Many parents aren’t aware of the car seat mistakes they might be making! In this post, I break down the most common ones and how to fix them.
This was originally posted on January 9th, 2018. It was updated February 15th, 2019.
Are you making these most common car seat mistakes with your child?
Find out in this post, mama.
I will be sharing the most common car seat mistakes I’ve seen being made. I worked in customer service so I’ve seen some things… along with mistakes I have personally made. We never mean to – but it’s important to be aware so we can fix them!!
Now, please do not take offense to this post. I know none of us are purposefully putting our children in harms way. I only wish to inform in order to help new moms avoid something tragic happening to their babies.
→ Choosing not to use a carseat
I’m really sad that this is actually still a thing. A child’s body is small and fragile and will suffer severely if not restrained properly in a car seat in the event of an accident. I’ve seen children as young as 4 years old not in a car seat at all! Your child should be in a car seat until they completely grow out of them!
Children under the age of 10, up to age 12, should be properly restrained in an adequate car seat at all times.
Do not graduate them from their car seat before they are ready! They should be able to pass the five step test before getting rid of the car seat completely.
→ Forward facing your child too soon
While I know it is super tempting to turn babe around so you can see them – avoid it for as long as possible. Find a car seat that will allow rear facing for an extended period of time so that you can safely keep them turned around. By doing this, they will have more protection since they will not fly forward during an accident. Little bodies are not built like adults as their vertebrae is made of cartilage rather than bone for several years and are not fully formed until age 6 (source). It is super important to keep them rear facing as long as you possibly can while their bodies are still forming.
The longer you keep them rear facing, the more likely it is they will survive a crash once they do finally face forward in the car. Keep those babies rear-facing until at least age 2, if not longer!
Currently, there are seats that let you rear face up to 40-50 pounds so you can keep those babies safe!
→ Positioning the chest clips incorrectly
If you are located in the states, car seats do have chest clips that you need to use properly. I have seen many parents not position them at all and just clip and go. This can actually injure your child in the event of an accident! If the chest clips are further down towards their stomach, it can cause severe damage to their internal organs.
Be sure to push it up so it aligns with their armpits and properly protects your sweet babies if you get into an accident!
→ Harness straps are too tight, too loose, or in the wrong position
Harness straps are another thing that are SO IMPORTANT in keeping little one safe in the car. If they’re too tight or too loose, they can be ineffective or uncomfortable. They should be able to pass the pinch test before the vehicle gets moving.
Additionally, the straps need to be at the right position on the car seat as well. When rear facing, they should be placed at or below the shoulders. When forward facing, they should be placed at or above the shoulders. The incorrect position can have consequences.
Make sure that the harness straps are positioned and tightened correctly!
→ Placing the infant carrier on a shopping cart
For the love of god, please please please STOP DOING THIS! I understand it seems convenient or you think it’s safe because someone told you so (even your pediatrician may have). This is not only dangerous, but it damages the seat. You can even contact your local car seat tech if you don’t believe me!
By placing it on top of a shopping cart, it makes it top heavy and your child can be severely injured if it were to tip over. Additionally, when you clip it to the car seat, it wears down on it, making it less and less effective each time you do this. In many cases, it also voids the warranty for the car seat.
→ Upgrading car seats before your child is ready
This one can be kind of tricky. I have a hard time with it myself still. Before you switch to a booster, for example, the seat belt needs to fit across them properly and they need to be maxed out on the previous seat.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen kids in boosters well before they were ready. I’ve seen 3-year-olds in backless booster seats and it really worries what would happen if they were in an accident.
If you’re not sure what seat your child should be in, check out this article on the stages of car seat safety.
→ Using car seats that have expired or been in an accident
To be honest, I cringe when I see people listing their car seats on a yard sale. You don’t know if it’s been in an accident and sometimes they’re even expired. As soon as a seat has been in an accident, you can no longer use it. It needs to be thrown away with the straps cut and write DO NOT USE in black sharpie across it.
The good news though is your insurance should cover the cost to replace the seat.
Seats that are expired or have been in an accident are not safe to use. Always get a new seat.
→ Leaving heavy winter coats on your child
I know how hard it is to avoid this one, but if you need to loosen the straps in order to fit your child in their seat, the coat is too big and needs to be taken off. Loose straps put them at risk for not being protected in an accident!!
What we do is keep a warm blanket in the car so we can use our warm winter coats outside and take them off in the car and then wrap them up in a blanket. It keeps them both safe and warm!
It’s very important that you DO NOT use super poofy winter coats with their car seat!
→ Leaving toys on the infant carrier handle
As far as toys go, your best bet is to buy things that attach to the back of your seat in the car that they can kick or loose toys that stay in the car. Attaching toys to the infant carrier handle can pose a risk in an accident. They can fly off and smack baby or other people in the face. No matter how small, it can cause some damage, given enough force.
Keep toys off the infant carrier handle and opt for loose toys instead.
→ Purchasing and using aftermarket items on your carseat
I get it – you go to Target for the 3rd time that week and find just the cutest headrest for your babe. You’re about to purchase it and it is even marketed to use in your new car seat!
STOP. RIGHT. THERE.
These items, as well as others marketed to use with your car seat, are actually not safe. They have not been tested to use with your seat and the effects of using them have not been tested. They are only marketed by known companies to use that way.
If they don’t come with the seat, they are not safe to use. Only items that come with the seat have been tested for safety.
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