Are you one of the 70% who aren't using a car seat correctly?

Sometimes looking into people’s capsules or car seats makes my heart skip a beat, reveals NSM Amber Emken. Why? Because I realise that despite having a great car seat, the way it’s being used is putting their child at risk.

There’s no point in buying a $500 car seat and then using it wrongly. The experts say that something like 70 per cent of seats are used/installed incorrectly. So here are five tips to make sure you aren’t defeating the purpose of your seat.

1) Fix twisted straps

The bugga-boo of every parent ever. And it’s easy to just say it’s twisted, so what? But it really is a big deal. A twisted harness can’t properly distribute crash forces and can cause serious injury in a crash. So how do you fix it? Here’s a great link explaining how: How to Fix Twisted Straps (without losing your mind).

2) Tighten the harness

How tight is too tight? How loose is too loose? Does it really matter? Yes, it absolutely matters. In an accident those straps are the thing keeping your baby/child from becoming a rocket. If the straps are too loose there’s a good chance your kid can and will fly right out. To check the straps, do the pinch test: at your child’s collarbone try to pinch the harness strap together. If you can, the straps are too loose. You should be able to still put a finger or two under the strap comfortably at the shoulder, but that’s it – no loose straps!

3) Don’t put coats and blankets etc under a harness

No matter how cold it is out (and I come from Chicago, so I get cold!) you should NEVER put a coat, blanket or bunting under the car seat straps. The extra material is likely to compress in a crash and suddenly those straps that seemed just fine are now too loose and can lead to ejection. There have been cases of kids flying out with their coats staying behind. And NEVER EVER swaddle in a car seat. Doing so prevents your child’s shoulders sitting under the straps of the seat, so the straps can’t do their job in a crash – again there could be a little human rocket. So, how do I keep my children warm on the cold days? I put them in their harness and THEN put their coat on backwards over the top, or I throw a blanket over them.

4) Adjust your straps every time

So many parents set their car seat harness straps and just sort of leave them. The problem is, the clothes your kids wear, the way they sit, and even something like how bulky their nappy is that day, can change the fit each time. Always check the straps each and every time you put your child in their car seat, and make sure they always meet the pinch test standard.

5) Use the right slot for straps

For rear-facing car seats in Australia the seat straps need to be run through the slot closest to your child’s shoulders – that is AT or ABOVE their shoulders. For front-facing car seats in Australia, they need to be as close to the child’s shoulders as possible, and no more than 25mm lower than their shoulders. So AT or close BELOW their shoulders. Read a great explanation as to why, here. These rules are the reverse in the US, so always double check if you’re from overseas that you’ve got this right, since it can take some getting used to.

If you have any tips to help mums use their child’s car seat correctly, please let us know in the comments section below…

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