What Is A Booster Seat
Harnessed car seat
First, lets define harnessed car seat versus booster seat: A car seat with 5 point harness has you guessed it! 5 points of contact: shoulder, shoulder, hip, hip, crotch.
A belt positioning booster is a device designed to position the adult-sized seat belt in the correct locations over a childs body. Boosters work by positioning the lap portion of the vehicle seat belt low on the childs hips, contacting both the hips and thighs. Boosters also align the shoulder portion of the vehicle seat belt on the childs shoulder, ideally placing the seat belt flat and snug across the collarbone.
How Do You Install A Booster Seat
A booster seat is typically held in place by the child’s weight and the vehicle’s lap-and-shoulder belt. Some seats do use your car’s lower anchors and LATCH system like a car seat. It’s important to read the booster seat instruction manual before installing your child’s booster seat. Your car’s instruction manual can also help you determine how to properly and safely install the seat. If your car doesn’t have headrests, you should use a high-back booster seat.
Here are some important tips to follow when you install your child’s booster seat:
- Always place the booster seat in the back seat.
- Always use a lap and shoulder seat belt with the booster seat.
- Place the booster seat flat on the vehicle seat.
- Have your child sit in the booster seat and pull the seat belt across your child’s body to make sure the belt fits properly. The seat belt should rest low on the hips, not across the stomach. Across the chest, the belt should lie firmly in the middle of the child’s shoulder.
When Do I Switch To A Convertible Car Seat
A car seat is one of the most important pieces of baby gear youll own, but keeping the rules and guidelines around car seat safety straight can be daunting.
One of the biggest questions new parents wonder about is when to switch from an infant car seat to a convertible car seat. We spoke with Babylist Registry Consultant and Child Passenger Safety Technician Rebekah Kimminau on how and when to make the switch.
The Middle Of The Back Seat Is Safest
If possible, children should sit in the back middle seat to help reduce the risk of direct impact from a collision. A study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that the center spot in the back seat is 43% safer than the side. If you have more than one child and one is rear-facing, the forward-facing child should be in the middle since they are less protected.
When Can A Child Face Forward In A Car Seat
You should keep your child in the rear-facing position for as long as possible. But instead of using age as a guideline, keep the following in mind:
- When they reach either the weight or height limit. Your child should stay rear-facing until she has hit the maximum height or weight for that position, says the AAP and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration . Most rear-facing infant seats can accommodate children until they reach 28 to 35 pounds or 30 to 35 inches, but keep in mind that many children will reach the maximum height before they do the maximum weight. Once a child outgrows a rear-facing infant seat, she can switch to a convertible seat in a rear-facing position, which can often be used until a child is between 40 and 50 pounds. You can find your seats height and weight limits on the tag or in the manufacturer instructions.
- Not before age 2. Years ago, age 2 was considered the standard time to switch to the forward-facing position. Now, its considered the absolute minimum, because most 2-year-olds wont be adequately protected from a crash in a forward-facing seat. Rather than basing your switch on the calendar, do so only when your child reaches the maximum height or weight limit for the rear-facing position of her convertible seat. For many, this doesnt happen until age 3 or 4.
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The Benefits Of A Convertible Car Seat
According to Diono, there are a lot of benefits to convertible car seats, and one of the biggest ones is that mom and dad are going to get a lot of use out of them. They wont need to constantly buy new car seats when their child grows out of the current stage they are in. Mom will have to keep an eye on the expiry date, but a lot of them have a date of 10 years, meaning that as long as the car seat has not been in an accident, it could serve your child for the entire time they are in it.
What About Height And Weight
Most booster seats have a lower weight threshold of 40 pounds, though some still have a 30 pound minimum weight. Thats the minimum. We advocate for waiting as long as possible to move a child to the next step in any child restraints. In this case, that means waiting until the child has outgrown their harnessed car seat before transitioning to a booster seat.
For our Canadian readers, all booster seats have at least a 40 pound minimum weight. There is some concern that a smaller child may be able to submarine beneath the lap belt in a crash, however, currently available studies do not have conclusive information for this phenomenon. We do know that a properly fitted seat belt does an excellent job of protecting a child in a crash, reducing the risk for serious injury by 45% for 4-8 year olds.1
The great news is that for most kids, there is no rush whatsoever to move into a booster seat. Not too long ago there were very few 5 point harnessed seats that could hold a child who weighs over 40 pounds. Today, there is a vast array of seats to choose from that can harness the average 5-6 year old some of those options cost as little as $50. Check out our recommended seats list if you need help making a car seat selection!
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Make Sure The Car Seat Is Properly Installed
When putting your child into a forward-facing car seat, make doubly sure they are strapped in properly. Dr. Garbi explains you should pay attention to the most important safety features, including ensuring it is tightly bound into the car, the straps are tight on their shoulders, and buckles and clips are in the correct places.
