babies program is gaining traction in a few warm-weather states, which is great news considering that children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. We talked […]


The next time you take your little guy to the pediatrician, you just might come home with an unexpected prescription for swimming lessons. A new Water Smart Babies program is gaining traction in a few warm-weather states, which is great news considering that children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. We talked with Lana Whitehead, spokesperson for Water Smart Babies and an American Red Cross certified water-safety instructor, about ways to ensure your little swimmers are safe.

1. Start young. “Kids can begin swim classes as soon as they can walk,” says Whitehead. But getting them into water for pure enjoyment (with you holding on tight, of course) can be done as early as 6 months, which can be a great bonding experience.

2. Don’t skimp on the safety measures. There are certain “layers” of protection you should implement to create a safe swimming environment for a child, says Whitehead. These layers include swimming lessons, putting up barriers (fencing, pool alarms, pool covers), becoming CPR-certified, and practicing “touch” supervision—always staying within arm’s reach.

3. Get smart. Find a water-safety class for your child.

Your Car Seat Safety Questions Answered

Summary:

Car seats keep your child safe, right? Not always. Sometimes car seats can fail if not taken care of or disposed of properly when they have experienced too much wear, reached their expiration date, or been involved in an accident. With each of these factors, a car seat’s ability to protect your child drops significantly. […]


Car seats keep your child safe, right? Not always. Sometimes car seats can fail if not taken care of or disposed of properly when they have experienced too much wear, reached their expiration date, or been involved in an accident. With each of these factors, a car seat’s ability to protect your child drops significantly.

Sarah Tilton, the Child Passenger Safety Advocate for BRITAX Child Safety Inc., helped us answer the most important questions you need to know about keeping your child safe in her car seat.

How long can I use my child’s car seat?

Every car seat is different, so always read the user guide to find out the seat’s expiration date and other important information. Most car seats last between five to nine years after they were manufactured (not necessarily after they were bought); that’s why it is important to check the user guide. Most infant car seats are the same.

You can also find the expiration date molded in the car seat or printed on the shell, along with labels listing contact information and other necessary safety information.

Why do car seats expire?

Safety standards change over time as safer technology is developed. Expiration dates not only alert you to the possibility that your car seat may be worn out, but they also provide an opportunity for you to buy a new seat that is safer for your child.

What makes one car seat last longer than another?

The type of materials used in a car seat effect the expiration date and how the seat will perform in a crash or wear over time. Depending on the type, the design, the kind of installation, and the materials used to make the car seat all affect how long the seat will last and how safe it is in a crash.

Is it ever okay for me to borrow a car seat or buy one used?

Borrowing or buying a second-hand car seat is not recommended unless you can, without a doubt, answer these four crucial questions:

  • Has this car seat ever been in a crash?
  • Are all the parts and pieces still attached to the car seat?
  • Are all the labels for proper use still affixed to the car seat?
  • Has this car seat ever been recalled?

If you cannot find the answer to these questions, or if the seat should fail in any of these areas, do not use or buy the seat.

How important is the instruction manual?

Always keep it or upload from the manufacturer’s website. It informs you of the expiration date, the recommended cleaning options, proper harness rethreading, correct installation and use as well as proper disposal methods.

If my car seat is involved in an accident, can I still use it?

Follow the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s guidelines that recommend discontinuing use of a car seat if it has been in a moderate to severe crash. You can keep it if the crash can be defined as minor, meaning it meets ALL of following criteria:

  • The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site.
  • The vehicle door nearest the child restraint was undamaged.
  • There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants.
  • The air bags (if present) did not deploy.
  • There is no visible damage to the car seat.

How do I know when to retire my car seat?

Car seats should be destroyed after their expiration date or if it has any missing or broken parts. The reason for destroying rather than just throwing it out is so that it will not be improperly used by an unknowing third-party who may then put a child’s safety at risk.

How do I dispose of my car seat?

Before throwing the car seat to the curb, you should cut off all of the webbing, cut up the cover, remove or blackout the serial number and manufacture date and write “trash, do not use” on the car seat shell.

20+ Tips for Babyproofing Your Home

Summary:

Nathalie Dion In the bathroom: 1. Always test the water temperature before placing baby in the tub. Set your water heater to 120 degrees or install an anti-scald device to the end of the bath spout and sink faucet.  2. Safeguard from slips by using nonslip mats in and out of the tub as well as on […]

  • Nathalie Dion

    In the bathroom:

    1. Always test the water temperature before placing baby in the tub. Set your water heater to 120 degrees or install an anti-scald device to the end of the bath spout and sink faucet. 

