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Confessions of a (Former) Extended Rear Facing Snob

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I initially got interested in carseats when my oldest child was a baby and the first thing I learned was about extended rear-facing. Prior to having him, I had no idea that there was any real benefit and once I fell down that rabbit hole, there was no coming back. Very early in my research I was told by another parent that if a child is kept rear-facing, they won’t fight it because they don’t know any different. And I bought that line and handed it out like candy to my friends and family. Even more so once I became a CPS Technician.

My first child fit that mold perfectly. He rear-faced until he turned 4 and never once asked to turn around, despite having more than adequate language to do so. He truly didn’t care.

I was so sure this was my doing. I told his story far and wide – the story of how he didn’t know there existed any other option and he was perfectly comfortable and blah blah blah. I was always very polite and never shamed people for forward-facing within the limits of the law, but in my mind I thought they must be crazy. Kids will rear-face forever if you let (okay, make) them.

And then I had my second child. And look, I adore him. He is one of the cutest kids on the planet. He is incredibly smart and when he’s not screaming he’s pretty articulate for his age (2.5 years) too. But he’s also basically a honey badger. He does not care if you punish him, he does not care if you want him to do something. There is no hill too small for him to die on. No battle too silly to fight. His teachers at preschool have complemented me on naming him appropriately (his name is William, we call him Will) because he is exceedingly willful.

And my little honey badger, who is petite enough that he could rear-face to middle school, is miserable in his rear-facing convertible. Every single time we get in the car he climbs into his seat and sits facing forward. Sometimes he will ask me if I think he’s funny (spoiler alert: nope), sometimes he will just demand to sit that way, but the common thread is that each time we get in the car I have to wrestle a 24 pound honey badger to rear-face in the car and get him buckled before he planks out of the seat.

At first I thought great! I will nip this in the bud and then I can write something to help other parents with this problem. But well, please don’t hold your breath on that post because the only tip I have is to give myself an extra 5 minute cushion every single time we go somewhere so I can force him into his seat. My child cares DEEPLY that he is rear-facing and he has never faced forward a day in his life.

So let me publicly eat my words. Some kids care. Some kids care very, very deeply about rear-facing, even if they have never forward-faced. And some parents would be completely reasonable to want turn their honey badgers forward after age two, even if they had room to grow rear-facing (note: I’m not encouraging this, just saying I understand it and do not judge it for even a second).

As for me, I choose to fight the fight each day, partially in hopes that I’ll break his carseat spirit and partially because the kid didn’t get his stubborn streak from his dad. You don’t grow a honey badger in a vacuum.

To my fellow badger parents, I’m sorry. If you have figured out how to cure this problem, please share. I’m all ears. And maybe some tears.

Evenflo SafeMax Infant Carseat with Anti-Rebound Bar Review

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Rollover Tested Infant Carseat with ARB

In recent years, Evenflo has been pushing the boundaries of carseat safety. They were an early adopter of side-impact testing and they were the first in the industry to implement rollover testing of their carseats. Their new SafeMax Infant Carseat with anti-rebound bar has passed all their arduous crash testing and features advanced safety and convenience features that will surely endear it to new parents all over the country.

Evenflo SafeMax Infant Specs & Features:

  • Rear-facing only
  • 4-35 lbs.
  • 17-32 inches, at least 1” shell above head
  • 4 harness height positions
  • 3 crotch buckle positions
  • 3 hip width positions
  • Anti-rebound bar on base
  • Lockoff for easy seatbelt installs
  • Thick energy-absorbing EPS foam
  • Cover and soft goods (strap and buckle covers) are machine washable
  • Dual zone weight recline indicator
  • FAA-approved for use in an airplane
  • 6 year lifespan before expiration
  • Made in China
  • MSRP $179.99

 

SafeMax Infant Measurements:

  • Harness slot heights: 5”, 7”, 9”, 11” without the insert
  • Lowest harness slot height with body insert: approximately 4” (the curved nature of the insert makes it a little tough to measure)
  • Crotch strap/buckle positions (without insert): 4”, 5.5”*
  • Hip width positions: 5”, 8”**
  • Internal shell height: 19”
  • Length of seat with base with handle in car position: 30”
  • Length of carrier without base: 28.5”
  • Width of base at widest point: 15”
  • Width of carrier at widest point: 17.5”(outside of handles)
  • Carrier weight: 7 pounds (on my home scale)

* There are 3 crotch buckle positions, but only 2 spots in the cover for it to emerge. So while you can make the buckle a little bit shorter for a newborn, it will still be emerging 4 inches from the back of the seat.

