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CarseatBlog Quick Tip: Using a Ceiling Seat Belt

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We see this question a lot: can I use the seat belt that comes down from the ceiling/roof of my SUV to install my carseat? Sure! Of course, double-check the seat belt section of your carseat owner’s manual and the child seat section of your vehicle owner’s manual, but as of this writing, I haven’t come across any combinations that disallow it.

First you have to assemble it to make it a usable seat belt. When you pull it down from the ceiling—or, in the case of some sedans, down from the top of the back seat near the parcel shelf—you have 2 latchplates (the metal male end) which will make your lap/shoulder belt. The end latchplate is usually smaller, looks different, and gets buckled first on the same side from which the seat belt comes from the ceiling. Now you have your lap/shoulder belt and can use it like any other seat belt.

  

Pro tip:

To stow that seat belt out of the way, use its latchplate or a key to unbuckle it and retract it back into the ceiling. There will be a slot on the side of the smaller buckle which will pop the smaller latchplate out. After unbuckling it, let it retract and you’re ready to go!

Having A Baby? Here Are the Carseat Basics You Need to Know

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Carseat 101

pg hwYou’ve peed on the stick and found out you’re pregnant. Yay! (Or not. Who am I to say?) You’ve gone to Target, Buy Buy Baby, and Amazon.com and registered for every single baby item under the sun that’s plastic and can be sanitized and trust me, it all coordinates, right? Now you’ve come down to the final weeks and it’s panic time when you realize this baby is coming out one way or another and you have to get it home. You just stick Baby in the carseat and go, right? No. Nope. No way, new parent. You are now attending Carseat 101 and there will be a quiz at the end. I have no doubt you will pass with flying colors!

First, let’s go over some vocab you’ll need for the next, oh, decade or so. Yeah, baby, your precious is going to be in a seat for a loonngg time. In chronological order, please:

Rear-facing only infant seat:

This carseat is used for newborns to sometimes toddlerhood. It’s easily identified by its handle, canopy, and left-in-the-car base. The carrier portion fits onto the base.

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Convertible seat:

This carseat can be used for newborns, but is often used after a child outgrows a rear-facing only seat. It rear-faces, then converts to forward-facing for older kids.

GracoSize4Me70newborn2  

Combination (harness-to-booster) seat:

This carseat is for older kids, the kind who order combo meals at fast food restaurants (and yes, you too, will succumb to buying your child a grease-loaded meal item at some point). A combo seat FORWARD-FACES ONLY. It has a harness to keep wiggly kids safe, then the harness comes off (many store on the seat itself now) and it can be a belt-positioning booster. See why it’s for older kids only? It combines a harness and a booster into one seat. You don’t always need a combo seat. Sometimes your child can go straight from a convertible seat to a belt-positioning booster, depending on which convertible she uses and how old and big she is.

Photo Oct 02, 2 20 32 PM  

Belt-positioning booster seat:

This carseat is for kids who nearly have gray hair. Just kidding. Barely. The purpose of a booster seat is to boost a kid up higher so that the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt will fit them superbly over their bones, not their soft bellies. Kids have to have a certain amount of maturity in order to sit still in a vehicle seat belt and that comes around ages 4-6, depending on the child. Most parents find their kids transitioning out of a harness around ages 5-6, when “real” school starts, not that “pre-“ stuff. There are highback and backless varieties of boosters. Highbacks are great for the younger crowd because they provide head and torso support for sleeping. Backless boosters are harder to see from outside the car, so older, image-conscious kids like them better. Kids use booster seats until they can 5-step—fit in the belt like an adult—which is when they get to be the size of a small adult, around age 10-11.

lap and shoulder belt fit  

Let’s identify that you’ve gotten the right carseat for you. It used to be that an infant seat was an infant seat was an infant seat. Basically, all the carriers did more or less the same thing—it was the bases that distinguished them. Now we have carriers that fit small babies very well, some that don’t, some that have no-rethread harnesses, some that have canopies that disappear, and some still hanging around that fit kids up to 40 lbs. There’s quite a variety from which to choose and that can cause more confusion than ever! What’s my very first piece of advice to you in this area? Don’t insist on a travel system. Pick the very best rear-facing only seat that will work for you, then pick the very best stroller you can afford and put them together. Many strollers come with adapters and with a little bit of research on their website, you can find if the infant seat you want will fit on the stroller you want. The patterns may not match perfectly, but you will get a much better stroller this way usually unless you buy a high-end infant seat/stroller combo to begin with. I speak from experience: you don’t want to be stuck with a stroller you hate for years because you wanted to be all matchy-matchy with an infant seat you use for months. To help you in your search, we have both thorough, professional reviews and a list of our favorite seats.

Most of the time you will know if you’re going to have a small, average, or large baby by the end of your 40 weeks. If you and your partner are small folks and come from small families, genetics won’t let you down. Look for a rear-facing only seat that starts with a low birth weight of 4 lbs. It’s the same if you’re having a difficult pregnancy or if you’re having multiples. Fortunately, there are lots of rear-facing only seats that now have a minimum weight limit of 4 lbs., but they don’t always fit the preemie-sized babies well. We have a list of our favorite seats that fit preemies and multiples. If you’re having an average- or large-sized baby, any infant seat will do, though you’ll get more bang for your buck with a larger one. The size of your vehicle also has to be factored in since the larger the infant seat, the more space it takes up in the vehicle.

