Last week, we turned around Lucy’s car seat. That’s a milestone, right? In doing so, we did a little family reshuffle in the van, and took Ayub out of his five-point harness. Anyway, this got me thinking that I’ve never done a post on car seats…the one thing I know the most about! Jeez…where is my head sometimes.
In my previous job, I got the opportunity to be trained as a Child Passenger Safety Technician. It’s a real thing and I have a certificate and everything. These are the people who are trained to check your car seat at those safety check events. Lots of them are law enforcement, fireman or EMS. And me. It was actually one of the things I love most about my job because I felt like it really made a difference. Having now given you my credentials, I will share with you my thoughts on car seats, especially as it applies to newly adopted children.
1. Yes, car seats are easier these days now that the LATCH system is required in all cars. But that still doesn’t give you an excuse. Read the installation manual that came with your seat AND read the relevant parts of your car’s owner manual. I know…dry reading. But both of these things have to work together to make sure you get the right fit for your seat.
2. Don’t buy used car seats. EVER. You don’t know if they may have been in a crash that affected their safety. Buy second hand clothes, shoes, books, room decor and strollers, but don’t skimp on the car seat.
3. Keep your kid rear-facing until age two. Yes, the recommendation used to be age one. Now it’s age two. Why do you think that is? Because one-year-olds DIED forward facing too much. I know you want to see their cute little faces, but don’t use that an excuse to turn them around when it’s not safe. While we’re on this topic, you should also avoid those little mirror that let you see them while rear facing. In a crash, they can become projectile objects and actually injure children.
4. Keep your kid in a five-point harness as long as you can. This means that when you buy a seat, make sure that it goes up to a decent height and weight. As you read above, I just now let Ayub move from a five-point harness to a booster and he is SIX. This is especially important for older adopted children. Typically, they are smaller than their peers, so going by age isn’t appropriate. And, they are not used to riding in cars and being belted in. Therefore, for us, the five-point was an extra layer of “don’t get out of your seat.” The five-point harness keeps them snug in a crash, and since many don’t have great muscle tone or weight, it is the safest option. Yes, it is a little bit of a pain if your child is in school and your school has a drop-off lane with impatient people lining up behind you. Ayub learned pretty quickly how to buckle his seat unassisted and in the mornings, I would just reach back and pop the buckle for him. I’d rather inconvenience someone at drop off than risk my kids’ life.
5. Keep your kid in a booster until approximately 4’9″, usually between ages 8 and 10, however this could be different if your child was malnourished and is small for his/her age. If you think your child is ready for life without a booster, try this test.
As a CPS Tech, I’m not allowed to give specific recommendations of car seats. But as a mom, I can tell you that my kids ride in a Diono Radian RXT. We started using this seat when Eleanor was three and had gotten too tall for the seat we had. After extensive research, I found this seat, which I love because it’s made of metal, not plastic and it holds kids from 5-120 pounds. That’s right, you can use this from the time your child is born until they are tall enough to use a seat belt. Yes, it is pricey. But no more so than buying and infant seat, a car seat and a booster, which you will have to do as your kid grows.
There are a lot of things in my kids’ life that I can’t control. They might ride their bike into a mailbox and break their arms, they might choke on a nickel, they might walk into a lifeguard stand and crack their head open (hmmmm…some of those examples sound familiar) and there is nothing I can do to prevent those things. However, I DO have the ability to make sure they are as safe as possible when in the car with me.