Sunday, August 30, 2009

Carseat Q & A

I'm diving into the nitty gritty- your questions on car seats! You can find my previous carseat posts here and here. So without further ado...

stephaniecate said: I've heard the new recommendation is no longer age and weight, rather keeping them rear facing for as long as the car seat will allow. Our carseat (Britax Roundabout- I love it!!) allows babies to be rear facing until 35 lbs. Our son is currently 13 mos, 23lbs and 30". My question is, is this true, and if so, is there a max height? I don't know that he'll reach 35 lbs until well after his 2nd birthday, and I don't have a problem keeping him rear facing, except for if the height creates a safety issue. My husband and I are giants, so he will probably be tall as well!
You're right. The recommendations are now to keep kids rear facing to the limits of the seat. A seat is outgrown rear facing when your child reaches the maximum weight or their head is within 1 inch of the top of the seat shell, whichever comes first. I know the Roundabout well, and it's a great seat, although short in the back. You'll probably find your son will outgrow the seat rearfacing before he reaches the weight limit. In that case, you'll have to weigh your options...turn him forward facing, or get a different seat. Obviously his age when that happens will help make that decision for you, I'm sure.

punken13 said: When is it safe to switch to a booster. I know it is abo0ut height and weight but our 4 year old is pretty small. He is currently in a Cosco Alpha Omega and I am sure he is getting near the height limit on the 5 point harness but well under the weight limit. Should I try and find a convertable that has a higher height limit on the 5 point harness?

I would find a convertible with a higher limit, or better yet since your son is already 4, a combination seat that will turn into a booster when your son is ready. Some seats that would fit the bill would be the Graco Nautilus or the Britax Frontier.
As far as the seat he is in currently, forward facing seats are outgrown when the child reaches the maximum weight or the shoulders go above the top slopts of the carseat or the tips of the ears reach the top of the shell, whichever comes first. Moving to a booster is more about maturity than age or weight, but usually I start to see kids really ride well in boosters starting around age 6.

Staceyg32 said: Someone recently told me that there is a "rule" about certain weight requirements in a car for using the latch system. Not the car seat weight limit but the car itself in regard to the latch system. She said that she was told that once a child reaches a certain weight that you should no longer use the latch system built into the car but use the seat belt instead. Is there any truth in that?

Yep, the information you got is correct. Each vehicle manufacturer is different, so you'll need to read your car manual. For instance, Honda's LATCH system is only approved up to 40 lbs (child don't have to worry about how much the seat weighs), and after 40 lbs, you must use the seatbelt to install. Other manufacturers have a 40 lb limit, and some are different than that. You'll have to check you manual.
Seat belt installations are just as safe as LATCH, although in some cases not as convenient. LATCH was created to make installations easier, but using either one (as long as you are below the weight limit of your vehicle manufacturer) is equally safe.

SneakPeak said: ok...we have the Combi Zeus. I love love love that can swivel around. I belive the RF limit is 22lbs & FF is 35lbs. I prefer to have Austin RF, but he is now it dangerous?The nurses prefer RF too as it is easier to suction & care for him. Help!!

The Zeus is a cool seat. I have the Orbit Toddler Seat for Seth, which also swivels. It's a lifesaver sometimes! I have had misgivings about the low weight limits of the Zeus, however. I know that Combi is planning to revamp it with higher limits but they were not able to do so before the launch of the seat.
How old is your son? If he is above 22 lbs it is not safe to keep him rear facing in that seat, even though it is much safer overall. I'm guessing he has health issues if he has nurses and needs suctioning, which only makes it more important for him to remain rear facing for as long as possible. If he has low tone or issues with head control, it is imperative. (Sorry, I'm guessing, don't know the details here) If I were you, I would get him another seat in which he can stay rear facing longer. The only other seat that swivels is the Orbit Toddler Seat, although it's not super economical. If you can give up that feature there are many affordable seats that would allow your son to remain rear facing. Email me...I'd love to talk to you in more detail.

