Mythbusters: Your Pediatrician is a Car Seat Expert

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It’s been a while since any myths have been busted around here and I think that it’s about time we get back to setting the records straight. This is one that is of particular interest to me because I have a stake in both sides of the issue.

Myth: Your Pediatrician has been educated in child passenger safety and is the best source of information on when to turn your child forward-facing or stop using a booster.

In the many years that I’ve been involved in the child passenger safety field, one of the most common reasons I’ve heard for turning children to forward face too soon or to switch them out of a car seat altogether is “my pediatrician said it was fine.” So I thought maybe it would be good to look at whether a pediatrician is a good source of car seat information. Now, let’s be clear, I love pediatricians. I married a pediatrician. I don’t want, for even an instant, to imply that physicians are anything other than extraordinary human beings. I just want to delve into whether our pediatricians are good sources of information on car seat safety.

First, let’s look at medical school education. The first 2 years of medical school are spent in classrooms listening to lectures, memorizing information and taking absurdly difficult tests. The second 2 years are where med students do rotations in clinics and hospitals and look really scared a lot (I kid, I kid).

The curriculum in the first two years includes: gross anatomy, developmental anatomy, radiographic anatomy, histology, biochemistry, genetics, neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, immunology, pharmacology, ethics, nutrition and often an elective or two. Looking closely at that list, while they are learning about a lot of the principles that our car seat knowledge and decisions are based upon, there’s not any actual education on car seats in medical school.

So maybe residency then?

A general pediatrics residency lasts 3 years and includes insanely long hours and a lot of very hard work. These 3 years are divided into hospital and clinic-based work where most learning is done through hands-on experience and then hours of journal and text reviewing at home. During a pediatrics residency, the resident will spend weeks/months in most major specialties including (but not limited to) pediatric neurology, immunology, pulmonology, cardiology, intensive care, gastroenterology, etc.

The American Board of Pediatrics does provide a single line about car seats in the learning specifications for pediatric residents. It states that they should be able to “recommend appropriate car restraint systems, including car seats, based on age and weight of the child, including those appropriate for premature infants.” It should be noted that this is a single line in an 80-page document of learning objectives, so while it’s there, it’s not a significant portion of the education of a resident.

I think it’s also important to note that outside of CPST training, there really isn’t a class that residents can take to learn about this. There typically aren’t talks about it at conferences or other frequent opportunities to be educated about it, so many times these physicians are looking at the exact same sources that parents are. I know that my husband never received any training in car seats in his residency and that my research on car seats was essentially the first he had ever heard about rear-facing beyond infancy. While child passenger safety is undeniably important for pediatricians and their patients, it is not medicine and it’s understandably not their area of focus.

Notably, the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) does have an updated policy statement on car seat usage, which is pretty much what your pediatrician should be telling you about car seats, if anything. The most recent revision, from 2018, states:

“Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat (CSS) as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their CSS’s manufacturer. Most convertible seats have limits that will permit children to ride rear-facing for 2 years or more. Children who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their CSS should use a forward-facing CSS with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by their CSS’s manufacturer. Children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their CSS should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 ft 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age.”

CONFIRMED, PLAUSIBLE OR BUSTED? With the exception of a few wonderful CPST pediatrician hybrids, this myth is BUSTED.

Pediatricians are hardworking, intelligent people and outstanding sources of information on myriad topics related to your child(ren), but when you need specific safest practice information on car seats and boosters, NHTSA, Safe Kids, this very website or a local CPS Technician are usually much better options.

 

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Holiday Car Seat Buying Tips: Watch Out for Fakes & Scams!

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday Car Seat Purchasing Advice

What is the Best Booster to Buy?  Who has the lowest price on a Britax Marathon?  Is that great deal too good to be true?

The biggest deals of the year are usually in the weeks around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and child safety seats are no exception!

Unfortunately, car seats are also no exception to scams and knockoffs.  Finding out you bought a carseat from a phony store that never delivers is bad enough when you missed out on legitimate bargains, but putting your baby into a lookalike that is untested and non-complaint with federal safety standards could be even worse!

Here are five important tips to getting a good deal on a safe car seat this shopping season:

  1. Buy from reputable stores.  Amazon, Target, Walmart, BuyBuyBaby, Albee Baby or other major online and brick & mortar baby stores have a real presence for customer service in the USA or Canada.  Read our article on spotting fake and scam web stores that advertise on facebook with prices far lower than anyone else.  Haven’t heard of a website even though it has authentic brand logos?  Call the manufacturer or message them on facebook to see if it is an authorized retailer in your country.  Car seats can be expensive to ship back if there is any issue, so ask first if they offer free return shipping or in-store returns.
  2. Even at Amazon and Walmart, be wary of third party sellers.  Many are legitimate, but a few are fake storefronts or sell knockoff products with no possibility of customer service or returns.  For example, the safest buys at Amazon are carseats listed as, “Ships from and sold by Amazon.com” with, “FREE Returns.”  If you’ve never heard of a third party reseller, read their reviews and make sure they have contact information including an address and try their phone number to ask about their return policy!
  3. Avoid unknown brands.  Read our report on cheap, portable carseats that are not compliant with government standards.  Car seats that meet government regulations require extensive/expensive design, testing and certification.  These major corporations have customer service staff for questions and warranty issues.  Un-certified, cheap carseats sold directly from overseas do none of this and those shill companies are likely to disappear when their products are found to be defective or illegal.  Brands you trust like Clek, Maxi-Cosi, Graco, Cosco, Chicco, Evenflo and others are major companies with legitimate retail presence online and in stores.
  4. See our guidelines on secondhand car seats.  Read about used or like-new carseats before buying on eBay, Craigslist or other auction sites or resale stores.  A gently used car seat in very good condition handed down from a relative or friend may be fine to use, but one with an unknown history may not be!
  5. Watch for DEALS!  We have a Car Seat Deals Tracker that our experts update manually at least daily during the shopping season.  We notify quickly when the best deals hit, so bookmark our tracker, “like” our facebook page and follow our deals post for the latest sales and coupon codes over Black Friday and Cyber Monday!  Only legitimate name brand products from reputable websites make our list!  Not sure what to buy?  Check our Recommended Carseats list with Editors’ Picks in each budget category from our expert staff or ask us on facebook.