Now for some answers to common questions:

Finding a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST)

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We recently held a big child passenger safety education and carseat giveaway event in my city where we gave out 241 carseats. It was awesome reaching so many families and making sure that their children are riding more safely than before they came to the event. Many of the parents told me they had only heard of the event that morning on the news, which was great, but we had been heavily advertising it on social media and at the school where it was held. I was disheartened because we had been heavily advertising the event, but we hadn’t hit our target audience. How can parents find the help they need?

We’re fortunate to have regular monthly carseat checkup events in my city. I know in many places, weather makes it so that events have to be cancelled during the colder months (we dial it back during the hot months!). That means parents, caregivers, and professionals who work with them come to expect these events and know they’ll be taking place. But what about other locations around the country? How do you find CPS technicians or events to help you?

I bet you’ve heard to go to the fire department or police station to have your carseat installed; however, many firefighters and police officers aren’t trained. In fact, they’ve probably installed their own carseats incorrectly! In my major city, we have 0-zero-zilch currently certified firefighters and 1 city police officer, though we do have many highway patrol and school police officers certified as technicians. Though every community is different, we’re pretty average when I compare notes with other CPSTs around the country. Some communities may have a few firefighters and cops trained, but on the whole, the budget isn’t there to pay them for events.

So how do you find someone in your community to help you with your carseats if you can’t run to the nearest fire or police station?

First, look for a Safe Kids coalition near you; they will often have checkup events. Not every coalition has checkup events, though, and not every checkup event is sponsored by a Safe Kids coalition. As long as you have certified technicians on hand to check your carseats and educate you, you’re good to go!

Even though police and firefighters may not be trained as CPS technicians, they partner with us because they want everyone to be safe. Following their social media pages makes it more likely that you’ll hear about which events they support.

Following the social media pages of local mom and playgroup groups can give you a heads-up on events happening too, though you have to be really careful because it seems bad child passenger safety advice on these groups spreads like wildfire while good advice spreads like a molasses spill. However, when we have events, we try to spread the word to these groups because we want *you* to know about them.

One way you can find carseat help is through an inspection station. Inspection stations are “permanent” locations where you usually make an appointment with a CPST. They can be anywhere that has a CPST on staff, such as a retail store, AAA location, hospital, or a family resource center.

For those of you who prefer to have a customized experience at home, there are techs who will take an appointment with you, either for free or for a fee. Usually you’ll hear about these techs through word-of-mouth or they’ll filter through your social media feeds. Another way to find a tech is on the National Child Passenger Safety Certification website. The key to using this search engine is to be as broad as possible; the more specific you are, the more likely you are to confuse the search and not find someone near you. For instance, enter your county and state only instead of your zip code. CPS Certification also posts facts and other tidbits on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/CPScert .

The internet is obviously a way to get personalized help with your carseats and our forums at car-seat.org are the OG place where techs used to hang out. There are Facebook groups to handle carseat questions, but you have to weed through well-intentioned responses that may not have accurate information. Some manufacturers offer help in the form of video chat so you can show their techs up close your carseat installation and child fitting in their carseat. Since more manufacturers add this support feature each year, check with yours but Evenflo and Dorel are currently two of the manufacturers who actively use it.

There are a tens of thousands of us across the US and Canada (and around the world!) who want to help you keep your children safe as you drive each day. We’re out there and we’re not hiding!

2019 Graco Grows4Me 4-in-1 Carseat Review

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2019 Graco Grows4Me All-in-One Carseat Review

Graco is back with another carseat based on the popular 4Ever. And why not? It’s a formula that works: easy to use, easy to install, and it fits most kids well for many years. The new Grows4Me is similar but it has just one cup holder and more basic padding than the 4Ever. Just don’t get Grows4me mixed up with the Graco Size4Me, because they’re very different seats!

Weight and Height Limits:

  • Rear-facing: 5-40 lbs. AND child’s head is 1” below gray adjustment handle
  • Forward-facing: 22-65 lbs., 49” or less
  • Highback booster: 40-100 lbs., 43-57”, at least 4 years old
  • Backless booster: 40-110 lbs., 43-57”, at least 4 years old

Grows4Me Overview:

  • Adjustable base with 3 rear-facing recline positions, 3 forward-facing recline positions, 1 booster recline position
  • No re-thread harness with 10 position headrest
  • Easy-to-read ball level indicator
  • Energy-absorbing EPS foam
  • On-board harness storage for booster mode
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • One cup holder
  • Machine-washable cover
  • 10 yr lifespan before seat expires
  • MSRP $249

 

Grows4Me Measurements:

Harness height: ~7”-18”
Shoulder belt guide height: 19”
External widest point: 19”
Shell height with headrest: 30”
Shoulder width: 12”
Crotch strap depth: inner slot: 2 ½ ” with padding, 4 ½” without padding; outer slot: 6 ½”
Seat depth: 13”
Seat weight: 21.8 lbs. with padding, 21.5 lbs. without padding
Don’t forget about our comparison database!

Installation: