Deja Poop: You’ve Done It Before. Infant Seats

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new siblingAwwww. You’ve already had one kid and found that you did a pretty good job the first time around so you thought you’d try again. Maybe it was around that magical 15-18 month age when those little monsters are at their cutest. Buggers! I’m convinced that’s how the human race has continued for so long. It’s certainly not because of proper carseat usage.

During those first many months of our children’s lives, they suck the life out of us quite literally. We get virtually no sleep, sometimes don’t eat, definitely don’t shower occasionally due to loud demands forced upon us, and touch things we swore when we were childless that we would never touch. During this time, parents, and moms especially, lose brain cells due to the lack of sleep, constant touching, and demands from their little offspring. I’m sure there are studies that prove this, but years after having my children, I’m still making up the sleep and too busy trying to recover my lost brain cells to find . . . oh right, the studies.

Anyway, if you were like most parents, you probably used an infant seat for your first baby because that’s what you do for your first baby, right? Not necessarily, but it is a convenience feature for sure. Depending on the infant seat, there were adjustments you made as your baby grew. If you are using this infant seat again for your second, or third child, there are a few things you need to do to “reset” the infant seat so it’s ready for a newborn again and so you don’t ring me because the infant seat that fit your first bundle of joy so perfectly doesn’t fit your second at all and you’re panicking and befuddled.

First, if the seat has been in storage, thoroughly check it for mold and mildew. It’s gross to think about, but this is very common in many environments, especially if the seat has been stored in a basement or in a bag. You probably won’t believe me if I told you we have a black mold problem here in the desert where the humidity is less than 10% with a dew point of less than 20˚? It’s everywhere. If your seat has mold or mildew, it’s probably better to say goodbye to it. The only way to clean the mold is to use harsh chemicals, exactly what *all* carseat manufacturers tell you not to use, even on the plastic shell, and especially not on the harness. If it’s only the cover or harness that has mildew, you can order a new cover and harness from the manufacturer generally (some harnesses aren’t replaceable), but by the time you add up how much that costs, sometimes it’s about the same to buy a new seat. For recommendations, see our Recommended Carseats List.

Side note: If you’re borrowing a used infant seat, make sure you trust the person you’re borrowing the seat from with your child’s life. This is a safety item that has the potential to save your child’s life, remember. Ask them if it’s been in any kind of a crash, even a parking lot fender-bender (many manufacturers want their seats replaced after *any* kind of crash and don’t specify severity). Ask how they’ve cleaned the seat—did they follow the directions in the manual or did they throw everything in the washer? Harnesses should only be wiped down  with a washcloth and NEVER washed in the washing machine.

With today’s infant seats going to such high weight limits, your first child may have been in the carseat until he was a toddler. That means the harness was last adjusted to fit him as a toddler, not as a newborn. You’ll want to change the harness slot height back so that the harness is in the lowest slots. The harness of a rear-facing carseat should always be coming from the slots below the child’s shoulders. There’s an easy way to remember this if your kids are facing different directions in the car. A rear-facing child has the harness coming from at or below the shoulders, a forward-facing child has the harness coming from at or above the shoulders—they’re opposites of each other.

*Note that the video shows changing the harness height for seats with front-pull harness adjusters only. If your model has rear adjusters, read your owner’s manual because the method will vary by seat.

Some infant seats also have different lengths for the harnesses to accommodate wide weight ranges, from noobs to toddlers. If you look at each end of the harness where it attaches on the back of the seat to the metal splitter plate, there’s a loop that hooks onto the splitter plate. Some seats have a second loop a couple of inches up on the harness that makes the harness shorter for newborns. If your carseat has that second loop, detach the harness from the splitter plate and reattach it to the second loop to make the harness shorter. You WILL need to know whether the excess strap length goes in front of the splitter plate or behind it and in which harness slots you can use those second loops, so crack open that manual or find it online at the manufacturer’s website because the placement does matter.

SnugRide harness loops  SnugRide harness loops large

I bet you’re thinking to yourself, “I have the harness taken apart, I’m gonna wash this sucker because, boy, it sure looks nastier than I remember it being the last time we used it.” And it’s true! Baby things have a way of producing their own stains over time. And their own Cheerios. It’s some kind of natural law. You can probably get away with throwing the cover in the washing machine on the handwash cycle, but don’t leave me a nasty comment if it falls apart 😉 . You know the drill: consult your manual. Roll it up tight in an absorbent towel then hang it to dry or put it in the dryer if your owner’s manual allows. If your harness is removable and you have a new-fangled phone that takes insta-photographs, pop a couple of photos of how the harness looks before you tear it off the seat so you can remember how to put it back together. Never submerge the harness in water; it’s best to clean with a damp washcloth. If it’s extra nasty, wet a toothbrush with water and go after the spitup that way, then wipe down. You might could (oh darn! there’s that 3 years of living in the South coming back to me) put a drop of mild soap, like Dreft or Ivory or Dawn, on the washcloth, but then you’d have to wipe it down a million times to get it off. What a pain.

Don’t forget that carseats have a lifespan, just like you. It’s not some ploy to get you to toss money at the manufacturers. Plastics break down over time (just like your knees) and each manufacturer uses their own proprietary mix of plastics that determines the lifespan of each carseat they make. Cut back on the fancy clothes your child wears, not the safety items she uses if money is an issue. Look at the label that has the date of manufacture and the model number on it. Sometimes it will have the expiration date on it. Other times the expiration date is stamped into the plastic shell.