Graco TrioGrow SnugLock LX Review

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2019-2020 Graco TrioGrow SnugLock LX Review

ThatcherGraco took one 4Ever All-in-One carseat, threw it in a container with a lock-off that spins 360°, shook everything up really well, and out popped a TrioGrow SnugLock. Well, not really, but that’s what a crazy carseat geek with a wild imagination comes up with! In all seriousness, Graco has a winning formula with the 4Ever platform: it’s easy to install, easy to use, and fits a wide variety of children. The TrioGrow SnugLock 3-in-1 is a different carseat, though, so as its name suggests, it only offers 3 modes of use: rear-facing, forward-facing, and highback booster. The version reviewed here is the TrioGrow SnugLock LX.

Weight and Height Limits:
  • Rear-facing: 5-40 lbs. AND child’s head is 1” below height adjustment handle
  • Forward-facing: 22-65 lbs., 49” or less
  • Highback booster: 40-100 lbs., 43-57”, at least 4 years old
TrioGrow SnugLock Overview:
  • 360° spinning SnugLock lockoff that acts as a tensioning device for both rear- and forward-facing installations
  • 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
  • Two cup holders
  • Machine-washable cover
  • 10 yr lifespan before seat expires
  • MSRP $179.99
LX Version Adds:
  • InRight™ (push-on) LATCH
  • Fuss Free harness pockets
  • Rapid Remove cover
  • MSRP $239.99

Thatcher Sonic Leland

TrioGrow Measurements:

Harness height: ~6 ¼” with infant insert*/8” without insert-17 ½ ”
Shoulder belt guide height: 18 ½ ”
External widest point: 19”
Shell height with headrest: 30”
Shoulder width: 14”
Crotch strap depth: inner slot: 2” with padding*, 3 ½” without padding; outer slot: 5 ½”
Seat depth: 12”
Seat weight: 18 lbs. with padding, 17.7 lbs. without padding

*Because of the shape of the infant insert, it was difficult to get an accurate measurement. I chose a spot in about the middle of the padded area from which to measure.

Don’t forget about our comparison database!

Installation:

The TrioGrow installs like a dream: super easy and doesn’t take up a whole lot of room in your back seat. However,

Secondhand Car Seats: Can I buy one? Can I sell one?

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Question: Are used carseats safe to use?

Answer: Maybe.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a used child safety seat.  The main concern is if you don’t know the history, then it is possible it may have been in a crash or damaged.  It may be fine to take a gently used car seat from a sibling or good friend.  Buying one used at an auction site or second-hand store can be risky.  Here are some questions to consider even if you are just borrowing a seat:

  1. Do you trust the previous owner(s) with the life of your baby?
  2. Is the seat in good working condition with minimal wear and no loose parts?
  3. Do you know that the seat was never in a crash, dropped or otherwise damaged?
  4. Do you know that cleaners and solvents were never used on the harness system?
  5. Are all parts present and working correctly?
  6. Are the manual and labels all present?
  7. Is the seat approved for use in your country?
  8. If there is a recall on this car seat has it been resolved?
  9. Did you check that the car seat is not expired?
  10. Did you answer “YES” to all the questions and do you feel comfortable that it will protect your baby in a crash?

It should also be fine to sell or pass along your own used car seat to a friend or relative, provided you can answer “YES” to these same questions and know that you’d trust the seat for your own baby.  If you aren’t certain about one of the questions, anything is possible.  That eBay listing for an “open box” or “like new” car seat may have been returned after a drop or crash, you just never know if you don’t know and trust the previous owner.

While we generally recommend that you buy a new carseat, we understand they can be expensive.  We do list models in every budget category in our Recommended Seats Guide.  Budget convertible and combination child safety seats can be found for under $50 and boosters from $15.  In some areas, local health departments, Safe Kids organizations or other non-profits may distribute free or low-cost car seats.  We also recognize that a used car seat is very likely to be safer than no car seat at all, but the questions above are still very important to the safety of your baby.

If you have any questions about the safety of a used or expired car seat, please contact the manufacturer for more guidance.  Here are some other resources:

NHTSA Used Car Seat Safety Checklist

IIHS: Purchasing a child seat

American Academy of Pediatrics: Used Car Seats

SafeKids: Is it Okay to Use a Second-Hand Car Seat?

CarseatBlog: Buying and Selling Used Carseats

Child Passenger Safety advocates are not out to terrify you into buying a new seat when a perfectly good used one is available.  We just want to make sure parents and caregivers know how to identify a second-hand car seat that may be safe to use for your most precious cargo.