**There are 3 hip widths, but again, only 2 slots in the fabric. So once again, you can get the harness a little shorter by routing through the inner most hip slot, but they will still emerge 5” apart.

Fashions:

Shiloh (Black/Grey), Nico (Black/Seafoam Green), Noelle (Black/Pink)

   

Fit-to-Vehicle:

Carseats and Torticollis

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When I’m not carseating, I work as a physical therapist in a pediatric setting. As you can imagine, there tends to be a lot of overlap with carseats and my “real” job, but you might be surprised to hear that the most common intersection of the two has to do with babies who are born with a tight neck muscle.

Torticollis is a condition where a muscle in one side of the neck gets tight, usually because of the position of the baby in utero. Torticollis tends to cause babies to have a strong preference for rotating the neck in one direction and tilting the head in the other direction. It’s most common in first babies, twins and babies of petite mothers (all because of space constraints in utero). One of the biggest issues that results from torticollis is that babies can end up with an asymmetrically flat head, known as plagiocephaly. For some kids this is mild and it improves on its own; for others, they may require a specially made and adjusted helmet to help the head round out.

In virtually every evaluation for a baby with torticollis and plagiocephaly, parents (understandably) express concern about what, if anything, they can do in the carseat to keep their baby’s head from tilting or rotating. And sometimes they’ve already tried things- usually aftermarket inserts, sometimes wash cloths, when the secret is, you probably don’t need to add anything.

As we know, adding anything to a carseat that didn’t come with the seat (or was not expressly crash tested with the seat and approved by the carseat manufacturer), is generally not a good idea. It will void the carseat warranty, it goes against every manual (which, in most states makes it illegal) and it may potentially result in injury in a crash. So, basically what I’m saying is, even if you’re worried about your baby’s head shape, please don’t put aftermarket products in the carseat. They won’t help much and they may put your child at increased risk.

Truthfully, unless your baby spends hours, like, literal sustained hours each day in a carseat, the seat isn’t really what is causing the flatness to develop. So fear not, the carseat is just fine the way it is. I know that at times seeing baby’s head tilted or rotated in the car can be troubling. But rest assured that a tilt to the side or rotation isn’t unsafe. The only position that is worrisome is if baby’s chin tips down onto its chest, which in small infants can compromise the airway (and is probably a sign that your child’s carseat isn’t reclined enough- find a CPST in your area to have it checked out!).

blanketsIf you’re worried about baby’s head falling to the side, you can try rolled up receiving blankets on either side of baby, placed after baby is buckled. I will be honest that I don’t necessarily love this set up because baby could rotate their head and spend a sustained amount of time with their face in a blanket, but it is a parental decision and if you feel strongly that something needs to be done to keep baby’s head in midline, this is your safest option.

If you want to make sure that baby rotates their head to their non-preferred side, you can definitely make that happen in the carseat. If your seat allows it, and several explicitly don’t, so consult your manual, you can hang a soft toy (like, literally made of a material and so soft you would throw it directly at your child’s head and they wouldn’t be injured) from the handle, offset towards the side you want baby to look. I had one creative parent who tied a few ribbons on the non-preferred side of the handle. They presented no risk to baby, but were bright and got baby to rotate his head that way. Other options include, if you have another backseat passenger that baby will like to look at, seat that person on baby’s non-preferred side. Or if baby is not sitting in the middle seat, and you can get a good installation and feel comfortable with baby outboard, place their seat so that they have to look towards their non-preferred side to see out the nearest window.

