The Safest Car Seat Placement Within Your Car

This was a interesting topic that recently came up in a conversation on Twitter, and it gave me a moment to pause and think. What are your best options for seating placement when you have multiple car seats, at multiple ages, in the same car? Most people are faced with this question at some point or another, whether it be for a single child, or adding some to the existing mix.  In honor of Child Passenger Safety Week, I am going to do my best to help solve this problem for you!

Here are two key factors to keep in mind when trying to figure out how to position your child(ren) in your car.

  • In the past, I have discussed the importance of rear-facing and gone through the facts on how much safer it is for your child. If you have not read this article, please do so here. I always (and passionately) recommend that if your child is within the two year old range, that you keep them rear facing up until them, or longer if your seat allows it.
  • A child placed in the middle seat is at a 43% lower risk of injury than those in either side position.
  • Always check with your car’s manual for their guidelines and recommendations, unfortunately, not all cars are built to accommodate a car in the middle position.

So how do you decide how to place your children throughout the car, for the safest fit? below are a few scenarios and how, in my opinion, they should be seated.

  • Single child, rear facing OR single child forward facing – Middle seat.
  • Infant in a bucket seat OR rear facing toddler and a toddler in a forward facing seat – Infant on the outboard seat (passenger or drivers side), with the forward facing toddler in the middle seat beside them. Reasons behind this are because the rear facing child is already 80% safer, just by being RF and you automatically give the forward facing toddler more protection by keeping him in the middle seat.
  • Two forward facing toddlers and one rear facing toddler OR infant in a bucket seat – if you are in a 5 seat vehicle: rear facing toddler or baby on the outboard, with the two forward facing toddlers on the other side, one in the middle and one on the outboard. If you have a 7 or 8 seat vehicle: Rear facing toddler or infant on the outboard, forward facing toddlers in the front and rear middle seats.
  • Two rear facing toddlers OR Infants in bucket seats and one forward facing toddler: Rear facing kids on the outboard with the forward facing toddler in the middle seat.

Another question I am frequently asked is: ‘Which car seats have the best fit for 3 across?’ As of right now, the Diono (previously called SunshineKids) Radians, and the soon-to-be-released Clek Foonf (which I am SO insanely excited about) are the only seats on the market that have a narrow enough base to fit three across. If you are looking to add a infant seat to add into the mix the Chicco Keyfit and Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP has been getting some solid recommendations.

Ideally, you would like to have all the car seats properly installed, by a CPST, using the LATCH system, but in older model cars, and even some newer ones, it’s just not possible. If you do not have access to a LATCH system, please make sure you have your seat installed professionally and you learn how to do it properly yourself, for future references.

I hope this takes some of the guess work and frustrations out of keeping your children safe in your vehicle. I know that adding a child (or two!) to the mix, can be a tad daunting, especially if you are trying to plan for the future. My best piece of advice for first time parents is to always keep the future in mind when choosing your car seat. If you know you want at least 3 children, make sure to pick the car seat that will accommodate that set up, in order to avoid having to buy new seats later. Perhaps this insight will even cause you to change around your current seating set up, and if so, I am always happy to help! As usual, if anyone has questions in regards to car seat safety, please please please feel free to contact me (Twitter, Facebook, or email me tiealittleribbon@gmail.com), or leave a comment below.

A Recent Rundown

Have I mentioned how busy summer is? I feel horrible that I have hardly shared the going-ons of our life, so here is a recap of our life lately.