Audrey said: I'd like to know more about boosters. Simon (6 years, 40 lbs) sits harnessed and will for a long time but it seems EVERYONE else his age is in a booster. Now that we are going to kindergarten- boosters are everywhere. As are kids riding in the front seat. :(

Thoughts? Videos/stats/websites to share of the importance of 5-point harnesses and how to pick an appropriate booster? I've shared the video of extended rearfacing a ton but now I need something else to back me up. (My 2 year old is still rearfacing).

Good for you for keeping him harnessed and keeping your toddler rear facing! It's so worth it. I know what you car circle every day I see some crazy things. I think the Kyle David Miller Foundation does a great job of explaining why extended harnessing is important. Check out this link . They have a great video but it's not working right now...I'm trying to locate another one.
When it comes to picking an appropriate booster, I feel high back boosters with side impact protection offer the most protection for kids. I also love the fact that some boosters are able to be LATCHed now, which keeps the seat from becoming a projectile if unoccupied in the case of an accident. One of my personal favorite boosters is the Sunshine Kids Monterey, but anything with a high back and headwings is good in my book, as long as it is a good fit for your child.

lovinglife84 said: I have been looking at the new graco carseat that harnesses up to 65lbs for my 4 year old. She currently has a eddie bauer one and it seems she is getting too tall for it, however weighs too little to be put in a booster. Any thoughts?

Do you have the Eddie Bauer 3 in 1? It sounds like it. Many of those seats are known for being outgrown by height way before the child is ready for a booster. It's frustrating, and they're almost never "the only seat you'll ever need." If her shoulders are above the top slots, she has outgrown the seat. The Graco Nautilus (What I think you're referring to getting) is a great seat, and can be used as a booster after it is outgrown in harness mode. It has nice tall harness slots, so you won't run into the same problem you have now. I think it would be worth the investment.
triciajoy said: the carseat thing- WHY THE HELL ARE THEY SO HARD TO PUT IN? Seriously I spent an hour fighting with Robbie's new convertible seat last night. He's 22lb, so he outgrew his snugride (max weight: 22lb) so we have to get it going. I drive a little teeny civic and I really want to extend-rear-face. Trying to get the damned thing in is a nightmare.
Then a friend told me that since he's older, it doesn't have to be at 45 degrees, but 30 instead. WHY ISN'T THAT IN THE BOOKS!? GRR.
Okay, that was a vent, not a question, but there you go.

I know. I know! 8 out of 10 carseats are installed improperly, and that's why it's a good idea to get your seat checked even if you think you read the manual perfectly. Often techs will have little tricks to get seats in easier that they can teach you. And you're right about the angle...after a baby has good head control the seat can usually be installed in a more upright fact, most kids prefer to be more upright so they can see what's going on. I wouldn't stress about an exact angle, just make sure that it's reclined enough so that if Robbie falls asleep his head won't flop forward.
I have sympathy for the small car thing. It sucks. Keeping him rear facing will be worth the inconvenience, though! Especially with his G tube...crash forces are much less rear facing and I would think it would cause much less trauma.

Jen said: (edited for length) I have no questions but PLEASE just mention the facts - that somewhere between 80-97% (depending on which stats. you look at) of carseats are NOT installed correctly. There are resources in their community where they can go to have it installed properly.

My husband and I read through the massive instruction booklet very carefully to make sure we had everything exactly right. We are educated people and felt certain we had it in there properly. We decided to take it to the fire station just to be 100% sure (we're not taking any unnecessary risks with our daughter). Nope...we had something wrong.

Yep, your whole comment was dead on. I can't tell you how many parents come in swearing they did everything perfectly just to find they missed some tiny thing or other that would have made a difference in a crash. Carseats are confusing. We're here to help. The only thing I would add to your comment is that it is really important that your tech is teach you the install, not doing it for you. If you are stranded on the said of the road and have to move your child's seat to another vehicle, we want you to be able to feel confident that you're doing it correctly. Look here to find seat check events.
Also, Jen plugged, which is an awesome site that I am proud to be a member of. They can answer just about any question there.

CarolAmie said: this may be too specific for you to be able to answer but I'd love tips on carseats in the third row "stow and go" seats of our grand caravan. With three kids in carseats we have to have one back there but the latch setup requires that the seat straddle the 1st and 2nd regular passenger seat of our car, ultimately taking up two spots. Since there is no other latch back there we are crippled in our ability to travel with anyone outside of our family of 5. I can't believe a 7 passenger car intended it to work that way so are we missing something?