    2. Safeguard from slips by using nonslip mats in and out of the tub as well as on any hard-surface floors near the bathroom — chances are you’ll be chasing a naked, wet baby through the house at some point. 

    3. Install a toilet lock so little fingers don’t get smashed, to protect from accidental drowning and to prevent any unsanitary exposure. 

    4. If you don’t have an out-of-reach place to store medicines and supplements (for you and your baby), invest in a lockable medicine safe. 

    5. Keep looking like a hot mama, but always move the flat-iron cord (or any other appliance cord) out of baby’s reach to avoid burns or strangulation. 

    6. Cover the tub spout to protect his head in case he falls.

    Make Bathtime Fun & Safe:

    • Swing shut toilet lock by Safety 1st ($9; target.com)

    • Moby bath spout cover by Skip Hop ($13; target.com)

    • Anti-scald device by AntiScald ($40; antiscald.com)

  • The Pool Safety Hazard You Don’t Know About

    Summary:

    In June 2007, 6-year-old Abbey Taylor was swimming with her family at her local pool. But when her parents called out that it was time to go, they saw that she didn’t look quite right. Abbey stood up unsteadily from the kiddie pool, took a few steps sideways, and fell into the adult pool. There […]


    In June 2007, 6-year-old Abbey Taylor was swimming with her family at her local pool. But when her parents called out that it was time to go, they saw that she didn’t look quite right. Abbey stood up unsteadily from the kiddie pool, took a few steps sideways, and fell into the adult pool. There was no blood, but Abbey complained that her stomach hurt. It was hours later, after surgery for what doctors thought was a rectal tear, that her parents got the devastating news: Abbey had been disemboweled, her small intestine ripped from her body, by the suction from an uncovered pool drain. Although she fought for nine months through 16 surgeries, including a liver, small bowel and pancreas transplant, Abbey passed away on March 20, 2008.

    Pool drain entrapments can occur when a swimmer’s body or clothing become entangled in a faulty drain or grate, causing drowning or serious injuries. Pool drain accidents don’t happen often, but they do happen. Sadly, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says an 8-year-old girl has already been injured this summer. And a similar incident, which claimed the life of 7-year-old Virginia Graeme Baker (granddaughter of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III), inspired passage of the Pool & Spa Safety Act, whichrequires anti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices at public pools and spas.

    How can you make sure something like this never happens to your child? The CPSC recommends these precautions:

    • If you own a home pool, make sure federally-compliant drain covers are installed properly. Also, check to see if yours was one of the 1 million recalled this spring. Inspect your drain cover regularly to make sure it’s not broken or missing.
    • If you frequent a neighborhood pool or spa, advocate for regular checks by a qualified pool and spa safety inspector. You can remind pool managers that properly maintained drain covers are the law.
    • If you’re swimming in a pool and don’t know if it has been inspected, it’s safest to keep kids away from drains, pipes, and other openings.

    Car Seat Mistakes You May Be Making

    Summary:

    Here is a sobering truth: every day we lose 4 to 5 children in car crashes. They are the leading cause of death for kids in this country and yet most of us are completely untrained in the best way to keep our kids safe from them: by properly installing a car seat. “Across the […]

  • Here is a sobering truth: every day we lose 4 to 5 children in car crashes. They are the leading cause of death for kids in this country and yet most of us are completely untrained in the best way to keep our kids safe from them: by properly installing a car seat. “Across the country we find a greater than 95% misuse of car seats,” says Alisa Baer, M.D., a pediatrician and nationally certified child passenger safety instructor (who’s also known as The Car Seat Lady). But, don’t beat yourself up. What looks like just another piece of shiny, plastic baby gear is actually a sophisticated and complicated piece of safety engineering, and sometimes it takes an engineering degree to use it properly. So we spoke with three car seat safety professionals to find out what we’re doing wrong and how to do it right.

    Read the New AAP Car Seat Safety Guidelines to be sure your child has the proper protection.

  • iStockphoto

    Mistake #1: Picking the wrong seat for your child’s age, height or weight

    “A lot parents try their best, and still can’t figure this out,” says Lorrie Walker, training manager and technical advisor for Safe Kids Worldwide. “Others may be thinking they can stretch an infant seat until they need a booster and save a little money.” But while there is no link between the cost of the car seat and its effectiveness, take the time you need to make sure you have the right seat for your child.

    The fix:

    1. Research seats to find one that fits your child’s age, weight and height. 

    2. Check the manual and measure your child’s growth periodically so you know when it’s time to move on.

    3. Follow the new American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on how long to keep your child rear-facing.

