car seatNew data presented at the recent American Academy of Pediatrics meeting found 93% of parents to newborns incorrectly positioned and buckled their infants into their car seat on their first trip home. A little more proof that perfectly buckling a car seat isn’t an innate early-parenting skill! Even Prince George’s royal family didn’t get it right. I’m certain I didn’t do this perfectly either on our maiden voyage home (I remember using a zip-in blanket in the seat) nearly 8 years ago. As The Car Seat Lady reminds, “products that have a layer that goes under the baby’s body can make the baby unsafe. This is true even if the product is designed with slots for the harness straps to fit through.” Most of us clearly mess this up and although the first trip is just one trip, it may be emblematic of our everyday use.

Car seats and booster seats are important for child safety; our habits for their use begin the moment we leave the hospital or birthing center. Although those “bucket” infant car seats are safest (we’d all be safer in the car facing the rear, and in a bucket) we move away from them when our infants are around 9-12 months of age. But do remember, with every graduation to a new seat, you decrease protection. For example, when you move from a a rear-facing infant seat —> rear-facing carseat—>forward-facing carseat—>booster seat—>seat belt—>front seat at age 13,  each time you advance the child safety seat, you’re decreasing protection you provide. Don’t rush the transition! Keep your child rear-facing until at least age 2 years and in a booster until they are at least 4 foot 9 inches (57 inches) tall.

The No-Duh Importance Of Car Seats

  • Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children in the US. Creating safe habits from day one matters…don’t blow off importance of car seat safety as helicopter parenting. Using the child car seat well every time is an easy way to layer protection and channel your bursting baby love.
  • Infant car seats, rear-facing seats and boosters all hold equal import. Only two states require car or booster seats until age 8 (WA is not one of them) even though children should be in booster seats until they are both 4 foot 9 inches and between age 8 and 12 years.
  •  Car seats reduce risk of death by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers if used properly: “Results of several studies have indicated that misused child safety seats may increase a child’s risk of serious injury in a crash.” (Page 9)

Findings Of Recent Newborn/Parent Car Seat Data

  • Dr. Benjamin Hoffman surveyed 276 mother/infant pairs born between Nov. 2013-May 2014 while leaving the hospital. A certified child passenger safety technician observed the family getting the child ready for the trip home and noted errors. After observing the install, technicians provided education and helped parents do it right!
  • Thing is, most of us won’t pass this test. Dr Hoffman and his team found 93% of parents leaving the hospital made at least one critical error (70% made errors in BOTH installation of the seat and how they positioned their baby in it).
  •  Most common errors:
    • Baby Positioning:
      • Loose harness (69%), retainer clip too loose (34%), use of after-market product not approved with seat (20 percent), harness too high (18
        percent) and caregiver not knowing how to adjust the harness (15 percent)
    • Installation:
      • Car seat installed too loosely (43%), incorrect angle of car seat (36%), safety belt used but not locked (23 percent), and incorrect spacing between car safety
        seat and vehicle front seat (17 percent)

What Parents Need To Know

  • Get help before the baby is born. Families trained by a certified car seat technician prior to birth were 13 times more likely to install & position correctly. Read about how to install a rear-facing car seat here and watch this video from Dr Hoffman on how to install and position a baby in a seat from The American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • In doubt about your mad car seat skills? Get your car seats checked at any age. Seattle Children’s also offers free classes for new and expecting parents. Here’s a good resource on finding the right car seat.
  • 3 things to remember: 2 is officially the new 1 (keep kids rear-facing until AT LEAST age 2), boosters until 4 foot 9 inches and over 8 years, and no one in the front seat until age 13 years.