Imagine how you deal with the awkward situation of having to tell someone you’re talking with that they have food stuck in their teeth.
Maybe you can’t imagine this because you’ve made the decision to never, ever, tell anyone about the spinach bits wedged between their incisors. Or maybe you are someone who doesn’t even squirm at the thought of broaching the subject because you have decided in advance to always, always, bring attention to the issue; swiftly and smoothly:
“Oh look, you have something from your breakfast smoothie stuck in your teeth!”
“Oh.” Wipes teeth with tongue. “Did I get it?”
“No, not that side, the other side”
“Yep, oh… still there. Here try some water.”
“Okay, you may just want to run to the bathroom to check it out in the mirror…”
I weigh the pros and cons of both approaches and still can’t decide which is better. If I don’t say anything, and we chat for an hour, then someone more brazen than I joins the conversation and tells them, then they’ll ask me, “Oh, why didn’t you tell me? I feel stupid you let me carry on like that!” Or, I could quickly point it out the second I notice it, participate in the whole teeth-washing fiasco, just to discover it’s ruined our pleasant visit.
You can imagine how my indecisiveness about manners manifests itself similarly when, as a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, I see carseat misuse by close friends. In the scenario of deciding if I’ll tell my friend that an infant seat base is not supposed to slide off the vehicle seat on every curve, the stakes are a bit higher.
On the one hand, commenting on how a mom chooses, uses, and installs her child’s carseat, risks leaving her feeling ashamed and defensive. But on the other hand, I could ignore the safety issues and feel responsible if, in a collision, the seat doesn’t provide the highest level of protection. Which, gathering from the fact that she spent $200 on a carseat and uses it regularly, she does intend to glean the most safety benefits possible from it!
She may actually want to know sooner rather than later if something is stuck in her teeth.
My strategy is still a work in progress but, here’s how I am choosing to share my carseat safety knowledge with friends:
Assume parents are doing their very best.
Express admiration for the things they are doing right.
Show solutions to the most pressing safety concerns.
Empathize with the ridiculousness of how complicated it is to keep a child safe on the road.
Offer to help them anytime they have questions or want guidance on a new seat.
So far nothing has blown up in my face; I still have friends. Usually, if I lose friends it’s because they move out of state and if that’s their way of breaking up with me because I offended them with unwanted carseat advice, then they have a very good cover story. And a very accommodating spouse.
You’ve heard Rear-Facing (RF) is safest. Maybe you’ve heard that RF car seats provide the best head protection. That’s probably true, in general. Maybe someone told you RF is “5x safer”. That statistic is based on only one study that used limited data and covers very specific circumstances, so it may or may not apply to your situation. What’s important is that rear-facing is very safe when the child is within the limits allowed by the carseat. In fact, simply using any age-appropriate carseat according to both instructions and state laws will be very effective at reducing the risk of severe injuries and fatalities.
Very safe in an upright convertible carseat!
So, what’s the deal? It turns out, that while rare, moderate and serious head injuries can happen in rear-facing carseats. There are typically 3 possible causes.
The top of a baby’s head might move out of the protection of the carseat shell and strike a front vehicle seat, pillar or console. This may be more of a concern with rear-facing only infant carriers, especially when fully reclined with a baby near the height limit.
The carseat shell strikes part of the vehicle interior, possibly resulting in the back or side of baby’s head hitting the inside of the carseat with enough force to cause a contusion or other injury.
In unusually energetic frontal crashes, the carseat could rebound with enough energy that the front of baby’s head may strike part of the vehicle interior.
Don’t Panic! High speed and very energetic crashes are not common, but can result in serious injuries, especially when misuse or non-use of restraints are involved. The good news is that if you are using a carseat and have installed and adjusted it as best as you can, you probably have very little to worry about.
So what can you do to reduce the chance of injury? The same simple things we’ve always told you and that you’ve probably done:
Install and use your carseat in the back seat, according to manufacturer instructions AND state law
Drive unimpaired and undistracted
How can you further reduce the chance of head injury in rear-facing carseats?
In particular, make sure your carseat installation and harness are tight.
If your child is approaching the stated rear-facing height limit, or when the top of the head is 1″ from the top of the carseat shell, then a taller seat may be necessary.
For older babies and toddlers who have good head and neck control, install your carseat as upright as allowed by the instructions.
If your carseat offers a load leg or anti-rebound feature, use it.
Choose a Recommended Carseat that has a layer of energy-absorbing foam both behind and on the side of baby’s head. Deep side wings and load legs (on certain infant seat bases) can also be advantageous.
“Bracing”, or having the rear-facing carseat touching the front vehicle seat, is a very complex topic. Some vehicles don’t allow this at all, due to passenger airbag sensors. In other vehicles, there are various conflicting factors to consider. If allowed by both the vehicle and carseat owners manuals, bracing could potentially reduce the risk of the carseat energetically striking the vehicle seat back and related head injury (point B above). On the other hand, it could increase the risk of direct head contact for an older, taller baby ramping out of the infant seat and striking a part of the vehicle interior (point A above). This is especially a concern with rear-facing only infant carseats that have shorter shells, tend to sit lower in the vehicle and tend to be installed with more recline than a rear-facing convertible carseat.
Above all, try not to lose sleep over this! Loose installations, loose harnesses, too much recline and exceeding the rear-facing height limits are always a potential concern, so just make sure you read the instructions and consult a child passenger safety technician if you have any questions about your installation and usage of child restraints.
It’s the travel season and for many families with small children, that includes flying somewhere. Since so many carseats are heavy and bulky, it makes sense in some cases to invest in a lightweight carseat just for traveling. Plus, this spares you the hassle of re-installing your main carseat when you get back to your own car, weary from traveling.