    4. Never buy a used seat. There’s no way to know for sure if it has been in an accident, and even seats that have been in the family may be missing parts, or expired. Car seats generally have expiration dates six years after manufacturing.

  • Britax

    Mistake #2: Not installing your car seat correctly

    Car seat safety professionals will tell you they see a lot of car seats installed incorrectly, and very few done right. The fact is, “the overwhelming majority of car seats are mis-intalled,” says Ben Hoffman, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and a certified child passenger safety technician and instructor. That means most of us are driving around town with seats that could be more dangerous than not using one at all.

    The most common mistakes Hoffman, Baer, and Walker see are:

    1. Routing seatbelts incorrectly
    2. Not putting seatbelts in lock mode
    3. Using both the lower anchors of the LATCH system and the seatbelt 
    4. Connecting the lower anchors and tethers of the LATCH system to the wrong points in the car, especially cargo hooks
    5. Forgetting to use the tether at all (See Mistake #6 for more on that)
    6. Not putting enough weight on the seat as it is being installed

    Fixes

    1. Read BOTH your car seat’s manual and your car’s manual.

    2. Decide whether you will use the lower anchors OR a seat belt, and follow the directions for only that method. (The lower anchors are part of the LATCH system, which stands for lower anchors and tethers for children). Once you’ve connected the lower anchor straps, pull the belt tail tightly from the top of the car seat, not the side.

    3. If you are using seatbelts, figure out if yours are self-locking (they are required to be in any car made since 1997) and, if they are not, very carefully read how to use either the metal locking clip that came with your seat or the seat belt lock-off (if there is one) built into the car seat.

    4. If you are using the lower anchors, make sure you are using the proper anchors for the seat position you have chosen in the car (your car manual will tell you which ones). Many people think their vehicle has lower anchors for the center seat, but most cars don’t.  Parents often mistake anchor on the side seats for ones that belong in the center.  Make sure to tighten the straps once the clips are locked into place.

    5. Know that installing a car seat will take a bit of brute force, so try to put as much of your weight as possible on the seat as you install it. For rear-facing convertibles, try leaning your stomach on the back of the seat; for forward-facing, put both of your knees on the seat and then secure it. With your weight on the seat, wiggle the seat down into the cushion. Many installations are easier when done with two people.

    6. When you’re done, hold the seat where the vehicle or LATCH belt is holding it and really give it a good tug. It should move no more than one inch in any direction (side to side or front to back).

    7. Keep the instruction manual for the seat in the storage compartment located on the seat (almost all have them). Keep the car manual in your glove compartment so you can always find it.

    8. Have a professional check your work, even if you’re pretty sure you did it right.

  • Mistake #3: Not getting professional help

    Sure, you set up the crib just fine, you put together the bouncy seat, why should the car seat be any different? Well, here’s a hypothetical: would you wire your own house for electricity if you were not a trained electrician? If the answer is no, you should think twice about assuming you can correctly install a car seat. A car seat, even if it’s covered in pastel teddy bears, is a serious piece of safety equipment. Just like your car, it has been carefully engineered, based on complex physics and high-speed tests, to keep your child safe in an accident. But if this high-level piece of safety equipment is improperly installed, all of that work goes right out the window.

    “There is no reason that any parent should be confident enough in their car seat installation to take a risk on their child’s life,” says Dr. Baer. There’s even less reason to not do it when there are certified technicians all over the country who are easy to find and relatively inexpensive to consult. (Note: Dr. Baer only recommends going to your local police or fire stations, as many parenting books suggest, if they are listed as checkpoints. Go to seatcheck.org to find out.)

    The fix

    Set aside your pride, find the nearest certified technician, and drive your newly-installed seat to them (or bring your seat in its box and have them teach you). Even if they only tweak your installation a little—the average installation has three errors—you can walk away with valuable piece of mind. If they do a complete overhaul on your install job, you will be so grateful they did.

  • thecarseatlady.com

    Mistake #4: Fitting the harness incorrectly

    Think of your child’s car seat as a parachute that slows her fall and cushions her landing in a crash. If you were to jump from a third-story window (which is the equivalent impact of a 30-mile-an-hour crash) a parachute that is snugly attached to your body will bring you to a stop that is as slow and gentle as possible. The same applies to a harness, which should fit very snugly to your child’s body, but rarely does, because most parents worry about their child’s comfort when they snap them in. “Your parenting instinct tells you it will be better loose,” says Dr. Baer. But making it snug is a much safer choice, and not uncomfortable.

