In a market filled to the brim with good rear-facing only (RFO) infant carseats, it’s not easy to make one that stands out. So many features that used to be luxuries are now standard, and coming up with something truly unique is a rarity lately. For the last 2 years, we’ve all been waiting to see what Clek would bring to the RFO table. Since they have a history of innovative designs and advanced safety features, the expectations were high. I’m happy to report that I recently got my hands on a final demo model of the Clek Liing and let me just say, you won’t be disappointed. At the risk of spoiling all the good stuff, let’s just jump right in.
Clek Liing Overview
4-35 pounds and up to 32 inches tall (must have 1 inch of shell above head)
Rigid lower LATCH anchor connectors that extend up to 8 inches
Metal load leg for crash stability
Belt-tensioning system in base
7-position recline adjuster built into base (folks, hold onto your hats!)
European belt routing for baseless install
Extendable canopy with peekaboo window, 100+ SPF
2-piece shell for ventilation and side impact protection
EPP energy-absorbing foam lining the shell
2-stage infant insert
Narrow enough for 3 across
3 fabric options (jersey knit, C-Zero+ and 100% Merino Wool), all are free of brominated and chlorinated flame-retardants and the wool fashion is also free of all flame retardants
I’m going to let you in on a secret. I’ve had this booster for a year.
I’ve taken so long to review it for a few reasons. Mainly, I’m going to blame the new baby but a big part of it was that I wasn’t ready to admit that my first baby, who is 6.5 and not even remotely a baby, was big enough for a booster. And over the course of this review I came to the conclusion that he really isn’t ready to ride in a booster yet (another story for another time), but at least in the year-long process of discovering that, we got a good feel for this unique and eye-catching booster seat.
The Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 booster first caught my attention when I saw how narrow it was. I have a very tricky 3-across situation and I was hopeful that it would fit because of its narrow size and the lack of armrests (it did!). Once I got my hands on it, I was impressed with the narrow footprint, but I was more taken by other qualities. This booster is portable and easy to use and the quality is nothing short of outstanding, as you would expect from Peg Perego.
Flex 120 Overview:
For kids 40-120 pounds, 39-63″ tall
4D Total Adjust Technology- adjusts in 4 ways: headrest, upper backrest, side wings and the recline of the seat
Rigid LATCH attachments which stow when not in use
Comfort Recline- 5 different recline positions that are not dependent upon the vehicle backrest position
8 height positions, increasing by 1 inch per adjustment
Easy folding with carrying handle – folds with one quick motion
All Side Impact Protection- protects child’s head, neck, and spine
Aluminum reinforced backrest
2 integrated cup holders that can stow completely into the base
Energy-absorbing EPS foam in headrest and side wings
Putting a newborn baby in a car seat is daunting even in the best of circumstances. They are just so tiny and fragile, the buckles on the seat seem so huge and it often feels like you’re just going to smush (technical term) their insides when you tighten the harness. As they grow, they feel less breakable, but it seems there’s always something new to worry about when it comes to car seats.
One of the most common questions I see on parenting and car seat groups is regarding head slump, typically in forward-facing kids or in older rear-facing children. There are new aftermarket products coming out each day to address this issue, but as a Pediatric Physical Therapist and a CPS Technician, I have some grave concerns that these “solutions” to head slump might be much worse than the problem itself.
What is head slump?
You know when your husband sits next to you on an airplane and immediately falls asleep while you are stuck alone, anxious and bored out of your mind for the next 3 hours? (No? Just me?) Well, that moment when they’re so deeply enjoying their abandonment nap that their head falls forward is “head slump”.
Head slump is when the chin moves towards the chest in a moment of forward flexion of the cervical (upper) spine. It is most common when a person is sleeping upright, and to an adult, it’s pretty uncomfortable. Adults are not terribly flexible and some of us carry a tiny little bit (okay, a ton) of tension in our necks. But thankfully, our kids don’t. Their necks are more mobile than ours and much less prone to tightness from tension, so the forward flexed head isn’t usually painful for them. The person sleeping on the airplane isn’t in any danger from their head slump position and likewise, for most kids, it’s really a non-issue.
When is head slump something to worry about?
The first and most common scenario where head slump is a real problem is in a newborn. The airway in a newborn baby is tiny, about the diameter of a drinking straw, and often it’s a little more flexible than an adult’s, meaning it’s easier to partially block or collapse. Another reason head slump can be concerning for a newborn is that they may not have the neurological drive to reopen their airway. That is, their brain may not be developed enough to realize that it’s being deprived of oxygen or to tell the muscles to do something about it. Finally, because newborns have proportionally large heads on tiny neck muscles, even if they have the drive to lift their heads, they often lack the strength to make that lift against gravity.
The other situation where head slump is a concern is in older children who do not have adequate head control. These are typically children with medical diagnoses of some sort and the problem is essentially the same as in a newborn – if a child cannot lift and maintain their head upright against gravity, then they need to be positioned to make sure that head slump does not occur. The same goes for babies with tracheomalacia, where the trachea is not as rigid and may be more prone to collapse.
These two groups aside, head slump is not a problematic position for typically developing children and older babies. These children have wider airways, the ability and awareness to lift their heads if they’re not getting adequate air, and the position itself isn’t inherently dangerous for the neck. There’s not a universal age where this happens, but once baby can fully lift their head and hold it up to look around for a few minutes during tummy time, they’re likely in the clear.
While it may sound like an exaggeration, I find driving my own kids around to be kind of scary, because while I can control my car seats and the way I’m driving, no matter how hard I try I can’t control other drivers. But that fear doesn’t hold a candle to the fear of sending my kids off in someone else’s car. When someone else drives my children, not only am I not in control of any of the drivers, but I’m also not usually in charge of the car seating either. And a few years ago, this concern came to life in the scariest way.
While I was in labor with my second son, my husband got a phone call. He wouldn’t tell me what it was about since we had enough going on in that moment, but once the baby was safely delivered, he told me that the call had been to let us know that our oldest child had been in a crash. Thankfully, he was fine because it was a minor collision and because the driver had installed his seat correctly and had buckled him in properly. It was the best outcome of a personal worst case scenario.
When a friend asked me how to help keep her baby safe when someone else was driving him around, I realized that it’s not a topic we spend enough time covering. I’d like to share some of the tips I’ve developed that give me peace of mind when other people drive my kids.
You Asked: How do I keep my kids safe when someone else is driving?
First and foremost, never let someone talk you into something that doesn’t feel safe or isn’t legal. This is a good life mantra in general, but I mean it specifically for child passenger safety today.
It doesn’t matter if grandma finds a booster seat to be more convenient – if your child isn’t ready, it isn’t the right choice. It doesn’t matter if your aunt thinks he looks so cramped rear facing, if your child isn’t 2 yet or if you just aren’t ready to turn him around, don’t do it. You are the boss of your kids, don’t be afraid to make the tough, but safe, choice for your child. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for your choices either.
Now that that’s out of the way, there are several ways to help keep your child(ren) safe in someone else’s car.
If you can, install their seat yourself and demonstrate harnessing with your child in the seat. If possible, you even want to be the person who does the final buckling before they drive off. This is the gold standard in an ideal situation, but it’s also not possible a lot of the time so you may have to get a bit more creative.
If installing the seat yourself isn’t a possibility, talk your child’s caregiver through the process ahead of time, when time isn’t limited and there’s no pressure. Also, provide them with a manual that you’ve reviewed recently. My trick is that I pull the digital version up on my phone so that if there are questions, I can easily refer to the manual myself and give tips. This actually helped me out just last month when my son’s babysitter needed to remove his (latched) booster out of her car before I got there and she didn’t know how to do it. I was able to scroll through the manual, find the page and show her what to do.
If the person isn’t confident with the installation or you want to offer an extra support, you can send links to youtube installation videos. I’m sure some will think this is overkill and that’s fine, but I am of the mind that I’d rather offer too much help than not enough.
Once you’re confident with the installation, show the caregiver how the harness should be, in person if possible. If your child will be wearing the same clothes the whole time they’re with this caregiver, you can get them harnessed in the seat and then remove them from the seat without loosening the straps so it’s appropriately tight. If you do this, make sure to show how to tighten and loosen the harness, just in case your caregiver needs to. If you can’t demonstrate in person, showing them images like these can help.
If your child is old enough to understand and remember, start teaching them car seat rules. My 3 and 5 year old know where their chest clips go and that their harness should feel “snug as a hug”. We started working on this when they were 2 years old, though it takes some time and repetition. Every time I buckled them, I would have them show me where the chest clip should be. Then I would tighten and ask if they were “snug as a hug.” Once I felt like they had a good grasp on the idea, I would occasionally not tighten them fully and see how they responded when I asked if their harness was snug. Truthfully, teaching my kids this has even saved me on several occasions when I’ve started to back out of our driveway without tightening the straps on my 5-year-old who buckles himself, but cannot tighten the straps on his own.
Teaching your kids how their seat should feel and be positioned, and that it’s okay to speak up about it (politely, obviously), will go a long way towards keeping them safe when you can’t be with them.
So, you asked: how do I keep my kids safe when someone else is driving and the simple answers are:
Install the seat yourself, or make sure the person installing it knows exactly what to do.
Demonstrate proper harnessing or show pictures so they know exactly what to do.
As your children acquire language and an opinion, teach them what proper usage should look and feel like so they can advocate for themselves.