Today I have a brilliant guest post from the lovely Fiona over at Mamas Little Baby Loves, I asked Fiona to write this for me as she is the most research orientated person Ive ever met, really truly you should see the work she puts into choosing a baby bag never mind a car seat,,,,
When my lovely pallywally Karen asked me to write a guest post for her, and suggested one on child car seats I jumped at the chance. I think Karen was hoping for one of my fun filled witty posts with some rib tickling self depreciation thrown in for good measure. No luck Karen. You want a post about car seats and there is nothing funny about car seats (well maybe that one time when both my sons tried to get in the same car seat and laughed so much that one wee’d on the other...but that’s another story...).
Ok, so here it is, buckle up for a bumpy ride (get it?!) because I’m gonna open a great big can of car seat whoopass on your errmmm ass, starting right now. Firstly, you need to know - for all intense purposes – I know nothing. I’m not an expert, or a professional, I’ve been blessed with a few ounces of common sense and a fanatical desire to keep my children safe – THIS is my driving force, and it should be yours too! If you need specific advice (and let me tell you – if you want to buy a car seat or if your child sits in a car seat – you DO) then seek advice from someone who actually knows, and doesn’t just like the sound of their own voice – like me.
Here are some of my own top tips when it comes to child car seats.
Do Some Research.
HELLO??! This is your childs life at stake here! If you were forced to throw your baby off the top of a multi-storey car park, and you had the capacity to choose between "no parachute", "a shit parachute" and a "really good parachute"... you’d check out which was which, and (unless you’re a weirdo and I can’t help you there) you’d pick "the really good parachute". It’s the same with car seats - there’s loads of them, and they are all different. Check what size car seat you need (you need to KNOW your child’s weight and height , age barely comes into it), decide what you want from the car seat, and then compare ones that will do the job. Don’t be lazy – just look it up and don’t be afraid to ask questions - there are qualified people out there who can help you, like Kat at the Child Seat Safety Place, who are both independent and passionate about car seat safety.
Know your own car
Ok, so you’ve done your research into what type of seat you want to buy. Major important fact coming up here...NOT ALL CAR SEATS FIT ALL CARS. Shocker huh? You need to do a bit of matchy matchy game here. You need to check your cars manual – it will have a piccy in it showing you which of the seats in the car you can put a child car seat on. It WILL be in there somewhere, if not, you ask your car manufacturer directly. Job number two – Check the car compatibility list for the child car seat you want to buy. You can usually download these from manufacturer’s websites, and the shop you buy from should have a copy. Lastly, you need to get the car seat into the car before you buy it, or be open to returning the seat if it doesn’t fit well . You need to do all this for every car and every seat within those cars that you want to use the seat in. Don’t just buy one and assume it’s all good, you need to be sure it’s a good fit, especially if you’re squeezing it in next to other seats, which brings me onto ...
"Trust no one". Well, maybe "Don’t trust Everyone".
Here’s a shocker for you – people who sell car seats don’t always know what they’re going on about. They want to sell one, any one will do. They want your money and figure once it’s sold to you, it’s your car seat and your responsibility. I’ll throw the lovely shop people a bone here though – car seats are all different; its like the first day of school when the teacher says "Bear with me while I learn all your names, I’ve got to remember 42 but you’ve only got to remember one", so just make sure YOU know how to fit the one YOU chose. When we bought my eldest’s Group 1 car seat, we went to Mamas&Papas to get one, I’m a canny lass and had loads of questions ready to ask about it, answers were a bit slapdash, the lady said some things I knew to be incorrect, we tried it in our car, she made a meal out of fitting it in and strapping my son in. I was already sure that this was the seat for us though so we watched carefully and bought it anyway, thinking her shite demo might be nerves. When I got home I rewatched the fitting video for the seat, I went out and looked at our seat, I watched it again, and looked at the seat. Our seat was fitted wrong. We had driven our child home in a seat that might have cost him his life. Did you read that that? Our baby boy, our first born, our most precious cargo, was put at risk...and hers the nub - no, he was NOT put at risk by the shop employee ... but BY US – WE. DIDN’T. CHECK. But we learned quick – and have learnt many times since, don’t trust anyone to show you how to fit your seat, read the manual, watch the manufacturers youtube video, then visit the expert.
I’m a spoil sport
Here’s one you’re going to love...Don’t buy a second hand car seat. It’s not worth it. You don’t know the history of that seat. We were recently in a car accident...it was a very slow one where we were rolling along in traffic and someone rolled into the back of us. All of us were fine and the child car seats looked undamaged. When we called our insurance (the bumper sadly was not fine) they insisted the kids car seats were replaced too. This is because car seats are designed to break in a crash, the car seat takes the force of the impact instead of the child. And even if you can’t see any damage on the outside, it doesn’t mean it’s not damaged on the inside...and that will be something you can’t tell when buying second hand.
Get it checked
Okay, this is a biggie, I know it’s a pain, I know you don’t wanna, but honestly if you can do, get the seat checked by a professional. This is not a policeman or a fireman, it’s not a shop that sells car seats, and it’s not the man up the road who’s had 7 kids and 10 cars so ‘knows his stuff’. It’s someone approved, someone qualified, someone whose been accredited, someone whose passion is car seat safety. An example would be theGood Egg Car Seat Safety team. This is an In car child seat Safety Initiative that (along with loads of other super useful car seat related stuff) provide free Car Seat Clinics – you just turn up, and get your seat checked. Clinics are run all over the country, usually at handy places like supermarkets and shopping centres. No excuses. Get it done. Don’t care how clever you are and how sure you are your seat is fitted right, just get it checked eh?
Extended Rear Facing
Ok, I’m not gonna go off on a mission about this one here, but let me tell you this – your child is 5 times less likely to be seriously injured or killed if they are in a rear facing seat (VTI Sweden). In Sweden (where children must rear face by law until 4 years) between 2006-2007 not one single child under 6yrs died in a car accident – in the UK for the same time period we lost 21 (ok ok I know we have a larger population than Sweden but not THAT much larger). You know, even if it was just a tiny chance that they would be safer rear facing I would do it, why would I not? Not enough money? Cancel the Sky subscription (shock horror!), they can’t see where they’re going? They can see where they’ve been, I can’t see them? Get a mirror. Because one thing is for sure - if the worst did ever happen and you crashed, you’d want to know you did everything in your power to keep your child as safe as possible wouldn’t you? When you know better, you should do better. Go on youtube and look at crash test comparisons rear facing vs. forward facing and you’ll scare the bejesus out of yourself. I watched when I was pregnant, and I sobbed my heart out...over the fate of the crash test dummies. I daren’t click on the "true life stories" that are on there...my imagination is enough.
Okay people, you’ve done all the shizzle getting the right car seat and fitting it correctly (big pat on back!), then you just shove your kid in and wander off. The car seat can only help save your child’s life if your child is actually secured correctly in it. This means straps tightened, I don’t mean give a little tug on the end and when your child whines "it’s too tighttttt muummmyyy" you slacken it back off. I mean fit the strap right; it shows you how in your instruction manual, read it (even if you’ve fitted a harness in other seats) because each seat is different. You need to check the height of the shoulder straps as well as the tension. The headrest needs to be correctly adjusted too – this is vital, especially in a side impact. When you put your kid in the seat take off any coats or padded clothing. In a crash your child’s body will be thrown against the straps and any fluffy jackets will be squeezed flat, meaning a load of slack will be introduced to the harness right at the time when slack is the last thing you need. This might be a ball ache in winter but take a blanket, or strap your child in and then put their arms into their coat sleeves so their coat is on backwards.
Enjoy the ride.
I’m well aware I sound like a preachy judgy moaning minnie mother in this post, and I don’t care, if just one parent reads this and decides to check their own car seat, or do some more research before purchasing their next seat then I will moan the whole dodahday. I just really want you mums and dads to be fully armed when it comes to buying, fitting and using your child car seats, when you know better, you can do better.
Well Fiona has certainly given me plenty to think about and Im going to look into having our seats checked for correct fitting, because weve always relied on a certain shop who will remian nameless, but the sell car seats!