  • We have been a 100% soother free household for over a week now. There have been ups and downs, but it has been amazing not to have to worry about having 5 extra ones on hand in case of a meltdown.
  • We are moving into our new house in exactly 36 days. I have not packed a single thing, but I have de-cluttered a TON. Cue the anxiety attack.
  • I leave for BlogHer in exactly 5 days and I can NOT wait.
  • Marley and I spent this last weekend with my Aunt at the family cottage. She is doing really well and goes for a (hopefully all clear on the cancer) check up at the beginning of August.
  • My Uncle is not doing so well. I fear that he will not be with us for much longer and it absolutely scares the crap out of me.
  • Marley is a full fledged cottage baby. She loves the lake and playing outside in all the goodness there. True story: she was rolling around in the dirt and trees so much that I literally had to hose her down on the deck.
  • I may lose my mind if Nacho (our Chihuahua) does not get the ‘pee outside’ thing.
  • We are slowly switching to a mostly vegetarian diet. Watch ‘Forks Over Knives‘ and it will change you. I am posting more about it soon.
  • We have gotten rid of 95% of our household cleaners and traditional laundry care. I am using Norwex products, Method products and DIY, natural cleaning solutions on everything. I am shocked at how much better they work, and how much better I feel about how we are treating ourselves and mother earth. I’ll be posting more on this as well.
  • I am just getting over a sinus infection and a double ear infection which resulted in one ruptured ear drum. Just as fun as it sounds.
  • Marley has a new fear of ‘monsters’ in her bedroom. I have no idea where it came from, but I feel horrible for her.
  • It has been stupid hot here (105 with the humidity!).
  • Marley is now forward facing in her car seat. I am still trying to get used to her being so exposed, but it was time to make the switch for us. I still fully endorse extended rear facing. Read more about why HERE
  • We discovered that while Marley loves the water, she hates swimming lessons.
  • I will be signing Marley up for either ballet or tumbling classes this fall. Excuse me while I die of cute.
  • Marley also starts preschool at the beginning of September. How did this even happen?
  • I have already started to plan Marley’s 3rd (*sob*) birthday party for September 15. She has requested a fairy party and I have a Pinterest board dedicated to the fun things I am planning.
  • I started a Facebook page for this little blog a while back, please feel free to go over and ‘like’ me HERE.
  • I am drinking at least a gallon of water a day, which means many pee breaks. I am well versed in the good public bathrooms in my area.
  • I just joined Goodreads, I am a huge book nerd and this is perfect for keeping track of the books I want to read. Find me here.

Well. If that wasn’t a information overload, I don’t know what is. Do you feel a little more caught up on our life? I hope so. Here are some pictures, for good measure.

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^ she’s sleeping, on the boat. ^

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Winter coats and car seat do NOT mix.

Now that winter has (finally) arrived, I feel like now is a good time to remind and educate people as to why it is not safe for children to wear bulky winter coats while strapped into their car seats. Did you know that? I have been shocked and saddened by the amount of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter photos that have been posted showing very bundled up children in their car seats. I completely understand that most people are only doing what they believe is best, by keeping their kiddo warm in the freezing temperatures, but in fact, they are putting them at risk.

  • Your child should not have a thick coat, snowsuit, or blanket on under the harness of a car seat. In a crash the coat would compress, making the straps too loose on your child and possibly allowing them to be ejected from the seat.
  • Harnesses SHOULD be loosened and readjusted every single time your child enters the car.
  • If you can fit more than one finger between the harness strap and your child’s collarbone once the jacket is removed, the coat is too bulky.
  • Using a fleece or thinner jacket for use in the car, and a heavier coat for outside use is the best option. You can also tuck a blanket around the child once they are strapped into the seat. NOT under the harness straps, but around the legs etc.
  • For infant seats, there are car seat covers available that fit over the whole infant seat once the baby is buckled in. Again, you can tuck a blanket around them if need be.
  • Whenever possible, warm up your car before putting the baby in the vehicle.

As if you need a more graphic example as to why this is so important, I came across this story:

“In order to become a certified CPS tech, Ellis had to take an extensive car seat safety course and pass both a written exam and hands-on car seat installation exams. ‘When I took my tech class we were shown a picture of an infant seat with a snowsuit under the harness,’ she says. ‘The seat was pulled out of a car that had just been in a crash. The infant was ejected from the seat and the car and was found some feet away from the car, but the snowsuit was left in the seat just as the baby was wearing it.’”

I have posted about the dangers of thick winter coats in car seats on my Facebook, and have actually been laughed at before. I live in an area where it can get to -40C in the winter (gross, I know), and people find it incredible and scary that Marley does not wear a coat in the car. I have to tell you, it’s do-able! You have to change the way you think about your time in the car. You have to adjust your normal routine and allow some extra time to make sure your child is the safest they can be. Is it a pain in the butt? Absolutely! Especially if you are running in and out somewhere, but really, it’s worth it. So I decided to make a video on how we get Marley into the car. I will warn you, it’s not a fancy video; I do not know how to edit, my Macbook kept going to sleep on me and Marley wasn’t fully cooperative, BUT it gets the point across. Please take a moment to watch and please make sure you pass this info along.

Side note: Yes, I decided to turn Marley’s car seat forward facing. With the pain in the butt of winter temperatures as it is, and her growing constriction in the seat, I thought it was time. I hated it. I hate it so much that she was only forward facing for a few days, and I actually turned her back around to rear facing when I came home tonight. Click the link below for more info on the importance of rear facing.

EDITED TO ADD: Please check your local bylaws, as some areas issue fines if you “warm up” your car, aka idling. If you do not have a covered or attached garage, or are unable to warm up your car, I usually suggest removing the child’s coat, safely securing them into the car seat and putting the child’s coat on backwards, over the harness. Our goal here is to keep your child as safe as possible, not freeze them.

More info on car seat safety HERE

Sources: About.com, Canada Parents

Car Seat Safety: Rear Facing and Extended Rear Facing

Rear facing and extended rear facing has become something that I am very passionate about. Why? Because like many people, I looked at Marley’s first birthday as that magical milestone where we could turn her car seat around so she to sit like a big kid. How exciting and fun! Within the week of her turning a year old, I installed her car seat forward facing and gleefully strapped her in it. She looked so big and stared around in wonder at the new world in front of her.

Then we went for a drive. And she fell asleep and her head slumped forward and her whole little body seemed to be straining against the seat.

I was stuck in traffic and was literally having a panic attack, looking back at my little baby. She looked so uncomfortable, she looked so open, so unprotected, so WRONG. I got home as slowly and safely as possible, through my own tears, keeping a constant eye on Marley in the back seat. I got home and ripped my car seat out of the car, completely upset.

That week, I started my car seat training at my new job (see my first post about why car seat safety means so much to me HERE)  and our very first day was about the importance of rear facing. My mind was blown by the statistics I was given:

  • Rear facing your child reduces the risk of death by 71%.
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the #1 overall cause of death for children 14 and under.
  • Forward-facing children under the age of 2 are 75% more likely to be injured.
  • 7 out of 10 car seats are installed or used incorrectly

That’s all I needed to hear to make the decision to turn Marley’s seat rear facing, and have her seat installed by a professional. I knew her car seat was manufactured to rear face up to 45lbs, but I had never considered keeping her there longer than the minimum 22lbs. Why? Like most people, I had never heard these statistics before and I had no idea how much safer it was.

Aside from those statistics, we viewed some crash test videos and were given in depth detail as to what happens to a child in a frontal crash (which account for close to 96% of all crashes), and how rear facing protects them better.

  • In a frontal crash, the entire back of a rear-facing car seat absorbs crash forces, protecting the child’s head, neck, and spine.
  • In a impact, everything travels to the point of impact, a rear-facing seat does a better job of keeping a child’s head contained within the safety of the seat.
  • The weight of a child’s head in a crash causes the spinal column to stretch. The spinal column can stretch up to 2 inches but the spinal cord can only stretch up to 1/4 inch before it snaps, which means paralysis or even death.

A common myth that is constantly brought up is; “My child’s feet are touching the back of the seat.” or “My child’s legs are dangling out of the infant seat.” OR “If you get into an accident like that, they will break their legs!” and so most people assume it is time to switch car seats or turn them rear facing.  Not the case at all. If a child is under the age of one and 22lbs, they legally HAVE TO be in a rear facing seat, and in both Canada and the USA they are pushing people to rear face up to two years old, or as long as your car seat will allow. As long as a child is within the weight and length limit of the car seat specs, they are safe. Because every child’s proportions are different, the general guideline is that there has to be at least 1″ of car seat shell above their head.

As far as the legs touching the back of the seat, there is no harm on their legs either propped up, or crossed, you would be surprised at how comfortable a child can be like that. I have yet to come across a reported case of a leg/foot injury because of extended rear facing. In any case, a broken leg is much easier to repair than a broken neck or spinal injury.

Taken last week; Marley at 2 years old, 27 lbs

Taken last week; Marley at 2 years old and 27lbs

So what are some important things to know about car seat use in general:

  • Look for a seat with higher rear facing weight/height limits.
  • Harness must be positioned at or just below the shoulders, chest clip at the armpits.
  • Adjust your straps every trip, the harness should be snug. Use the pinch test: grabbing the harness at shoulder level, try to “pinch” the harness together from top to bottom. You should not be able to pinch a vertical fold on a snug harness.
  • Twists in the car seat straps lower the effectiveness of the harness. Ensure they are straight, and tangle free.
  • Proper installation is vital and it is highly recommended to have it professionally installed. The seat should be very secure, not movable, and at the proper angle for your child. Most professionals will recommend you purchase two seats, instead of switching the seat between cars, to ensure it is always properly and securely installed.
  • Test the seat to make sure it fits correctly in the vehicle before you purchase it. You must be able to recline up to 45 degrees for newborn, with a fist space between the back of the car seat and the seat in front of them. There needs to be this space to allow the car seat to “ride out” the collision and absorb the impact.
  • Most seats have a 5-6 your expiry, Britax is 7 years, sunshine kids is 8 years.
  • It is not recommended to purchase a used car seat. You never know the conditions it was stored in, or what the history of it is.

Marley is now 2 years old, 35 inches tall and 27lbs. She is happily rear facing in a Britax Marathon (USA, Canada) and will continue to do so for quite a while. Will I keep her there until the maximum  40lbs her seat will hold? No, probably not, but she will be there as long as she is able to for her height. There are few things we can do to ensure the safety of our children, please take this knowledge and protect your precious cargo.

For those visual people out there, here are some truly amazing videos which show crash tests:

Changing the face of car seat safety

Like any other parent out there, I have always considered myself to be dedicated to keeping my child as safe as possible. I did research, talked to friends, consulted my Dr, and I thought I was doing a top notch job. That is, until, I started a new position at a local children’s boutique that specialized in car seats and is very passionate about car seat safety. I went though some very intensive training, met manufacturers, watched crash test videos, spoke to customers with amazing (and scary) stories, and learned the cold hard facts. I was blown away by how much information was out there, and how little of it I had been told or had heard before this training. Why was this info not more readily available? Why was no one shouting it from the rooftops and posting billboards about it?

The first few days after my training I came home in a complete daze and rattled off a bunch of statistics and information to Jay, who was as shocked as I was that this was not all common knowledge. I was shocked to find that I had made some decisions for Marley, that were not necessarily in her best interest. I was upset that more people did not have a grasp on how important car seat safety was, and that there are many options out there. I quickly realized that the “norm” was the bare minimum requirements, and most people did not bother to look beyond those. I knew this as a fact, because I was one of those people.

I found myself becoming more and more passionate about education people on the importance of car seat safety, ranging from infants in bucket seats, to children in booster seats. The more I talked to customers and informed them, the more I realized that people we not just being ignorant, they just did not know better because no one really talks about it. The internet can be a scary place to look up information regarding such a broad topic, and most people don’t bother and just do what everyone else does. Is that a bad thing? No. One thing I have learned while diving headfirst into this world is that it’s not about scolding, shunning or taking shots at people. The information is out there, if you know where to look for it. This is about changing the way people look at, and think about car seat safety in general.

I want to share my knowledge with you and provide a place for people to refer to in the future. If I can help even one person make a safer decision for their child, then I will be happy. What you’ll find here is an objective, informative look at topics ranging from rear facing, booster seats, proper fit and installation and choosing the best seat for your child, by an expert, and mother, passionate about protecting her child, and yours. Please make sure you check back in, share the links with a friend, and look for me on Twitter.