Ideally, a spare travel carseat should be lightweight (under 15 lbs), easy to install with the lap-only belt on an airplane seat and narrow enough to fit in a typical coach seat. With those criteria in mind, here are several options to consider.
Infant carseats – no need to buy anything new as long as your current infant seat can be installed without the base. I guess it’s possible to drag the base with you on the plane but that’s just making life harder than it needs to be. As long as your infant seat allows installation without the base (most do but there are some exceptions so make sure you know for sure), it’s easy to install the carrier rear-facing with the lap-only belt on the plane.
If you’re leaving the base at home – make sure you practice baseless installation a few times so when you arrive at your destination you know how to install the carseat properly in the car, using a typical lap/shoulder belt. Here is a video that demonstrates my technique for quick and easy installations of an infant carseat without the base.
Stay clear of products like THIS and THIS. These products are NOT acceptable alternatives to using an actual carseat on the plane to restrain your child. Along the same lines – using a sling or infant carrier also isn’t a safe alternative for your baby or toddler because you aren’t allowed to wear your child during take-offs or landings when the risks are highest. There is a good reason for this but the details are ugly so I’m not going to go into it right now. If you would like more info on why slings and infant carriers are not a safe alternative to using a carseat on a plane, please see the NTSB website.
UPDATED OCTOBER 2017
Convertible seats – if you intend to install the convertible seat rear-facing on the plane then you’ll be best served by a seat that is fairly compact which will increase your chances of the seat actually fitting rear-facing in the space you have to work with.
Rear-facing 5-40 lbs, or up to 40″ tall. Forward-facing 22-65 lbs, or up to 43″ tall
No matter which seat you decide to take on the plane for your child – you will want to know where the FAA approval language is stated in case one of the flight attendants asks to see proof that your carseat is certified for use in an aircraft. Look for RED lettering on one of the sticker labels on the carseat. The FAA language is required to be written in red. The language can vary slightly but in general, this is what you’re looking for:
For forward-facing kids, you’ll be best served by a seat that’s lightweight, fairly narrow, with tall top harness slots and a weight limit of 50 lbs. or more. Keep in mind that combination seats (aka harness/booster) can only be used on the plane in harnessed mode. Booster seats (or combination seats used without the 5-pt harness in booster mode) are not FAA certified and cannot be used on an airplane because all booster seats require a lap/shoulder belt, which airplanes don’t have.
Rear-facing 5-40 lbs., Forward-facing for children at least 1 year old, 22-65 lbs., or up to 49″ tall. *Forward-facing beltpath is behind the back of the shell. This unique design means your FF child won’t have the metal latchplate of the airplane seatbelt in their back during the flight.
A unique product for kids over 1 year old who weigh between 22-44 lbs., and are under 40″ tall. *CARES harness is certified for use ONLY on the plane. It cannot be used in motor vehicles. It’s very useful for situations where you don’t need a carseat to use on the ground when you arrive at your destination. We have a review of the CARES Harness here.
Remember, only carseats with an internal harness can be used on a plane. You cannot use a booster seat on an airplane because booster seats require a lap/shoulder belt and airplanes only have lap belts. If your child rides in a booster seat and you are bringing it with you, you can gate check it or bring it on the plane and put it in the overhead bin (if it fits).
For more info on flying with kids and carseats – check out our related blogs on the subject:
Britax has had two lines of convertibles—the G4.1s and the ClickTights— for 3 years now and there are still many questions about the similarities and differences between the two. Let’s compare them and see what makes each convertible line its own and which one may be best for you and your child.
Similarities Between G4.1 Convertibles and ClickTight Convertibles
Both G4.1 and ClickTight convertible lines are outgrown rear-facing when the child’s head reaches 1” from the red adjuster handle on the headrest when it’s fully extended.
Both G4.1 and ClickTight convertible lines have the rubber HUGS on the harness (exception is the Roundabout)
Both convertible lines have RF weight limits of 5-40 lbs.
Both convertible lines have FF weight and height limits* of 20-65 lbs. and 49” or less (*exception is the Roundabout G4.1 which has a FF weight limit of 20-55 lbs. and height limit of 46” or less)
Both sets of convertibles have built-in lockoffs: the G4.1s have color-coded clip-style lockoffs, while the ClickTight panel serves as a lockoff
Both convertible lines have smooth bases with grippy rubber edges
Both convertible lines are steel-reinforced. The bars are more visible on the G4.1 line.
Differences Between G4.1 Convertibles and ClickTight Convertibles
The G4.1 line has a black shell and visible steel bars on the sides
The ClickTight line has a white shell with the ClickTight panel that opens to reveal the belt paths
LATCH installation with the G4.1s is super easy for 2 reasons: 1. G4.1 has deluxe push-on LATCH connectors, and 2. Each LATCH strap is connected separately to the steel bars on the side, so pulling the straps tight is very easy.
ClickTights are designed to be installed with the seat belt and the lower LATCH connectors are the hook-on style and hidden in a compartment on the back of the base to discourage owners from using LATCH
G4.1 top harness slots are about 1.5” lower than the ClickTight seats and overall seat height is about 1.5” shorter while seats are about 1” wider
G4.1 convertibles have 1 recline for rear-facing, but the recline can be tweaked per the manual
ClickTight convertibles have a greater recline range for both rear-facing and forward-facing
G4.1s CAN be installed with Ford Motor Company inflatable seat belts after lower LATCH connector weight limit is reached
ClickTights CANNOT be installed with Ford Motor Company inflatable seat belts after lower LATCH connector weight limit is reached
G4.1: the date of manufacture (DOM) and model information sticker is on the plastic shell by the child’s left shoulder
ClickTight: the date of manufacture (DOM) and model information sticker is under the child’s left knee on the ClickTight panel, under the cover