Sunday I was in the car with a friend.
Our 4 and 5 year olds were in the backseat chattering about the birthday parties they had all day long.
We were all jacked up on cupcakes and cake and slowly crashing from our sugar high.
My friend and I began talking as we made our trip back home.
"Hey, why did you move Caroline to a booster seat?"
Yeah, I don't know.
"Well, she is 4 and she is 40 pounds so I moved her."
Caroline was in a high back booster seat.
My answer bothered me to no end.
I thought about it the rest of the day and night.
Why is Caroline in a booster seat?
Because it is easier to move from car to car?
Because she is 40 pounds and 4 years old? What does that even mean?
What stupid answers, Hailey.
I finally had had enough of beating myself up.
I did what all normal parents do in a crisis such as this... I googled.
After spending a few hours researching, reading, watching youtube... I decided that moving my 4 year old to a high back booster seat was one of the most stupid and ignorant things I have ever done.
Caroline needed to be in a 5-point harness car seat.
I simply switched her to a booster for the convenience and because the law said it was "ok".
Not once did I realize the extreme danger I was putting my child in.
I guess I thought "She is safe. She is in a seat belt."
Then I saw this video... (for the record, there is no sound. YouTube removed the music.)
What was I thinking is all I could ask myself over and over again.
Then, I watched this crash test...
The child on the right is in a 5 point harness car seat while the child closest to us is in a booster.
With a child in a booster seat, the child is at risk for "submarining". This happens when the seat belt is not properly in place. During a car crash the child slides under the seat belt causing serious injuries.
Other things that was drawn to my attention during my research:
- Pay close attention to the maximum weight and height restrictions on ALL seats.
Being that Caroline is 41 pounds, she exceeds the weight max on all of her 5-point-harness car seats. Therefore, I searched and found a decently priced Graco that holds up to 65 pounds. I also know that Sunshine Kids makes a 5-point-harness car seat for a maximum of 80 pounds.
- Make sure your child's harness is snug. Per federal requirements, current instruction manuals define a snug harness as: "A snug strap should not allow any slack. It lies in a relatively straight line without sagging. It does not press on the child's flesh or push the child's body into an unnatural position." Do the pinch test. If you can pinch a fold in the harness above the chest clip, the straps are too loose.
- A friend saw a picture of Bug on my FB. He immediately messaged me to let me know that I had the shoulder straps on Bug's car seat set too low.
Moving from rear-facing to forward-facing was very confusing to me. I knew that in a rear-facing seat Bug's straps needed to be at or below her shoulders. Therefore, I assumed it was the same with forward-facing. However, for forward-facing car seats, you use harness slots at or above child's shoulders.
Thank goodness he pointed it out to me. (His wife is the friend that brought about this whole post ;-))
- The chest clip was also not a big deal to me. I thought if it was clipped, the children were fine. Pshhh! Wrong again. Make sure the chest clip is fastened at armpit level.
- Seat belts DO fail so use LATCH and Top Tether when available. There is conflicting findings on the LATCH system. Some say it will hold up to 40 lbs. After that, the use of a seat belt to hold the car seat in place is necessary. Some findings say that 48 lbs is the max. If you have any information on this, please share with the rest of us.
I point all of these things out for the simple fact that I thought was doing everything right. My 2 year old was in a car seat. My 4 year old was in a high-back booster seat.
I am not saying that you are doing it wrong. But as a parent, we do everything we can to keep our children safe.
I learned so much in 2 hours of googling than any car seat manual could ever teach me.
I also learned that just because the law says it's "ok", doesn't mean that is what is best for your child.
My not having a good answer to the question, "Why did you move Caroline to a booster?", was reason enough for me to move her back to a 5-point harness.
My hope is that at least one of my readers questions and tests there child's car seat.
Driving is the most dangerous situation we put our children in everyday. It takes seconds to make sure they are properly strapped in and hopefully your child will be in a 5-point harness.
PS- Caroline has a new Graco Nautalis 3-in-1 Car seat on it's way. And yes, it is pink and is complete with pink and purple flowers.
** And thanks to my friends, the Laws, for opening my eyes ;-)