Like most people, I stumbled into parenting thinking it would come naturally or that I could learn what I needed to know from a book. Actually, you could probably learn a lot from reading many books (and manuals!) but I didn’t do that. Now having four children ages 6, 4, 2, and infant, I feel that it comes pretty naturally and still there are days when I’m learning and taking notes. I’ve always loved the saying “When you know better, you do better”, because I’ve lived it, so I’m often trying to share any information I have learned with others because let’s be honest, nobody’s perfect and everyone could use improvement somewhere!
The first and most important thing I have learned about since having children is car seat safety. I thought that putting a child in a car seat was pretty basic. Put them in, buckle the clips, and go. It is not. I put my daughter in with twisted, loose straps, clip on her tummy, and turned her forward when she was a few months younger than one because she was almost to the minimum age/weight and that was close enough, right? People have said that it is common sense but I’ve seen people make the same mistakes I did on a daily basis so I think it’s fair to say that we should stop assuming everyone knows and instead start talking about proper car seat use. There’s certainly no harm done if you already know about it!
The chest clip always goes up on the chest, never down on the belly. A good rule of thumb is to place the chest clip level with the armpits. The straps shouldn’t be twisted or loose, if you can pinch them together, then they are too loose. It is now recommended that you keep your child rear-facing until they are two and best to keep them rear-facing to the limitations of their seat. This varies with each seat so it’s always important to read your car seat manual, always. Your child rolling over, walking, talking, those are milestones. Turning their seat to forward-face is not a milestone and it’s not something you want to rush into just because they’ve hit that 20 pound minimum. To keep legs comfy, my kids cross their legs or prop them up and they’re happy to do it when I explain that this is safer for them in the event of an accident.
After-market products, meaning anything that is not sold with your seat, shouldn’t be used with your seat. They aren’t crash-tested with your seat and using them can void the warranty. I’ve seen some totally cute homemade car seat covers sold online but they are absolute no-nos. The infant head supports sold separately seem like the perfect problem-solver for that wee one’s head falling to the side but they are ill-advised. The best and acceptable remedy for this is actually to roll up receiving blankets to position the baby’s head.
No winter coats in car seats is the most recent lesson I learned about and probably the most inconvenient one to fix for most. The coats are heavy and cause the straps to be much looser than they appear to be, not allowing the child to be held in as tightly as possible. Right now, we put our coats on to walk to the car, take them off, get in, and the kids cover up with their coats. It takes a good three minutes longer but it’s worth it for the snug fit they get in their seats, which makes us all feel much safer.