Most of all, any baby, but especially a baby with torticollis, will benefit from the least possible amount of awake time in any baby device that puts pressure on baby’s head like a swing, bouncy seat, cradle or carseat. Babies need a lot of floor time when they’re awake so they have room to learn to roll and sit and crawl and they especially need time on their tummy to strengthen their necks, which will help correct torticollis.

If you think your baby may have torticollis or plagiocephaly, talk to your pediatrician about it and see if a referral to a physical therapist in your area might be appropriate. And if you’re worried about carseat positioning with a baby with torticollis and/or plagiocephaly, find a CPST near you to check your set up and see if there’s anything else that can be done to keep baby safe and keep baby’s head nice and round.

2017 Britax Advocate ClickTight Review- With Anti-Rebound Bar!

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Britax Advocate Convertible Carseat Review

We have reviewed many Britax seats over the years and honestly, they’ve never failed to knock our socks off. Britax has been on the front line of car seat technology for many years and they have devoted themselves to constantly making their new seats better and safer than the previous ones. The ClickTight system is the latest and greatest example of this and thousands of families use these seats every day.

In a lot of ways, this particular review will just be a bit of an update to the already very thorough review of the Britax Boulevard Clicktight, but for a few small differences.

First, and most obviously, it’s an Advocate ClickTight not a Boulevard CT, but the only significant difference between the two models is the external side-impact cushions on the Advocate. Now, that’s not to say they are not significant, as they provide an extra layer of energy-absorbtion and side-impact protection, it’s just to say that the interior of the seat is essentially identical to the Boulevard CT, so there’s not much to add there. Second, this particular version of the Advocate comes with an anti-rebound bar (ARB). You can also purchase a Boulevard ClickTight with ARB if you prefer the Boulevard model. If you already own an Advocate or Boulevard model with ClickTight, you can order the ARB separately for your seat.

What IS an Anti-Rebound Bar?

Some of you may be wondering what an anti-rebound bar is, so before we jump into the review, it’s worth reviewing the function of an ARB. The anti-rebound bar is a U shaped piece of metal that connects to the foot area of the car seat and rests against the vehicle seat back in rear-facing mode only. The anti-rebound bar prevents the seat from rebounding or bouncing back into the vehicle seat back during the final stages of a frontal crash. In Britax’s private crash tests, they found that their ARB reduces the rebound of their seats by 40% and provides improved stability for front, rear-end and side-impact crashes. It may seem like an unassuming car seat accessory, but this chunk of metal does more than meets the eye.

What Comes With the Advocate CT and What Comes Separately?
The Advocate with ARB comes out of the box with the anti-rebound bar, energy absorbing HUGS, the EZ-Buckle System, infant body cusion and strap covers.

There are additional accessories available including a cupholder, a waterproof seat liner and a vehicle seat protector all of which were manufactured and crash tested by Britax.

   

Advocate CT Specifications:

  • Rear-facing 5-40 pounds, head 1 inch from top of fully extended headrest (which is very tall- one of the tallest rear facing seats on the market)
  • Forward-facing 20-65 pounds, 49” or less, a least 1 year old (Britax recommends children rear face to the limits of the seat)
  • Lower LATCH anchor limits: 30 pounds rear-facing, 35 pounds forward-facing
  • 10! Year! Expiration!
  • FAA approved for use on airplanes

Advocate CT Features:

  • ClickTight installation system- a built in lock off that installs the Advocate so easily you will think you’ve done something wrong, except it’s rock solidly installed and you have done everything right. It’s that amazing.
  • 14-position headrest with no-rethread harness
  • 2 crotch buckle positions with EZ-Buckle System, which keeps the crotch buckle out of the way during loading and unloading. Once you have this, you will wish every seat had it.
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • 3 layers of side impact protection:
    1. energy absorbing shell
    2. Foam lined headrest
    3. External side impact cushions
  • Impact-absorbing base – contains cells that are designed to compress down during a crash and reduce forward head excursion for the child.
  • Energy-absorbing Versa-Tether for forward facing
  • 7 recline positions with easy to read angle indication bubble for  rear facing angle. It has 2 zones- newborn and toddler to allow for more upright, but still safe, positioning for older rear facers. There’s no “too upright” when rear facing a toddler in this seat!

Measurements: