I’m back! Maternity leave is over (so sad!) and I am back in the pediatrician saddle, so to speak. It was really hard leaving my little guy for the first few days but it is getting better every day. As a new mom I have been faced with all the struggles of lack of sleep, endless physical demands of a newborn, and learning how to be “me” in a whole new way. Most of my challenges now don’t come from what I’m going to wear to work or eat for dinner but rather how I’m going to keep my son, Leo, happy and healthy. With that said, I want to talk about car seat safety today as a sometimes overlooked area of your child’s well being.
Let me start with a story. At first Leo loved being in the car seat – or so it seemed. He would easily doze off until we arrived at our destination and not make a peep. That didn’t last long. He now will get in the car seat, be content for a short time, and then…panic. If we don’t keep the car moving, he tells us! Every stop sign or red light his eyes flash open and the whimpers (and sometimes flat out screams) begin. I was picking up a prescription at the drive-thru one day and had to wait for about 15 minutes and he screamed the entire time!! It was awful! As a parent, I want to do everything possible to not hear my baby cry. So when he started disliking his car seat, my husband and I would wait until the last minute before we tightened the car seat straps in the hope that Leo would stay content as long as possible. We thought if we kept the straps loose, he wouldn’t feel restricted and therefore stay happy.
While our intent was good, one time we forgot to tighten him and didn’t realize it until we were already on the road. Yikes! We pulled over right away and tightened those straps up but boy did that event strike fear in me – much more fear than his crying could ever scare me. What if we had gotten in a collision? Would he have been OK? Would he have stayed in his car seat? How could I ever forgive myself if he had gotten hurt just because we didn’t want to hear him cry?! I tell you this for a couple reasons; first, because I want you to know that we all make mistakes. Secondly, because I don’t want you to make the same mistake!
Car seats are incredible items that help us run around town with our little bundles of joy as safely as possible. They are meant to be used in very specific ways to ensure safety. Here are some tips for you to remember to keep your little ones safe when in the car:
– Straps should be snug, straight and flat.
– The harness chest clip should be located at armpit level.
– Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible! The AAP recommends until at least two years of age to maximize safety.
– Know your car seats limits. Each car seat has certain weight and height restrictions that should be followed strictly.
– No bulky winter jackets under car seat straps! When kids wear winter jackets/suits under their car seat straps it is almost impossible to get them secure and tight in their seats. Keep them in a warm but thin clothing layer and then cover with blankets as needed to keep them toasty.
– Get your car seat checked out by a professional: Visit http://cert.safekids.org/ or www.nhtsa.dot.gov or call the DOT Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236 to find a professional car seat examiner near you. Many local fire/police stations have trained professionals ready to help you.
– Keep your kids in the back seat until at least 12 years old.
These are just a few quick tips to keep your kids safe. Visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov for more info on keeping your children as safe as possible when riding in a car. Please, buckle up and have a safe, happy and healthy holiday season!