    The fix:

    1. The harness should be snug enough “that you can only fit one finger between your child’s collarbone and the harness strap,” says Emily Levine, a nationally certified child passenger safety technician and one of the Car Seat Ladies.

    2. The chest clip should be even with the armpits.

    3. Children should not be wearing bulky clothes like jackets when they ride in their seat.

    4. Do not use any accessories that are not certified for use in car seats, like bundlers, car seat covers that did not come with the seat or head positioners. “The only thing you should add to a car seat is a child,” says Levine.

  • thecarseatlady.com

    Mistake #5: Facing your child forward too soon

    “What I see most often as a car seat technician is that people definitely turn their kids around prematurely,” says Dr. Hoffman. “I think it’s because in this culture, we are so focused on milestones for young children and the idea that moving from one step to the next is a positive thing. But with child safety, it just is not.” In fact, says Dr. Baer, “rear-facing is 5 times safer for two-year-olds.”

    The fix:

    Follow the newly-issued guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics that advise parents to keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2 or until they exceed the height or weight limit for their car seat, which is typically 20 pounds for an infant seat, and 35 to 40 pounds for a convertible seat. If you started with an infant seat, this may mean transitioning to a convertible seat that can be rear-facing once your child outgrows the infant seat. Levine notes that even if your child’s legs are touching the back seat of the car, or even bending so they’ll fit, it’s not unsafe and not a reason to turn your child around too soon.

  • University of Michigan

    Mistake #6: Not using the tether

    You know that long strap that always gets stuck in car doors and under your feet when you’re moving your car seat around? That annoying guy is a lifesaver. Intended to be attached to anchors that usually sit behind the headrests (almost all tethers are only used with forward-facing car seats), the tether keeps your little ones head safely within the confines of the seat, yet only 42% of parents use it.

    “Using the tether decreases how far the child heads moves forward by four to eight inches with a properly installed car seat,” says Dr. Baer. “That doesn’t sound like much, but it could keep your child’s head from hitting the back of the front seat, the door frame or window in a crash and that’s the key to decreasing your child’s chance of having a brain or spinal cord injury.” With an improperly installed seat, the benefit of the tether is even greater, says Dr. Baer.

    The fix

    All forward-facing car seats (and a few rear-facing too—check your manual) should be tethered to the proper anchor for the car seat’s position in the car. Once again, get out your car seat and car’s manual, and install the tether according to both sets of directions.

  • Mistake #7: Getting rid of the booster too early

    “Most parents move their kids out of a booster seat before their child actually fits in a seat belt properly,” says Levine. And there’s no better place to see this mistake in action than in the carpool. “A lot of parents give in to peer pressure from other parents to take their kids out of the booster,” says Walker, because more kids can fit in a car without them. Kids might also perceive a booster as babyish, and be anxious to sit in the car like a grown-up. Walker warns parents to do the right thing for your child and keep them in the booster until the seat belt fits properly. And since seat belts are designed for people who are at least four feet and nine inches tall, that may not be until your kid is 10 to 12. But a seat belt that doesn’t fit properly can do more harm than good, piercing internal organs, damaging the spinal cord or, if the shoulder strap is improperly fitted, seriously injuring the head.

    The fix:

    1. They should pass the 5-Step Test created by SafetyBeltSafe USA.

    2. Even if a child is technically big enough, make sure he also has the maturity to stay seated in the belt in a safe way—not slouching, or putting the shoulder portion behind his back.

  • iStockphoto

    Mistake #8: Parents not wearing their seat belts

    The trunk is finally packed, the kids are buckled in, you’ve gone back twice for things you forgot, you’ve squished yourself into the back seat next to your 3-year-old’s behemoth of a car seat. The driver is asking if you’re finally ready to go. You give the go-head, figuring you’ll buckle in after you’ve rifled through your bag for a snack or grabbed that favorite toy from the back, but then you never do. Sound familiar? Well, it’s common, and it’s a huge danger not just to yourself but to every other person in the car, including the kids you’ve so carefully secured.

    “If you have an unbelted person in the backseat, the other people in the car who are belted are two to four times more likely to die in a crash,” says Dr. Baer. And when you look at the physics, it makes sense. A typical 30-mile-an-hour crash may have 20-25 Gs, (G is the force of gravity), which means the weight of a 100-pound person would be magnified 20-25 times. If you were hit by that person, it would be equivalent to being slammed by someone who weighs 2,000 to 2,500 pounds.

    The fix

    Be a good example to your kids, whether you’re riding in the front or back seat. The car doesn’t move until EVERYONE is belted in.

  • thecarseatlady.com

    Mistake #9: Not travelling with your car seat

    Walk onto an airplane today and you would never know that the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board all recommend that children ride in car seats on airplanes. Instead, most kids are flopping around on seats, squirming on laps or toddling down the aisles. But Baer and her safety colleagues advise that any time a child is in a moving vehicle, they should be strapped into a properly installed car seat. The bonus is that most kids are comfortable in their car seats and more likely to sleep.

    And taking your seat along for the flight ensures that on the other end you will have a car seat that is appropriate for your child, and one you know how to install. “Sometimes you show up to the car rental place and all they have left is a booster for your 6-month-old,” says Dr. Baer.

    The fix

    Yes, we know it’s a schlep, but bring your car seat on any trip away from home and consider buying a travel-friendly car seat if your family travels a lot.

    Read more about how to use your car seat on an airplane

  • Mistake #10: Not using the car seat every time

    There are few among us who have not been guilty of once in awhile forgoing the car seat. Maybe someone without a car seat offered you a ride home. Maybe you were trying to squeeze one extra kid into a car that already has two car seats and no room for more. Maybe you said to yourself, “Heck, when I was 4, I was already out of a car seat.” Whatever the reason, whatever the excuse, it should stop now. Why? Because 60% of crashes involving children happen within 10 minutes of home, more than three-quarters of them happen when the speed limit is 45 mph or less, and almost all of them happen when the driver is familiar with the route.

    The fix:

    Remember that your kid’s safety is more important than saving a little time, and commit to travelling with them in a car seat every time you drive—or leave the kids at home.

  • Mistake #11: Letting kids sit in the front seat too soon

    You know enough to never use a car seat in the front, but wouldn’t having your big kid up there with you be nice? However conducive it may be to conversation, the front seat is not a safe choice for a child 13 or under, so keep them safely buckled up in the back seat. Should you get into an accident, your child has a smaller chance of hitting the windshield back there. Also, she’ll avoid getting injured by an airbag that inflates rapidly.

    The fix

    Keep kids 13 and under safely buckled in the back seat, no exceptions.

  • Your Rear-Facing Car Seat Questions, Answered

    Summary:

    Many parents have expressed confusion about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ new car seat guidelines, which recommend that toddlers stay rear-facing until age 2, or until they reach the height or weight limits for their rear-facing car seat. So we asked Alisa Baer, M.D., a New York City pediatrician known as The Car Seat Lady, […]


    Many parents have expressed confusion about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ new car seat guidelines, which recommend that toddlers stay rear-facing until age 2, or until they reach the height or weight limits for their rear-facing car seat. So we asked Alisa Baer, M.D., a New York City pediatrician known as The Car Seat Lady, to address parents’ most frequently asked questions, from worries over the child’s discomfort to fitting rear-facing seats into a small car.
    What if I have a small car that won’t fit my convertible seat rear-facing, or won’t fit two rear-facing seats?

    Having installed more than 5,000 car seats, I can tell you that the overall size of your car or car seat don’t matter as much as the distance between the back seat to the back of the front seat. Also at play is how the back of the front seat is contoured, as some vehicle seats protrude more into the back seat’s territory than others.

    When picking a car seat to go in the center of the back seat, pick a car seat that is more contoured at the head area; those that are more squared off or rounded will have difficulty tucking themselves between the two front seats (see the photo above to see what I mean). These two convertible car seats are the same width, but the one on the left is much more contoured at the head area and will therefore tuck itself nicely into the gap between the two front seats, while the one on the right will often not.

    When picking a car seat, especially one that will be going behind the driver, the best one will be the seat that can sit the most upright when installed rear-facing. When you are in the store, see how much room the car seat takes up front-to-back when it is in the most upright position allowed for rear-facing by the manufacturer. The sloping of your vehicle seats will also determine how reclined or upright the car seat sits; the more sloped the bottom of the vehicle seat, the more upright the car seat will tend to sit, and the more room it will typically allow for a front seat passenger.

    If you are curious which car seat currently on the market has the smallest footprint in terms of front-to-back distance, the answer is the Combi Coccoro. Its drawback is that it is also shorter in seated height than most convertibles, so won’t last rear-facing as long as others. But it may be an option for a family with two rear-facing kids, especially in a small car with a tall driver where one child has to go behind the driver’s seat.

    Confused? Visit www.seatcheck.org to find a trained technician in your area who may be able to help you arrange the seats securely in a way that maximizes the space for everyone in the vehicle.
    Won’t my child’s legs be squished? I don’t want her to be uncomfortable.

