5 Car Seat “Don’ts” You Want Avoid

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By: Heather Pladna

Parents-to-be have so much information to absorb. It’s difficult to keep track of it all. Then, baby
arrives and the sleep deprivation sets in. It’s easy to mistakenly do something dangerous,
especially when it seems that the safety recommendations are constantly in flux. Even if this
isn’t your first go-round, it’s likely things have changed since the last time you had an infant in a
car seat. Keep on reading to be sure you’re avoiding these common car seat mistakes.

Don’t put the Car Seat on top of a Shopping Cart

There’s no doubt you’ve seen lots of babies in car seats perched atop shopping carts. It’s a very
common practice but it’s not a safe one for baby nor is it a good move for the integrity of the car
seat itself. The major safety issue at play here is the potential for the shopping cart to tip over
due to becoming top-heavy from the weight of your baby and baby’s car seat. This could then
cause the car seat to topple over which could harm the baby. Additionally, car seats are not
designed to clip on to shopping carts even though you may be able to clip your seat onto the
cart. This is actually warned against in car seat manuals and can damage the mechanism in the
car seat that holds it securely to the base. Either scenario, a fall from the top of the cart or
unknowingly continuing to use a seat that has been damaged, could end tragically so it’s best to
avoid this practice altogether.

Don’t use Aftermarket Products

There are boatloads of aftermarket products sold for car seat use. Everything from hanger toys
for the infant seat’s handle to fancy headrests and infant inserts. Since they’re sold at leading
retailers and because they often have a stamp of “approval” listed on the packaging, parents
often figure they’re totally safe for use. The truth of the matter is that the car seat you own has
only been tested and proven safe to use with the items that are originally included with the seat
(or those sold by the manufacturer that are listed as safe in the instruction manual). So, while
those little teddy bear strap huggers are adorable, it’s better to leave them on the shelf and stick
with the products from the manufacturer of your seat designed for your specific seat.

Don’t put Baby in a Bulky Winter Coat

When the temperatures drop, it’s only natural to want to keep your baby warm and cozy,
especially when heading outside. It seems the sensible thing to do would be to bundle baby up
in a sweet, fuzzy bunting or a warm, puffy coat before strapping them into the car seat. The
thing is, car seat harness safety depends upon the snugness of the harness against baby’s
body. This means that in a collision, particularly at high speeds, the “fluff” of a winter coat
compresses, leaving baby loosely strapped in, and vulnerable to being ejected from the seat,
even if the harness had been pulled tautly over the coat at the onset of the ride. With small
babies, a blanket tucked around them or a “shower cap” style seat cover are the best options for
keeping baby warm in the car seat. With older children, simply having them put the coat on
backwards once strapped in their seats or using the coat as a blanket are the easy alternatives.

Don’t Leave Baby in Car Seat when not in Transit

With the convenience of a carrying handle, it seems that infant seats are designed to help
parents avoid having to remove your sleeping newborn from the seat once you’ve exited your
vehicle. However, the most recent recommendations warn against this practice, citing examples
of cases where infants have died when left to sleep in a car seat when not in-transit. They
believe this is a result of the angle of the seat and the position of the baby when the seat isn’t in
the vehicle versus its safe and proper angle when it is properly secured in the vehicle. So, while
it may seem counter-intuitive to disrupt a sleeping baby by removing him/her from the car seat
upon arrival to your destination, this is exactly the recommendation given for optimal safety.

Don’t Skip Reading the Manual

Perhaps this should go without saying, but with the constant need to maximize the use of our
time and the seemingly easy installation of car seats, it would be faster to skip reading the
manual and still feel confident that you have installed your car seat correctly. However, there
are so many nuances to the seats themselves as well as the vehicle in which the seat is being
installed, that failing to both read the manual and follow the instructions accordingly, could truly
be an endangerment to your child.

Keeping track of all the “rules” can be overwhelming when it comes to childrearing. However,
car seat safety is something that just cannot be glossed over. Car travel is so commonplace in
our society that we tend to overlook the inherent risks; but the proper safety measures must be
taken to keep your baby secure and out of harm’s way.

 

For car seat installation and support in the Baltimore area, please contact Sheena Hill, CPST at Parenting Works.

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