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Monthly Archive:: February 2013

All You Ever Needed to Know about Buying an Infant Carseat

Congratulations! You’re expecting a baby! Now comes the fun part of buying all that plastic stuff that comes with the baby: the bouncers, the rattles and toys, the day prisons, er, pack and plays, the swings, the high chairs . . . You get the picture. There’s a tremendous amount of baby gear out there and when you’re in that initial state of shock, you feel like you have to buy it all. At some point you throw your hands up in the air and just start grabbing because you really are overwhelmed. As a parent of two, I’ve been there, done that twice. It’s amazing what you forget after your first! But when it comes to your child’s safety, you shouldn’t simply grab a carseat off the shelf because you’ve given up hope of figuring out what you need. Let’s take a look at how to narrow down your choices.

What is an infant seat?

It’s a rear-facing-only carseat that has a handle and, in most cases a base. You can still get what we call a “program seat”: a carseat from an agency to help low income families, that doesn’t have a base. But it’s rare. Some people call an infant seat a“bucket seat,” or a “carrier.” Doesn’t matter—it’s all the same thing. You say tomato, I say tomato. Oops, that doesn’t translate very well in print, does it?

The base is installed in the vehicle and left there for eternity. Or what seems like eternity until grandpa sits in the backseat and accidentally pops the buckle and you panic because suddenly the carseat is loose! You’ll occasionally see someone in a pediatrician’s office carrying the whole shebang, base included, which is pretty funny until you realize that they probably aren’t installing it correctly when they get back to their car – and that’s a scary thought. For the record, most infant seats can be installed without the base (there are exceptions so make sure you know what you can and can’t do with your particular infant carseat model). Installing the carrier without the base is very convenient  if you’re traveling on an airplane or in a taxi or in a friend’s car. However, installing the carseat properly every time you put it in the vehicle gets old fast and greatly increases the risk of making a mistake or forgetting a critical step. By using a base, you generally install it once properly and therefore eliminate the chance for installation error that you get when you repeatedly install a carseat. It’s normal to think that you would never “forget” something important but even CPS Techs and seasoned parents can make mistakes sometimes if they’re not careful ;).

The base can be installed using EITHER the vehicle’s seatbelt OR the LATCH strap. You can’t use both at the same time. You’ll need to check the vehicle and carseat owners’ manuals to see if you can use LATCH in the middle of the back seat if that’s where you want to install the carseat. Some allow it, some don’t, but the key thing is that BOTH manufacturers have to allow it at the same time. One of the most common mistakes we see is using LATCH in the middle position when it can’t be used there. If you can’t use LATCH, you’ll need to install the base with the seatbelt*. Remember that point. I put an asterisk there so you know to do so.

     

 

Key features to look for

  • Energy Absorbing Foam (EPS or EPP foam): Pull back the cover around the head area and look for white or black Styrofoam. This is energy absorbing foam and is a good thing. You want this, but it does add to the cost of a carseat. Dorel (Safety 1st, Maxi-Cosi) also uses an energy absorbing technology in some of their carseats called Air Protect® that looks like plastic-encased squishy gray foam in the head area.

 

  • Front Harness Adjuster Strap: Look for a pull strap at the front of the seat where the child’s feet go. This is called the “harness adjuster strap.” You will be using this strap EVERY SINGLE RIDE so it’s important that you find a carseat with it on the front of the seat. There are still infant seats made with back harness adjusters and unless you live in a climate that doesn’t change much, you’ll tire of those adjusters very quickly.

  • Smooth Harness Adjuster: Pull on the front adjuster strap and see how smoothly it pulls. Is it like slicing through butter with a hot knife? Or are you actually using muscles? There are infant seats on the market with both kinds of adjusters and the ones with stubborn adjusters will only get worse with a child in the seat.
  • Weight: That infant seat may only weigh 10 lbs. now, but when you put your 15 lbs. baby in it later, it’s going to weigh 25 lbs. If you have an SUV, think about schlepping 25 lbs. up into it, over and over. Yeah. Who needs a gym?
  • Canopy: How does the canopy adjust? Is there much of a canopy? It may not matter much if you’re installing the carseat in the middle of a van or SUV, but if it’s going into a small sedan, the sunlight will be in baby’s face. You can always drape a baby blanket over the top of the handle, but finding a seat with a good canopy to begin with if you’re going to need one is worth it.
  • Low Bottom Harness Slots: The harness slots should be at or below the baby’s shoulders on any rear-facing carseat. Some infant seats have bottom harness slots that are pretty high for newborns; these bottom slots will come out above a noob’s shoulders meaning that the noob doesn’t fit in the carseat. If you know your baby will be early or on the small side, look for bottom harness slots that are 6” or lower (and check out our Recommended Carseats List for Preemies & Multiples).
  • Anti-Rebound: What’s that? Rebound is when the carseat rotates up around the seatbelt/LATCH belt during a crash and hits the back seat. Some bases are designed to have anti-rebound features. They either have an anti-rebound bar or are taller where they meet the vehicle seat back to keep them from rotating up. Rebound is normal movement in a rear-facing carseat (there’s nothing securing the carseat at the child’s head!), so anti-rebound is considered extra protection.

 

  • Built-In Lockoffs: *Remember from earlier about using the seatbelt to install the base if you can’t use LATCH? This is the time when you’ll want to have a base with a built-in lockoff. The lockoff will hold the seatbelt tight for every day driving and will make installation a breeze. Some lockoffs clamp down on the seatbelt while with others, you slide the seatbelt into them.

     

Now you know about features. Is that all you need to know? Yes and no. There’s a lot more, believe it or not.

How do I know the carseat I choose is the safest one? Are there any ratings?

The safest carseat is the one that fits your vehicle the best, fits your child the best, and has features that allows you to use it correctly each and every ride. It goes without saying that it has to fit in your budget ;). What does that child passenger safety mantra mean? The very best thing you can do for your child, above all else, is to make sure your carseat fits in your vehicle with less than 1” of movement at the belt path. The carseat must also fit your child well. Not every child will fit in every carseat. OMGosh, how am I going to know if my baby fits in the seat when she’s not even here yet? That’s why you find a carseat that’s easily adjustable and has low bottom harness slots.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has Ease of Use ratings for carseats, but those cover labels, instructions, securing the child, and installation features. I have found the ratings to be overly harsh in areas and not harsh enough in others.

Consumer Reports is famous for its carseat ratings every other year or so. While they’ve identified real problems in the past, such as infant seats that detach from their bases during crashes, Consumer Reports doesn’t tell the public how they conduct their tests nor do they tell us what their circles mean. A half-circle could mean 50% or it could mean 35% and that’s a vast difference in quality. Again it comes down to how well the carseat fits in your vehicle. If the carseat isn’t tight to your vehicle, crash energy is transferred to your child. We want everything snug in child passenger safety: tight to vehicle, child snug to carseat so the vehicle can eliminate as much of the crash forces as possible.

Should I get the biggest infant seat?

There are infant seats that go to 22 lbs. maximum weight limit and infant seats that go to 40 lbs. maximum weight limit and everything else in between. Doesn’t it make sense to get the biggest seat you can afford? Perhaps. Getting the biggest infant seat means that you will use it for a longer time than you would a smaller infant seat. But it also means that the carrier itself is heavier and the child sitting in it will be heavier. At some point, it will become a carseat that you leave in the vehicle for the most part simply because it’s too heavy to carry around. On the other hand, it will remain highly portable for longer, so it will be easier to travel with and more useful if you use taxis. Simply pop it on a stroller frame and go.

If you drive a small car or truck with a small back seat, you may have trouble getting one of the bigger infant seats to fit in the back seat. The Cybex Aton and Chicco KeyFit 30 are two infant seats that have maximum weight limits of 30 lbs. that fit very well into tight back seats.

Handle position

Many manufacturers now allow the handles on their infant seats to remain in the UP position when the carseat is in the vehicle, but there are still a few that require the handle to be down. When the handle is down, it takes up 2-3” of precious front seat space unless you are able to rotate the handle all the way to the floor of the vehicle. This terrific resource from SafetyBeltSafe USA lists the positions the handles must be in the vehicle.

     

Strollers

Ah yes, now we talk about strollers because you’ll most likely want one. You’ve probably heard your friends talk about travel systems—matching infant seats and strollers. It’s an idea that’s been around for a very long time—at least 13 years, because I had one for my first child! I know they’ve improved a lot since I had mine, but I can say truthfully that I hated mine with a passion. The stroller sucked. It was big and bulky and plasticky and rolled over countless people’s toes. Given what I know now, I highly suggest buying an infant seat separately from the stroller. There are inexpensive stroller frames you can buy to hold the infant seat when you’re out and about. Or, look into other manufacturer’s strollers. There are hundreds of strollers on the market and all of the higher end manufacturers have adapters for various infant seats. Research your stroller as much as you’ll research your carseat, then come back and thank me :). I wish someone had given me this advice so many years ago.

 

 

Sharing infant seats

Perhaps not so much anymore with the advent of infant seats going to 35+ pounds, but infant seats are the least used carseats in terms of time. Kidlets grow so fast that they’re out these smaller seats around age 1, typically. Your mileage may vary, of course, depending on which carseat you buy. Both of my kiddos were out of their 22 lbs. infant seats by the end of 4 months. Chubbos! This means that infant seats are often shared among family members and friends because they are expensive and they last for 5-6 years, depending on the manufacturer. If you borrow an infant seat, check it out as you would a brand new carseat. You want the very best safety-wise for your baby, so don’t hold back. Ask yourself: Do I trust the person who gave me this seat with my child’s life? Ask the person if the carseat has been in a crash. If so, it needs to be thrown out in a black garbage bag. If the straps have been washed, how have they been washed? Just wiped down with a wet washcloth? Great. Thrown in the washing machine? You’ll need a new set of harness straps. Has the carseat been bleached or sprayed with a chemical like Febreze? Uh oh. Bad news. Do you see mold? There’s no way to get rid of mold. Toss it. Is there an instruction manual? Without a doubt, the infant seat is still set up for the last child who used it and you’ll need a manual to help you get it set back for a newborn.

Favorite infant seats

Finally, what do we recommend? Do we have favorites? Of course we do! We install these things day in and day out! Our fingers get numb from the sheer number of infant seats we install on a weekly basis. I’m sure, due to recent weather patterns, we’ll see a huge increase of infant seat installs in 9 months ;). My point is, there are lots of infant seats from which to choose on the market and please look at more than just the fabric because one day your child’s life may depend on how easily you were able to put your child snugly in the seat and how easily you were able to install the seat properly in your vehicle. It really doesn’t have to match your nursery theme!

 

 

Showdown: Darren vs. Jennie at the Chicago Auto Show

 

Yes, it turns out women are better drivers!

 

After a Crash: In Action!

A few months ago, I wrote a post about what to do after you’ve been involved in a crash. Officer Chris Goodwin from the California Highway Patrol provided some great tips, which I recently got to put into action on a cross-country move when my car got hit in the middle of Albuquerque.

Luckily there was very minimal damage and there were no injuries. Still, my adrenaline was pumping, and I’m glad I had Officer Goodwin’s advice in my head.

After we pulled to the side of the road, the first thing I did was to take a photo of the other person’s license plate in case he decided to drive away. (That’s not actually something Officer Goodwin mentioned, but at the time it was just instinctive. As it turned out, the guy who hit me was very nice and did not attempt to flee.)

While we were waiting for the police, I took 360-degree video of both vehicles. I mentioned the points of impact and noted some potential pre-existing damage on the other person’s truck. Officer Goodwin had said that rampant insurance fraud often leads people to claim additional damage, so it’s good to have thorough documentation of everything that is and isn’t there.

As I retrieved my insurance and registration, I found a NHTSA notebook I had gotten (and long since forgotten) at the Los Angeles Auto Show a couple years ago. It seemed quite appropriate for recording details of the crash.

The other driver and I exchanged information, and luckily I remembered to ask the police officer for a case number, because he had almost forgotten to give it to me.

There were a few things that slipped my mind, though. I forgot to video or photograph all the people involved in the crash (though that should be in the police report). I forgot to get the other driver’s address, even though it was right there on his license. (I imagine that will be in the report, too, but that was one of the many questions my insurance company asked.)

The insurance company also asked which police department responded and for the officer’s name. I hadn’t thought to get either, but luckily my husband had observed both. When asking for details of the crash, they asked about direction of travel–something I’ve never been good at ascertaining. I’m more of a left/right person than an east/west. Since the crash happened just before the on-ramp of a north-south interstate, I was able to figure it out pretty easily, but a map would have come in handy, too, especially since the crash occurred in an area completely unfamiliar to me.

I realized that in the heat of the moment, it’s easy to forget everything you’re supposed to do. I’m considering making a little checklist to keep in the glove compartment just in case I ever need it again. If I do wind up making one, I’ll be sure to share here! (Or if anyone else knows of one, feel free to post it.)

Safety 1st Complete Air 65 LX – Canadian Review

To say that I’ve had writer’s block when it comes to writing this review might be the understatement of the year. Well – last year anyways seeing as this year has only just begun. Last year Safety 1st provided a Canadian model Complete Air 65 LX for CarseatBlog to review.  You can see a preliminary review including pictures which go in to the dual-line indicator in more detail in the preview to this review.

The Canadian Complete Air 65 LX is rated to be used rear-facing for infants/children who weigh between 5 and 40lbs,  and are between 19 and 36″ in height. Forward-facing the seat may be used by children who are between 22 and 65 lbs, 29 – 52″, are at least 1 year of age, and are able to walk unassisted.

The seat features Air Protect technology in the headrest, a tether stabilizer for forward impact performance, a “quick-fit” one step harness height adjustment, one-click UAS connectors, and has an up front harness adjuster for ease of use.

 

The seat is easily adjustable to fit most children within the listed size range and has five harness heights with the bottom harness height measuring 10″ and the top position measuring 18″. With a bottom harness height of 10″, most infants won’t fit in to the seat at birth. Once the shoulders are even with the bottom harness slots, the seat should fit most children well. There are also three crotch buckle positions measuring at 4″, 5.25″, and 6.5″.

Some other measurements:

  • Outer width measured at the bolsters: 17″
  • Outer width at widest point on back of shell: 16.75″
  • Inner width at child’s shoulders: 13″

For those of you familiar with the original Complete Air model, the 65 LX model differs in a few ways. The forward-facing weight limit has been raised to 65lbs, anti-rebound bolsters have been added, and while you previously had to buy a more expensive model to get an adjustable base, the seat now comes standard with a 4 position adjustable base. There has also been the introduction of the dual-line indicator which allows parents to install the seat at different angles depending on the weight and development of the child. The addition of the anti-rebound bolsters has led to an increase in the amount of leg room rear-facing kids have. This extra leg room doesn’t increase the child’s safety, but it may provide for some extra comfort for those larger rear-facing children.

The anti-rebound bolster is made from the same plastic as the shell of the carseat, and is attached on to the front edge of the carseat by snapping it in to place and then having screws added for security. There is a slight bit of side-to-side movement if a parent tries to wiggle the bolster, but caregivers should be mindful to not force the movement or pry the piece off as this is an integral part of the seat which is not meant  to be removed.

 

 

The rear-facing installation of the seat is fairly straight forward. The seat fits easily at the more upright angle in the majority of the vehicles I’ve tried it in. I had a little more difficulty in getting a tight UAS install when the seat was sitting at the full recline angle due to the length of the UAS belt and the contouring of the base. This is something that may be a challenge in some vehicles and might necessitate switching to a seatbelt install, but I think the majority of vehicles won’t run in to this situation. At the more upright rear-facing angle, the seat fits in a variety of vehicles including smaller sedans, small SUV’s, and larger vehicles as well.

Complet Air 65 LX installed w/seatbelt

The forward-facing installation of the seat is also quite straight forward. While the seat allows for the base to be adjusted to position 1 or 2 when the seat is installed forward-facing, the manual is specific that the more reclined position is only to be used when needed to match the angle of the vehicle seat. It also states that the vehicle seat back should not be reclined in order to install the car seat at a more reclined angle. The stickers on the side of the seat reflect this as well.

The height of the harness is adjusted from the front of the seat by pushing two gray tabs together and then either raising or lowering the headrest to the correct position. Since the headrest is the method for adjusting the harness height, the Complete Air technology in the headrest will always be in the right area on the child’s head provided the height is adjusted correctly. In addition to providing side impact protection, the headrest also gives good support when children fall asleep in the seat.