    Kids are flexible. Your baby spent the last 4 months of your pregnancy tucked up into a little ball; as a newborn all he wanted was for you to swaddle him as tightly as possible, tucking his knees up as high as they’d go, to keep him calm. Your 6-month-old thinks that chewing on his feet is the best activity ever. Your toddler may no longer want to be swaddled or teethe on her toes, but I’m sure she sits in some pretty contorted positions when playing on the floor with her toys. Ever try sitting in a “W” like your toddler often does? I’ll bet you haven’t, because adults typically aren’t flexible enough. Ever watched a 5-year-old sleep with his chin on his chest during a long car ride and think “ouch, that can’t be comfortable,” yet your 5-year-old amazingly wakes up happily with no complaints of a stiff neck? Kids are flexible because their joint spaces aren’t fully formed; since they aren’t fully formed in their knees and ankles, your rear-facing preschooler is able to sit comfortably even though they appear somewhat cramped.

    Many parents also worry that it is unsafe for the child’s legs to be bent in a crash. Won’t they break a leg? Could their knees go into their stomach and hurt them this way? Turning to data from real kids in real crashes, we know that the answer is NO—they typically won’t break their leg, and we have not seen any abdominal injuries. In fact, studies show there are many more leg injuries to forward-facing children than to rear-facing children. As a pediatrician, I worry most about the brain and spinal cord, as these are the parts of the body we don’t know how to fix if they get broken. Rear-facing protects the brain and spinal cord much better than forward facing. A broken leg should be the worst injury your child has; six weeks in a cast, and they are as good as new.
    What if I get hit from behind? Is my child safe rear-facing?

    You know the saying “don’t sweat the small stuff?” Well, it even applies to rear-end collisions, as they typically are the least severe of all crashes. If you look at crashes from 2009 that were severe enough that at least one person in the vehicle died, only 4% of those crashes were rear-end collisions; 52% were frontal impacts, 27% were side impacts, and the remaining 16% were other types, mostly rollovers. Therefore, it is most important to provide protection for frontal and side impacts, because these crashes tend to be the most deadly.
    What if my child gets motion sickness from sitting backward?

    As someone who, to this day, still gets very motion-sick, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. Motion sickness happens when the brain gets mixed messages about motion and can’t reconcile them; your body feels stationary as you sit in the car but your eyes tell your brain that your body is actually moving. When the brain can’t figure out how to make sense of these seemingly contradictory messages, the body feels sick. Volvo did a large study of several thousand toddlers and found no difference in the rates of motion sickness between those riding rear-facing and those forward-facing. But statistics don’t help when it is your child who is throwing up! Here are some suggestions.

    The most important thing is to make sure your child has the best view possible out the BACK window. Kids and adults who get motion-sick will tell you that looking out the side windows is a quick and easy way to feel very sick, very fast. Why? Things move very quickly out the side windows, which confuses the brain even more. Looking out the back window (for rear-facing kids) or the front window (for forward-facing kids or adults) makes it seem like you are moving slower than the side windows make it seem. For rear-facing kids, sit their car seat as upright as the manufacturer allows and, when possible, remove the vehicle’s head rest to give the child the best possible view out the back window. If possible, have the child ride in the center of the back seat as this spot typically gives the best view out the back window. You may want to consider trying to block your child’s view out the side windows, since you can’t really tell a 2-year-old not to look out the side window! This sunshade will do just that.

    Make sure you aren’t inadvertently making your child feel sick; if you are giving him toys or books that require looking down and concentrating, this will likely make him feel sick. Try occupying your child with songs and games that require looking out the window. If you can, travel at naptime or bedtime as your child will not feel sick while sleeping.

    Many parents use food as an activity during long car rides, but for a child who gets motion sick, this will only make matters worse. Feed your child something starchy like bagel or crackers about 1-2 hours before the car ride, and then try to not feed him in the car.

    If you have to take a long trip, talk to your pediatrician about using an anti-nausea medication. You can also try some natural, homeopathic remedies, including accupressure wrist bands (but make sure the one you get is not a choking hazard for a young child), and ginger.

    Some kids are going to get motion sick regardless of the direction they are facing—and the worst part, besides watching your child feel ill, is having to clean the car seat when it is full of vomit. To decrease the clean-up, have your child wear a “puking poncho” that keeps his clothes and the car seat dry.
    What should I do if my kid hates rear-facing and screams through every car trip? I’ll be a distracted driver, and that’s not safe either.

    As a pediatrician, I can tell you that it is not developmentally appropriate for a toddler to want to sit happily in the car for long period of time, no matter which way they are facing. Toddlers are curious by nature and want to run around and explore their world, something which car seats (whether rear-facing or forward-facing) don’t allow. But sometimes as parents we subconsciously encourage the very behavior we want to discourage. For example, when your child is screaming in the car, you probably give them more attention (telling them to be quiet is attention, albeit negative attention) than when they are playing quietly in the car. To your child to sit happily in his rear-facing car seat, you are going to need to put in a little effort, but I can guarantee that the pay off is worth it for both of you. Here are some suggestions; try whichever one or ones you think may work best with your child.

    The first thing to understand is that young kids will work for attention—whether it is positive or negative attention—and they likely have trouble distinguishing between the two. First, you need to praise your child frequently for good behavior. If you are buckling your child in and he is cooperating nicely say, “Mommy is so proud of you for getting buckled like a big boy.” It is now two minutes into the car ride and he’s still sitting nicely; yup, you guessed it, praise him again. Two minutes later, praise him yet again. Kids have very short attention spans, so the praise, especially in the beginning, needs to be very frequent. But what happens when he starts to scream (as he will invariably do)? First, stay calm. Your goal is to give him zero attention for his misbehavior; this means that you don’t show him any facial expressions in reaction to it (typically people show an angry face or laugh, both of which encourage the child to continue screaming). Instead of asking or telling the child to be quiet you can either ignore them completely or, using a normal tone of voice, talk with them about something else (pretend that they aren’t screaming and are acting normally).

    Another way to praise the child for good behavior is using a sticker chart. Kids love visual reminders of their good behavior, and it encourages them to continue that behavior so they get another sticker. If your child often misbehaves when you are buckling them in, talk to them on the way to the car about the behavior you expect and the reward for such behavior (i.e. a sticker, or getting to read a story with you). If they behave well while you buckle them in, don’t make them wait until the end of the car ride for a sticker, give them one then. If they also typically misbehave during the trip, talk to them on the way to the car about the behavior you expect, and give them a sticker at the end of the car trip as a reward.

    Making things routine—and helping your child understand the steps to the routine—alleviates some of the anxiety associated with change. Picture books are a great way of teaching your child the rear-facing routine, while also making it fun. Most toddlers love reading books, especially ones about them! Here is an example of a story you can write with your child; you can even take your own photos to add to it. Print it out and read it with them as you go to the car and buckle them in.

    Page 1: Mommy and I walk to the car.
    Page 2: Mommy opens the car door.
    Page 3: I climb into my seat like a big girl!
    Page 4: Mommy puts the straps over my shoulders and over my hips.
    Page 5: I help Mommy with the easy part (the chest clip).
    Page 6: Mommy does the hard part (buckles between the legs).
    Page 7: Mommy makes my straps snug so they give me a hug.
    Page 8: Mommy gives me a high five and a hug.
    Page 9: Mommy sits in her seat and wears her seat belt snug so it gives her a hug.
    Page 10: Mommy starts the car—I like the sound of the engine!
    Page 11: Off we go!

    If your child has a favorite book or small toy, save it for the car. This way it makes them look forward to riding in their car seat, as they get to play with that toy or read that special book.
    A new study seems to come out practically every day. How do I know the studies on rear-facing car seats won’t change tomorrow?

    Physics don’t change, and the physics is such that forward-facing will never be safer than rear-facing, as this video clearly demonstrates. We’d all be safer riding rear-facing! Ever wonder why flight attendants ride rear-facing? You guessed it—because rear-facing is the best way to take an impact. With more than 30 years of data from Sweden, where kids ride rear-facing until age 4 or beyond, showing the benefits of rear-facing over forward-facing for toddlers and preschoolers, I can assure you that the only changes in the recommendations will be to increase the time kids should ride rear-facing, not decrease it. While these recommendations may seem new to many parents—specifically that kids should ride rear-facing as long as possible and in boosters until the belt fits properly (typically age 8-12)—they aren’t actually new at all. Even in 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics said for optimal protection, the child should remain rear-facing until reaching the maximum weight for the car safety seat, as long as the top of the head is one inch below the top of the seat back.
    How do you get your child in the car without bashing his head on the top of the car?

    Ever find your toddler on the kitchen counter with his hand in the cookie jar? Toddlers are great climbers; put their skills to good use and teach your toddler how to climb into their car seat. It may take a little practice to find the best way for them to climb in, so take a few minutes one day when you aren’t in a rush to go anywhere, and teach your toddler. Make it a game and they’ll think it is fun!

