I am trying to learn more about child safety before my first little one arrives in the world – you can read about my earlier adventures here – and I have read that 8 out of 10 child car seats aren’t installed the right way.
I’m about as handy around the house as a pet hamster. If anyone was going to mess up a car seat, it would be me. I knew that a car seat technician should check my work.
My wife and I bought a seat with two bases (one for each car). When we started going to baby classes, every group leader said some version of: “If you don’t already have a car seat, get one. If you do have one, install it. The last thing you want is to worry about a car seat when you’re at the hospital.”
I dove in. I read the seat manual and our car manuals. Just in case, I watched a how-to video online. My conclusion: I never would have installed the seat base correctly without the video. The instructor actually uses her foot to help anchor the base! How would I have known to do that? How would my 8-months-pregnant wife have the physical ability to do that, especially in our smaller car? (Yes, fine, she would have figured it out. She’s the handy one.)
I still wanted a car seat tech’s approval. A little internet searching showed me that many places have regular car-seat-check events, and this tool lists permanent seat-check stations. As an experiment, I searched for stations in my state and in the state where my parents live. My city’s health department was the closest for me; the county’s health department was the closest for my parents.
I expected the tech just to give me a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. To my surprise, I got a thumbs-up. But the tech spent another 20 minutes going over the seat with me. She told me at least a dozen things I hadn’t known before:
Adjust the baby’s straps every time I put the baby in – the fit can change from day to day. Make sure the head cushion isn’t pushing the baby’s head too far forward and blocking the baby’s airway (just remove the cushion if it is). Take the baby out of a heavy coat, because in a crash that coat will compress and leave too much space between the baby and the seat straps.
She also said, by the way, that engineers often don’t install their car seats correctly. They are overconfident and don’t think they need to follow the instructions. An idiot like me, on the other hand, tries especially hard.
As usual, I’m happy about how much more I know than I did a few weeks ago. And as usual, I’m worried that if I didn’t know this basic info before, how much more don’t I know?
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