Pros:

  • The tall top harness height and 65lb forward-facing weight limit provides enough growing room to get most kids to booster age and readiness.
  • Anti-rebound bolsters create extra leg room for rf’ing kids.
  • Set-up is straight forward with only minimal adjustment needed when you take the seat out of the box.
  • Labels are clear and manual is easy to understand.
  • The headrest with Complete Air technology offers deep side impact protection and is supportive for forward-facing kids when they fall asleep in the  car.
  • The seat has a fairly low profile in the vehicle which can make it easier for loading and unloading kids.

 Cons:

  • Although the seat is rated from 5lbs, the bottom harness height is relatively high making it so that most newborns won’t fit the seat properly.
  • The seat takes up a lot of room rear-facing when it needs to be installed at the full recline for infants weighing less than 22lbs and unable to sit unassisted.
  • Rear-facing kids with broad shoulders may feel squished by the bottom of the headrest when they are near moving up to the next harness height.
  • Numerical rear-facing height limit of 36″ may limit the length of time a child can stay rear-facing in the seat.*
  • Base has 4 recline positions but recline position #3 isn’t specifically addressed in the manual aside from the omission of it in both rear-facing and forward-facing sections. I have seen this lead to misuse.
  • UAS install at the full recline is problematic in some vehicles and may necessitate a seatbelt install depending on the location of the lower anchors.
  • The cover over the complete air technology cannot be removed for cleaning.

I used the original Complete Air seat with my son for a few years and was quite happy with it. In fact, the Complete Air is the only seat my kids have ever fought over riding in. The changes that have been made to the seat with the introduction of the 65 LX model have increased the user friendliness of the seat and added features which may increase the safety of the child, while still keeping the features that made me enjoy using the seat with my son.

As with all seats, it is recommended that you try the seat in your vehicle to make sure it fits well, and sit your child in the seat to make sure he fits well. Based on the number of children and vehicles that I have seen this seat in now, I feel that the Complete Air is a solid choice when considering a seat that will work for your family and include it in the list of seats that I recommend.

Thank you to Dorel for providing the Safety 1st Complete Air 65 LX used for this review!

Girl Rising, “I feel as though I have power…I can do anything.”

Thank you to MrsCPSDarren for a public service guest blog!

 

For all of us who love our baby daughters, who nurture them with all our hearts, keep them safe with all our being, move mountains to see them successful and happy, and know in our deepest of souls that they will quite simply one day rock this planet ….  I invite you to be part of a global movement to repair the world, by EDUCATING GIRLS.  Read on to learn how you can join in. Moms of the world – we need you.

Hi everyone. I’m inviting you to personally take part in the distribution of an exciting new film that just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.  Girl Rising spotlights the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to change a girl – and the world. Many millions of girls face barriers to education that boys do not. We can help break those barriers by bringing global attention to the enormous benefits of educating girls. Your community is a great place to start. Girl Rising will be released in theaters on March 7th, 2013, on the eve of International Women’s Day, and we invite you to host a local screening, with global impact.

The distribution model is actually crowd-sourced. You can go online to “captain” a screening, and the company will work with you to get it to your favorite theater. To view the trailer, and learn how to bring Girl Rising to your community, please visit:  http://www.girlrising.com .

Around the world, millions of girls face barriers to education that boys do not. And, yet, when you educate a girl, you can break cycles of poverty in just one generation. Removing barriers to girls’ education – such as early and forced marriage, domestic slavery, sex trafficking, gender violence and discrimination, lack of access to healthcare, school fees – means not only a better life for girls, but a safer, healthier, and more prosperous world for all. Consider these numbers:

  • GDP Rises: When 10% more of its girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases an average of 3%. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • Health is Improved: Educated mothers are 50% more likely to immunize their children. And when more girls are educated, a country’s malnutrition and HIV rates decline. (UNGEI, the Council on Foreign Relations)
  • Honest Governance Grows: When women take leadership roles in their community, corruption diminishes. (Center for Global Development)
  • Structures Change: When women are educated and empowered, democracy is more likely to flourish and the conditions that promote extremism are reduced. (World Politics)

Educating Girls Works.  Lives Change. Be a part of changing the world by taking action for girls. By sharing their personal journeys, the girls of Girl Rising become our teachers. Research shows that investing in girls can transform families, communities and nations.  The girls of Girl Rising show us how.