Vehicle manufacturers are only required to put a certain number of LATCH positons in each vehicle, and very few put them in every seating positon. I don't know why manufacturers choose to do offset LATCH. It's annoying. If you're dead set on using LATCH, you're stuck. If I were you, I would install your 3rd row carseat with the seatbelt. That way you can keep the two other seating positions open for passengers or to stow (and go!).
Ashley said: I consider myself very anal about my carseats. It didn't take long for hubs to catch on, and he is now the only other person I'll trust to put our children's seats in (so that I feel they are in tight enough). Is it overkill/safe to use both the latch and the seat belt to hook a front facing car seat in rather than using one or the other? what age would you reccommend taking a child out of a 5 point harness and into a booster with the regular seat belt?

Hey! Yes, it is overkill to use both LATCH and the seat belt, and no, it's not safe. I know it seems like both would be better than one or the other, but the bottom line is, they're just not crash tested that way, and using them that way is unsafe. The thought process from most techs I've talked about it with is that using both LATCH and the belt can actually put too much tension on the seat and keep it from riding down properly in a crash. The best and safest choice would be to make sure your seat is installed tightly, with less than one inch of movement, with either the LATCH system or the seat belt, and not both.

As far as what age I recommend boostering a child, I've addressed it some in my previous post, but I usually start to see kids ready to handle riding in a booster around 6. Some kids are ready soon, but not many, and lots of kids aren't ready even then. It's totally unique to each child.

mama2two said: I know you don't have to deal with this in FL but maybe you have some insight. I've read that you shouldn't put kids into their carseats with winter coats on because there is too much between the kids and the car seat strap. Is this true? I just don't know to possibly bundle two kids, get them in the car, take off coats, drive somewhere, get kids out of carseats, into coats and then get to the place. Surely this can't be right? BTW your kids are gorgeous and I love reading about them. I have an Ava also (Avery) but she's only 4 months old. Thanks!

When this question comes up I am always very happy to live in Florida. =) You're right. Winter coats and carseats don't mix. I know. It's a headache. The problem is that a bulky coat can lead you to believe that a harness is tight when it is actually not. In an accident, the coat will compress and leave the kid with a loose harness, which is no good. Here's how you can tell if your child's coat is too bulky for the carseat: Put your child in their seat in a normal layer of clothing and tighten the harness until it's snug (pinch the strap vertically at the shouldn't be able to gather it between your fingers much). Then, take them out of the seat and put their coat on them. Put them back in the seat. If you can buckle them in without loosening the harness, their coat is okay to wear.

You probably won't be able to. You have a couple of options. Light, one layer fleece jackets from places like Lands End are really thin and keep kids really warm. Another option is to put them in the car in lighter layers and keep their coats for when you get to your destination, if you keep your car pretty warm. If not, another option I like is to remove their coat, buckle them in, then replace the coat backwards over their arms. I know, it's not convenient. But it's safe. Fleece jackets are probably the easiest solution...that's what we use when we travel to colder climes with the kids. For your four month old I would recommend a shower cap style carseat cover. That way you can put her in dressed comfortably for the indoors and the cover will act as a bunting or coat as long as she's in the seat. You want one that just pops over the edges of the seat, not one that goes between the baby and the harness (same issue with compression as coats).

Jenna Grossarth said: I do have a question tho. I'm trying to squeeze 3 car seats into the backseat of my car. Are they allowed to touch each other? I cannot afford a new (or new-to-me) car or van or would be getting one. And When I try to squeeze the Graco Nautilus, Safety1st Something-or-Other (Can't remember right now...) and Graco SnugRide in, they touch each other. Or is there supposed to be a 1" space? Cuz I dunno what I'm gonna do if they aren't supposed to. They make all the car seats so amazingly WIDE these days it's pretty impossible to actually fit three in the space of three seats.

Three much fun! I actually have a lot of fun puzzling seats together. The seats can touch, but you need to make sure they are installed independently of each other...which means they all need to be tight on their own and not just feel tight because they're wedged against another seat. You have at least two wide seats, so it's going to be challenging, and you'll probably have to rearrange the seats a time or two. I usually start with the center seat first. You may find you need at least one more narrow seat, like the Sunshine Kids Radian, to make it happen easily. To get three across in the third row of my van, it's impossible without at least one Radian (Yes, I love that seat, too. lol). Another option would be to install the SnugRide without the base, which is a headache to buckle in and out every time, but does take up much less space.

SafeKids is the national certifying body for techs, and you can find out how to find a class here.

Jen said: Do you know if the rear facing weight limit is high on the Sunshine Kids Radian than on the Britax Marathon? I know the Radian is higher for forward facing but I'm not sure about rear facing.

I'm really excited about the answer to this question. Sunshine Kids just retroactively raised the rear facing limit on all of their seats manufactured in or after September of 2008 to 40 pounds. That applies to the Radian65, Radian80, and the RadianXT. I am stoked about this news.

ashwatts said: My son just turned 4 and weighs 48 pounds, the limit on his 5 point harness car seat. I would like to buy a 5-point harness carseat that go up to 65 pounds. Can you recommend one?

At his age, I wouldn't necessarily recommend a convertible seat, as at some point, you'll have to move him to a booster. The Graco Nautilus and the Britax Frontier are both great seat the harness to 65 and 80 lbs respectively, then become really nice boosters.

Cathy said: I was just thinking this morning that I wanted to ask you about how to use the locking buckle on our seat. Do you put it up at the top of the belts where they pull out or at the bottom where the cross into the seat? Are they necessary? Also, how do you use the hooks that go into the seat themself on the bottom of the seat? We only have one hook, so I wondered if we were supposed to pull it through one latch and then hook it on the other one? Does that make sense at all? Thanks for doing this!

Are you referring to a locking clip? metal, rectangular? If so, they go within 2 inches of the buckle. They can break in a crash and if they're on the opposite end of the belt they can become a projectile, and a pretty dangerous one. You only need a locking clip if your seatbelts do not lock any other way, such as at the retractor (pull your belt out all the way and then let it slide back in you hear clicking? That's a lockable retractor), or at the latchplate (sit in the vehicle seat and buckle yourself in. Pull in the lap portion of the belt...does it slide through the buckle or is it locked? If it's locked, that's a locking latchplate.). You never need a locking clip when using LATCH or a lap belt. Basically the only situation you should need a locking clip in is with belts in some older cars that lock only in an emergency, such as at impact, or if you have issues with your lockable retractor pulling your seat up at an angle.

As far as your question about LATCH, I'm a little confused. Your carseat only has one LATCH buckle? If that's the case, you're probably referring to the tether and not the LATCH belt. If you're saying your vehicle seat only has one hook, you've found something in your car that's not LATCH, which is actually pretty common. =) Your vehicle manual should tell you where the LATCH locations are, and your carseat manual should show you how to attach your LATCH belt. Email me, because I don't know if any of this makes sense. =)

beana said: Question...are there rec's for age/weight for the backless boosters? My dd is 5.5, around 60lbs and 48in. (luckily I have a seat that goes to 65lbs...but she will be in a highback booster soon)
First, I agree with you about buying a high weight seat from the beginning. Even if you don't have a heavy child, you could have a super tall one who outgrows the lower limit seats by height. Higher weight seats (seats designed to harness to 65 or 80 lbs) have correspondingly tall backs, so they're good for big and/or tall kids. It's a money saver as they can use the same seat for longer.
As far as backless boosters go, technically the recommendations are the same as for a high back booster. Both are doing the same thing...boosting the child up so that the seatbelt correctly. I prefer high back boosters for the added side impact protection. It can possibly limit the child's head movement (cutting down on injuries to the brain), and also protect their head/body/face (depending on the booster and how deep the head/body wings are) from intrusion...things that are forced into the car in a crash. But as far as correct fit, backless and high back are the same. High back boosters just offer more protection.

Whew! That was fun. Now I'm going to go eat some cake. If I created more questions than answers, please let me know.
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