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Choosing a Car Seat & Car Seat Safety

car seat safety car seats newborn safety Oct 12, 2021
She Found Health
Choosing a Car Seat & Car Seat Safety

Why do we even bother with car seats? This may seem like a silly question today, with stories of days gone by where babies were driven in old Chevrolets held in their parents laps seem rightfully scary! But looking at the statistics on car seat safety offers a strong reminder to take care that both the seat you choose and installation is done with full consideration of best practices and proper use.

Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of preventable death in children ages one through nine in Canada. Driving is one of the most dangerous things that we do, and most of us do it on a daily basis with our children in the mix. Child safety seats have been shown to reduce fatal injury by 71% for infants under 1 year, 54% for toddlers ages 1-4 years, and 45% for children ages 4-8 years. Sadly, public clinics indicate that as many as 90% of child restraints are installed or used improperly. A car seat is a life-saving device, but it can only protect your child if it is installed and used correctly - the good news is you’re in the right place to learn how!

Which car seat should I buy?

There’s no simple answer to that question. Just like every child is different, so too is every seat and vehicle combination. The most important things to consider are that it needs to fit your child, your vehicle, your lifestyle and your budget - keeping in mind that cost and quality do NOT always go hand in hand and in the world of car seats!

If a car seat has been in a car accident, it is no longer safe. That is why it is NOT recommended to buy a used carseat, unless it is from a very trusted source and you know that the person would be honest with you if the car seat was in a car accident or had been damaged in any way. Only accept a used car seat from a person who you would trust with your child’s life, because in essence that is what you are doing.

When buying a car seat, it is highly recommended to visit with a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) who is trained to educate parents and caregivers about everything car seat related, from harnessing to installation! CPST will be able to check the compatibility of the seat and show you how to correctly fit it in your vehicle and to your child.

Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada (CPSAC): Find a Tech

When should I start looking?

The sooner the better, if you can! When baby is on the way, it is a good time to start doing preliminary research on you own and make some decisions on what might be a good fit for you: what kind of vehicle you have, how often you will be driving, what kind of stroller system you might be working with, and what type of car seat you’d like to use. You should consider preparing and installing the seat in the vehicle around the 34th week of pregnancy - you never know when that baby may be ready to come! Getting this research and practice out of the way will help reduce stress and anxiety once the baby arrives and your hands will be full with other considerations! 

What are the main types of car seats for newborns?

There are two main types of car seats that will accommodate a newborn: 

  1. An infant seat (often referred to as a bucket seat): that comes with or without a base
  2. Convertible/multimode seat: these seats are installed into your vehicle and stay in your vehicle

Rear facing is the safest way for children to travel in a vehicle, and we recommend keeping your child in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible. In a collision or abrupt stop, a rear-facing seat spreads the force of the crash into the seat more effectively, rather than into the child, protecting their spine. Steering away from a size milestone, it is best to make the switch in relation to their development; a two-year-old that's the size of a four-year-old, still has the spine of a two year old. 

Top 3 Mistakes People make with Car Seats

  1. Car seat not installed correctly or securely: either the installation is too loose or incorrect, meaning using an installation method not permitted by the manufacturer: ultimately the car seat is only good when installed exactly as the manufacturer states.
  2. Improper harnessing: usually meaning the harness is too loose, or being incorrectly positioned in relation to the child's shoulders. For rear facing seats, you always want that harness to be either at, or coming from below, the baby's shoulders so that it can round the shoulders - like a backpack!
  3. Loose clothing: it's really important that the harness is secured and snug to the body of your child and not to what they're wearing. Imagine a tied, plastic bag - air escapes slowly over time. Likewise, when you put your child in bulky winter gear in the vehicle where air gets trapped between the layers of their clothes, the harness, once tight, gets looser as the air slowly escapes from the layers of clothing as you’re travelling.

Winter Safety & Car Seats - a helpful guide to winter attire that passes the (pinch) test!

Sean Linnenbruegger is the owner of Safe Seats, a Nationally CPSAC-Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician-Instructor (CPST-I), and the proud mum of two very busy boys, ages 6 and 10. Tune into today’s podcast with Sean and Dr. Alicia as they discuss the above tips and so much more in detail, providing you with the skills and confidence to install and use your seats properly 100% of the time, and the peace of mind that you’re doing everything you can to keep your children as safe as possible in their car seat!

Learn about tips & tricks for newborn sleep with She Found Health’s Newborn Sleep 101 Course!

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