Risking My Child’s Life and Why I’m Angry

So earlier this week, this blog post was shared by a friend of mine on Facebook and I was mad, livid! You see, Big Sis is a 4 year old who weighs about 32 pounds. When it was time for Little E to move to a different car seat it was decided that she would go into Big Sis’ carseat since it is a convertible and can be used facing backwards and we would buy Big Sis a new booster car seat. I researched all of the “big name” brands and decided on this Graco Highback TurboBooster.

81FLHjXkeYL._SL1500_The recommended use, taken from the Graco website?

  • Highback Mode: For children 3-10 years old, from 30-100 lbs and 38″-57″ tall
  • Backless Mode: For children 4-10 years old, from 40-100 lbs and 40″-57″ tall

Perfect right? Big Sis is 4 years old and 32 lbs. I don’t remember her height but it was within the range as well. She was so excited to start using the big girl seatbelt and frankly so was I, it’s so much quicker and she can get herself out of the car all on her own.

After I read that blogpost I was pissed. Has my daughter been in an unsafe carseat for the past four months? Could my ignorance have led us into the same situation as the family in the blogpost? The thought makes me shudder.

You guys, I am a researcher, sometimes to a fault. I research EVERY thing. This was no different, except that I just researched the product trusting that the carseat companies would only sell the safest possible products. I can’t believe that I fell for this lie. Did I mention that I’m angry?

So since I am a researcher and made a horrible mistake, I thought I’d share the safest ways to have your kiddos in the car. These are not the law but are the American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines to keep your kids as safe as possible.

First of all let’s talk about some general safety rules:

  1. All kids under 13 need to ride in the back seat.
  2. When in a harness, the chest clip should be at the armpit level and the straps should be tight but not too tight to cause pain or trouble breathing. To test if it is tight enough you should try to pinch the strap at the shoulder level. If you can pinch it at all, it’s too loose.
  3. Don’t be anxious to move your kiddo to the next seat! Keep them in the most secure place for as long as they are at the appropriate height and weight.
  4. It is okay if your child’s feet touch the car seat or cannot stretch out in the rear-facing position
  5. If you’re using the LATCH system, make sure you know the maximum weight for your vehicle’s LATCH system. Make sure that your your child’s weight PLUS the weight of the carseat does not exceed the weight limit for your LATCH system.
  6. Never use an expired carseat, a carseat that has been in an accident, even if it’s a small one or a used carseat unless you are absolutely sure of it’s history.
  7. Do not trust the car seat literature! Just because your seat manual says it’s okay for a four year old, 30 pound child to be in the seat, doesn’t mean it is the safest, or really even safe at all!

Okay and with that let’s look at age specific requirements. I think some of you are going to be in for a shock, I know I was.

Step 1: Rear Facing (0 mos to up to 4 years)

Important Carseat Information that Could Save Your Kid's Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

As of 2011 your child should be rear facing until they are at least 2 years old. This is not a law (the law says 12 months and up) however it is suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics as the safest practice.

I know, I know, TWO? You guys, this is such a big deal! According to a 2007 study in the journal, “Injury Prevention” children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear-facing. I’m not usually one to throw around studies unless I can read the information in several different reputable journals, articles, etc. BUT in this case one article is enough for me. It is not going to harm my baby to be rear facing and the alternative is WAY too risky! Babies’, toddlers’ and even preschoolers’ heads are disproportionate to their bodies and internal decapitation is much more likely at these ages. Keep your kiddo rear facing until they reach the maximum rear facing weight for their carseat. This means that when your baby outgrows his/her infant seat (usually between 22-35 lbs) you should use a convertible carseat that can continue to face backwards for as long as is possible. Here’s a link from the AAP Journal about keeping your kiddos rear facing.

Step 2: Front Facing with a 5 Point Harness 

Important Carseat Information that Could Save Your Kid's Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

So once it’s time to be front-facing, your kiddo should remain in a 5 point harness until he/she outgrows the weight and height limit for the carseat. I’m gonna say it again, don’t trust the carseat literature! Keep them in a 5 point harness as long as it is safe! The story I posted above is what woke me up and made me realize that vehicle seat belts can be deadly if used improperly BUT as I did more research I realized Big Sis was not ready for her new car seat anyway. She is still so squirmy and we would often find her in weird positions in the car and tell her that she needed to sit up straight with her legs down.

Now that she’s back in a 5 point harness, she’s less than excited about being pinned down again but I realize all the more now that she was not ready for a “big girl” carseat.

Step 3: Front Facing with a high back booster seat, using the car’s seat belt

Important Carseat Information that Could Save Your Kid's Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

This should be used ONLY when your child has outgrown the 5 point harness carseat AND meets the height AND weight requirements for using the high back booster.

Step 4: Front Facing using only a booster seat (no high back)

IF, and only IF, your child outgrows the height requirement on your highbacked booster before they are tall enough for the vehicle seat belt you can use a booster seat without the high back.

Step 5: Vehicle Seat Belt

Between the ages of 7 and 12 (yes TWELVE) your child will be ready for the vehicle’s seat belt. Typically when they are 4 feet 9 inches. Here’s a link with some good points on when to know if your kiddo is ready for the vehicles seat belt. 

  • Jessica

    Know better, do better!

    I found out my carseat was improperly installed when my daughter was 9 months old. In short, they installed it using LATCH in the center of my vehicle which my car does NOT allow for. When I was researching big girl car seats I learned of this error. I cannot recommend the facebook group “Car Seats for the Littles” enough for this. They have educated me so much that I’m actually looking into becoming certified myself.

    Did you know that you can get a certified car seat tech to check out your install and teach you proper installs usually for FREE? (I give mine a gift card for like $15 to SBux when she helps us out). The problem with going to the fire station is that many times they are not actually certified – as I found out my guy was NOT. Anyway – if you want to get your carseat/booster/seatbelt checked by a certified tech don’t hesitate to find one near you here: http://cert.safekids.org/ and click “find a tech”.

    Great post! I found your blog by accident but I’m totally bookmarking :)

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