I’m going to be in the market for a new car seat for the Mouse soon. Right now, he’s in a Britax Roundabout 50 and we’ve been completely happy with it. BUT – as the Froggy gets closer and closer to growing out of his infant seat (we’re like 2 inches away in height), I’m thinking I would like to put him in the Roundabout, and get the Mouse something a little bigger and more comfy.
Car seat shopping is seriously daunting for me … and due to my profession (which I won’t go into on my blog, but I deal with car accidents on a daily basis), I know how extremely important a good car seat is for my kiddos. So, to help me out, I recruited my friend Kaye (whom I’ve e-known since we were both pregnant for the first time) who is a CPST (Child Passenger Safety Technician).
Kaye is to car seats and I am to strollers. (except she actually went through training and car seats, and I’m just a run of the mill stroller whore)
So I emailed Kaye with about 1000 questions, and finally asked her if she wouldn’t mind just doing a Q&A on my blog. And y’all, please keep in mind she did this all with a 2 week old at home … so she deserves some props. I’m not worthy of her ability to multitask.
1. Can you give me a basic rundown of the different kinds of car seats available? How do I know which category will work best for my baby/kiddo?
There are 4 different kinds of seats.
a – The Infant Seat. These are the bucket seats that you can install with a base and take in and out of your car. These seats usually have a top weight range of 22-35 pounds depending on the manufacturer. (But also be aware there is a height limit as well!)
b – The Convertible Seat. These are seats that can be used either rear facing or forward facing. It is possible to skip the infant seat and go straight to a convertible from birth, especially if you baby wear! (I’m doing this currently with my newbie. He went straight into a Combi Coccoro!) Convertible seats preferably should be used rear facing until your child reaches the weight OR height limits of the seat. Rear facing is 5X safer for all kids! (My 3 year old is still rear facing!)
c – The Combination Seat. These seats are forward facing only seats and go from a harness to a booster seat.
d – The Booster Seat. A dedicated booster seat can either be a high back booster or a no back booster.
Kaye’s ‘Monkey’ (3 years) and her brand new ‘Fruit Cup’ (not quite one month old) snug in their car seats.
2. Now that I know what category of seat my kiddo should be using right now, how do I choose one? What sorts of features should I be looking for or staying away from?
The best seat is the one that fits your child, fits your car, and will be used properly every single time! Any other features are just gravy … you want to be sure you get a seat that you know you will use properly every time you buckle up your kiddo. So you want a seat that you feel comfortable using.
3. I’m on a tight budget, are more expensive seats really worth the extra money?
A more expensive seat does NOT mean a safer seat! All seats on the market in the US today are tested on a pass/fail basis. So as far as we, the consumer, know they are all equally safe. On a budget? Not a problem, there are some budget friendly seats available that, provided they fit in your car and work for you kiddo, would be just fine!
4. I’ve chosen my seat, and it’s shown up in a ginormous box at my front door … how the heck do I get it installed in my car? How do I know I’ve done it correctly?
First things first. Read the manual! Cover to cover and twice over! I can not stress this enough. Even if you pull the seat out of the box and think “Hey, this looks easy!” Read the manual! There may be little nuances of the seat that you need to be aware of. There may be rules from the manufacturer that you don’t know about. Read the manual! Seriously, I can’t stress it enough. By the way, read the manual! Pretty much any question you have will be answered…in the manual!
5. My kid HATES their seat. Now what?
There are a lot of factors that can go into a kid hating their seat. Many times it’s a phase. It sucks but it’s true! It may be a behavioral issue which means you may need to do some hard core parenting. It could be that the kiddo is uncomfortable in their seat. Most seats (not all, but most) will allow for a more upright installation rear facing which can help solve some issues with younger kids. Once they have adequate head control (and the car seat manufacturer allows it) you can install the seat more upright which often solves many issues!
6. My kid is an escape artist … how do I keep buckles and straps where they’re supposed to be?
First I want to remind you where all of these buckles and straps should be. Should straps should be at or below shoulders when rear facing. They should be at or above shoulders when forward facing. Straps should be snug – you should NOT be able to pinch any slack in the harness when properly tightened. Here is a great link to show you how to do the “Pinch Test”. If the harness is too lose your kiddo can be thrown from the seat and/or vehicle if you get into a crash. The chest clip needs to go at armpit level (that’s why it’s called a chest clip and not a belly clip!).
First and foremost make sure you kiddo understands why they’re in the seat. “Mom and Dad (or Grandma and Grandpa or Aunt and Uncle…you get the point) want you to be as safe as possible! So here’s what we have to do to keep you safe in the car.” And then explain in more detail. This works if you kiddo is old enough to understand and is also pretty accepting.
This is Tottums interrupting … do your kids watch Dora? The Mouse ‘gets’ car seats because of Dora, ‘SEAT BELTS! So we can be SAFE!’
Carry on Kaye
If you really have a Houdini on your hands there are a few things you can try. If you’re having an issue with the kiddo messing with the chest clip I suggest a button down shirt. You put the shirt on and don’t button it. Put the kiddo into their seat and buckle them all up. After the kiddo is all buckled pull the shirt OVER the harness and button it up. If they kiddo can’t undo buttons yet they won’t be able to access the chest clip! You can also try putting some velcro (the hook side that’s scratchy) on the clip (this works for the crotch strap button too!) as kids usually don’t like the feeling of the velcro so they leave it alone.
7. Do you have any great online resources you can share with us?
I really love car-seat.org because it’s a community full of super car seat educated people who want nothing more than to keep all kids safe in vehicles! If you have questions it’s a great place to search and ask because there’s usually always someone who can and will answer you!
safekids.org is another site with lots of info on vehicle safety.
Also, The Car Seat Lady has a great blog with a ton of great info!
Just a reminder: Don’t use any product that didn’t come with your seat! Anything added to the seat can void the warranty and/or be a hazard. Things like Bundle Me’s, harness strap covers (that did NOT come with the seat) and custom covers can all mis-align the harness or put too much space between the seat and your kiddo. Even if the straps seem snug that extra fabric can (and will!) compress in a crash leaving room for your kiddo to be ejected! And always make sure that any toys your kiddo has in the car are soft (stuffed animals are great!) because anything that is loose in the vehicle will become a projectile in a crash.
Thanks so much for your help and guidance Kaye! Taking these pointers into consideration, I’ve narrowed my search for a new seat for the Mouse down to two different models …
… which I will go over in detail tomorrow, lol. While we’re waiting for me to get my act together and post the juicy stuff, does anyone have any rave reviews about their toddler combination seat? Can’t wait to hear them!