    For younger kids who can’t climb in by themselves, put them into the seat diagonally, with their head first and feet last.
    My child is 15 months old and forward-facing. Should I really turn him back rear-facing?

    Yes! When we know better, we must do better. Three months ago when you turned her forward facing, you did what you thought was best, but now you know differently. Avoid regrets, and give her the best protection you know how.

    Many parents worry that it will be a disaster turning a child back to rear-facing. Here is one mom’s experience turning her almost-3-year-old son back rear-facing:

    “I was initially very hesitant to move my almost 3-year-old son to rear-facing from forward-facing. He has been sitting forward-facing for over a year and can be strong-willed when it comes to change. However, after hearing how much safer it is, I was willing to try. The first three or so drives were very difficult, as he asked to “look out mama and dada’s window” almost the entire time. We ignored and distracted, and I was about to give up when I noticed that although he still complained about sitting rear-facing, it happened less and less. Now (after about three weeks) he asks maybe once every other drive if he can sit forward-facing and was even (mostly) fine the other day when his friend joined us and sat forward facing. It was a tough first few drives, but I am very happy we did it and I feel so much safer.”
    My 20-month-old is too heavy for rear-facing in her current seat. Should I really buy a different seat just so she can ride rear-facing for a few more months?

    Imagine it is November, and your 20-month-old has outgrown all of her winter clothes. Would you not buy her new winter clothes because it will be warmer in 4 months? The car seat is one of the only products you will ever buy for your child that has the potential to save her life. Just like your child needs new clothes frequently, they may need a new car seat sooner than you thought. If you are in a crash, you will be relieved knowing that you gave her the best protection possible.

    Spring Cleaning Baby Proofing Tips

    Summary:

    After one wicked winter and lots of time spent cooped up indoors, it’s time to throw open the windows and get busy with a little spring cleaning. Getting rid of winter’s dirt and grime can call for extra precaution when you have a new baby in the house or are expecting one. Here are some […]

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    After one wicked winter and lots of time spent cooped up indoors, it’s time to throw open the windows and get busy with a little spring cleaning. Getting rid of winter’s dirt and grime can call for extra precaution when you have a new baby in the house or are expecting one. Here are some tips to help you scrub safely.

    Be Picky

    Household cleaners are among the most dangerous potential poisons for young children, with bleach causing the most injures. In addition to being toxic if ingested, many cleaning products give off fumes or leave a residue that can harm your baby. Read labels and try to find the safest products for the job. Those that have the words caution or warning on the label are less toxic and much more common than ones that read danger or poison (try to avoid these, if possible), but you still need to use them carefully and be vigilant about keeping them away from your baby. Don’t mix cleaning products or use more than one on a particular surface; products that are safe when used alone can become hazardous when mixed with other cleaners. Keep in mind too that just because a cleaning product is considered “green” (think: all-natural, eco-friendly or biodegradable) doesn’t mean it’s safe for babies.

    Out of Sight, Out of Reach

    Whatever products you use, make sure you have enough ventilation and keep a close eye on your baby at all times. Never leave a bucket or any container of liquid unattended, as young children can drown in even just a few inches of water. When you’re done cleaning, store supplies, preferably in a locked cabinet instead of on or under your countertop. (Babies can reach more than you realize!) The candy colors of some cleaners can be hard for toddlers to resist.

    It’s All About Timing

    Schedule big cleanups for when your baby is napping or not at home. Studies show that unintentional exposure to toxic cleaning supplies usually happens between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., typically hectic hours in a full household when parents can get sidetracked and leave cleaning supplies within baby’s reach.

    Take Out the Trash

    Toddlers are notoriously curious, and trash cans can be a source of unending fascination. Consider the potential hazard of anything you throw away. If you’re throwing out dangerous items like spoiled food or discarded razor blades (if they’re allowed in the trash in your area), make sure they’re in a container with a child resistant cover. Better yet, move such trash out of the house as soon as possible.

    Mold Be Gone

    Areas that have been flooded or otherwise exposed to water are a breeding ground for mold, a common source of indoor air pollution. To fight it, wash the area with soap and water followed by a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water. Just use caution with the bleach; it’s labeled danger.

    Get Underfoot

    Your baby spends a lot of time on the floor, and dust, pet dander and mold are big fans of carpet. If you can, invest in a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, which can help reduce allergens every time you vacuum. If you’re going to deep-clean your carpets, use nontoxic cleaning agents that don’t leave chemical residues.

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