SnugRide DOM label SnugRide expiration label

So there you have it: how to reset your infant seat for newborn use. I have to be honest. If you’re not an infant seat user, you can apply all these techniques to a rear-facing convertible seat as well, but most people do use infant seats for their first babes at least, so that makes them pretty popular items to have around (and to borrow). Now, go forth and use that infant seat safely!

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Mythbusting: LATCH vs Seatbelt Installation

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In this episode of CarseatBlog Mythbusting, we look at the common perception that LATCH installations are safer than seat belt installations.

Myth: For the safest installation, install your carseat using the LATCH system, not the seat belt.

As most people know, LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) is touted to be the easiest and most simple way to install your child’s car seat. Because it’s somewhat “new” and is more frequently mentioned, a lot of people just assume it is safer to use the lower anchors and tether instead of the seat belt and tether (when indicated).

 Evenflo Momentum - tethered

The LATCH system was designed to simplify car seat installation, which in theory would reduce the risk of the seat being installed incorrectly. Simply put, the easier it is, the more likely someone will get it right. A correctly installed car seat is a safe car seat. Seat belts can be finicky at times and the different types of locking mechanisms can be confusing. However, it’s not so cut and dry. LATCH systems are differently placed in different cars. Some are extremely easy to access, and some are buried deep and almost impossible to reach. Not all cars have lower LATCH anchors in the center seating position, and many people prefer to install in the center so the child is furthest from any point of impact. In fact, one of the most common statements I hear from parents is, “I installed the carseat on the side instead of the center because my car does not have LATCH in the center and I was told LATCH is safer”. Add in the new LATCH weight limits and things get really hairy.

A carseat installed correctly with a seat belt (and tether, if forward-facing) is just as safe as a carseat installed correctly with the LATCH system of lower anchors and a top tether. In some cars, the lower LATCH anchors are buried and it is easier to get a proper install with a seat belt. In other cars, the anchors may be beautifully easy to access and it’s quicker to click, tighten, and go. It really depends on your vehicle, your child, and your car seat. One method triumphing another in terms of overall safety is false. Consider this myth busted!

LATCH_sketch

Note: Most infant seat bases and rear-facing convertibles are installed using just the lower anchors. Forward-facing seats are installed using the tether too.

Evenflo Momentum Convertible Carseat Review – Lookin’ Good!

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Evenflo Momentum DLX - LilacThe Evenflo Momentum convertible is back on the market after taking a break to get a fashion makeover. I’m pleased that this seat is available once again because I was always a fan of its features. Now, thanks to a team of talented Evenflo fashionistas, the Momentum looks as good as it performs! This seat offers the perfect blend of features from the popular Evenflo Symphony 3-in-1 and Evenflo Triumph convertible. It’s also one of the easiest carseats to use properly for younger kids of different ages and sizes which makes it a great choice for grandparents, babysitters and anyone else who needs one carseat that can be easily adjusted to fit babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

Momentum Specs & Features:

  • Rear-Facing 5-40 lbs.; 19- 37” tall and top of head is at least 1″ below top of carseat
  • Forward-Facing 22-65 lbs.; 28-50” tall and at least 1 year old (AAP recommends rear-facing until at least age 2)
  •  “Infinite Slide” harness system easily adjusts to the perfect height for your child
  • SureLATCH Connectors
  • 3 recline positions (1 position for RF, 2 for FF)
  • “e3″ Side-Impact Protection – thick, energy-absorbing EPP foam lines the deep headwings
  • 2-piece infant insert
  • Buckle pockets
  • FAA approved for use on airplane
  • Made in USA!

Momentum Measurements:

  • Lowest harness height: (with insert) 7″
  • Highest harness height: 16″
  • Single crotch strap/buckle position: 6.5″
  • Overall internal height: 25″
  • External width at widest point: 20.5″
  • Width of base: 11.5″ across the back
  • Weight: 19.4 lbs. (according to my digital bathroom scale)

Evenflo Momentum - naked Evenflo Momentum - naked Evenflo Momentum - back

Installation Comments:

Carpool Lanes and Kids

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wooden dummy screen shotI’ve long teased my kids that the only reason I had them was to be able to use the carpool lanes during rush hour. And while they’re a lifelong commitment for a minor convenience, it’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable using the carpool lanes with them as my passengers in the car. I wonder why that is, especially in our society where cops see broomsticks with fake heads and blow-up dolls as passengers.

Long before we had carpool lanes (aka high-occupancy vehicle–HOV–lanes) in my city, we used to have to travel down to Phoenix every other week while my son had his DOC band adjusted (for plagiocephaly). Phoenix, being a modern city, had carpool laneshov and I so wanted to use them but it seemed odd to declare my 8 month old as my 2nd passenger. He couldn’t be seen through the tinting in my van’s windows, so I could very easily have been pulled over wasting both my time and the police officer’s. I never used the carpool lane.

I guess I determined that my children were worthy carpool lane passengers when their heads could be seen through the back window. I have tinting, but you can still see shapes through it. It seemed too much of a risk for me until then. I’ve only received one ticket in my driving career and I don’t mind saying it was for hitting a parked car 6 weeks after I got my driver’s license (a well-deserved ticket that the police officer hesitantly wrote, as I recall). We all do stupid things when we’re 16, right? Like throw toilet paper at future husbands and their friends while driving? Yeah.

When do you feel kids become full-on carpool lane-worthy passengers? Is there a law in your state that dictates an age? Do you even use the carpool lane?