Most importantly, for forward-facing seats, always make sure you are securing the tether. The tether is a strap that secures the top of the car seat to an anchor in the back of the car. When the top of the seat is more secure, it decreases how far a child’s head is thrown forward during a collision by up to eight inches.
Understanding The Guidelines For Front
While 1 year and 20 pounds used to be the standard for when to flip car seats around, most experts now recommend using rear-facing child seats until children outgrow the top weight and height recommendations of the car seat manufacturer. This means your child may be rear-facing until well beyond their second birthday.
There are some situations in which facing backward may seem uncomfortable for a childlike long road trips where it seems like the little ones legs are cramped up against the back of the seat. You shouldnt let the baby face forward in the car simply because they seem uncomfortable or dont like to be rear facing.
Tots are generally very flexible and even when they seem cramped up by adult standards, they can actually be quite comfortable.
Adding a mirror that allows your child to see themselves while you are driving can help alleviate stress and boredom. And taking breaks during long trips can give your little one time to stretch their legs.
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Tips For Moving To A Booster Seat
Your child is safer in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and top tether, so wait until your child reaches the weight or height limit of the car seat before moving her into a booster seat. When you keep your child forward facing in a harness, there is more protection than using a booster seat with lap and shoulder belt or a seat belt alone.
Once your child outgrows the harness of a forward-facing convertible car seat, forward-facing-only car seat, or combination car seat, its time to move to a booster seat.
If you are using a combination car seat or a 3-in-1 car seat, theres no need for a new seat. Just follow the seat directions for changing the seat into a booster.
Buying And Installing A Car Seat
If you’re wondering which car seat to buy, Dr. Hoffman has some advice: “The best seat for you is the one that fits your child.” It’s also important to remember that not every car seat fits every car. And while there isn’t necessarily a simple fix for that, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rates car seats based on ease of use.
Parents should follow all manufacturer instructions for installing a car seat safely. If you’re confused, Dr. Hoffman says the best thing is to speak to a car seat technician. Parents can search for a certified car seat technician on the Safe Kids Worldwide website, on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website, or by calling a local children’s hospital.
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Should I Use A Convertible Seat
Convertible seats are designed to protect kids:
- from birth up to at least 40 pounds facing backward
- up to 65 pounds or even 80 pounds facing forward, depending on the model
Convertible seats are placed in different positions depending on a child’s age and size:
- They face toward the rear until a baby is ready to face forward .
- Then, they can be turned around and “converted” to a forward-facing seat.
Some car seats are known as “all-in-one” or “3-in-one” because they convert from rear-facing to front-facing to booster with the harness removed.
Buckling Up Your Child
A booster seat helps children sit comfortably by raising them so they can sit up against the seat back with their knees bent over the edge of the booster or vehicle seat.
If your child can sit up straight with his or her back against the seat back and his or her knees bent over the edge of the booster, move on to check the fit of the seat belt.
- If your child cannot do this, choose another booster seat
A booster seat that fits needs to guide and keep the lap and shoulder belt in place across your childs hips, chest and shoulders.
The seat belt guides help you adjust the belt for better fit, and help keep the belt in place. Follow the instructions in the booster seats manual and the seats labels for threading the belt through the guides.
The lap belt must fit snuggly on the hips. This will help the seat belt bring your child to a stop during a sudden stop or crash and protect your child from injuries.
- If the lap belt does not sit flat on the hips, choose another booster seat
The shoulder belt should sit in the middle of your childs shoulder. This is most comfortable, and makes it less likely for children to wiggle out of a belt or put it behind them. It also makes the belt less likely to slip off the shoulder during a crash.
- If the shoulder belt does not cross the middle of the shoulder try to adjust the shoulder belt guide
- If this does not help, choose another booster seat
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When To Turn A Car Seat Around For Baby
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, all children should ride in a rear-facing seat as long as possiblespecifically until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat model. “Most convertible seats have limits that will allow children to ride rear facing for 2 years or more,” says the organization. “When infants outgrow their rear-facingonly seat, a convertible seat installed rear facing is needed.”
Dr. Hoffman agrees with this recommendation. “Our advice is you stay rear facing as long as possible because of physics until the seat says you need to turn around,” he says. “There’s no reason given the seats we have on the market now a child should ever have to be forward-facing before their second birthday.” He adds: “The basic principle for everything is you delay transitions as long as possible.”
Shifting To A Forward Facing Car Seat
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Your Child Has Reached Either The Height Or Weight Limit On Their Car Seat
Upgrading a car seat usually means moving up to a style meant to accommodate a bigger, older child. Once your child has hit the maximum height or weight for her seat , its time for a new one. A seat thats too small wont adequately protect her in the event of a crash.
To find your seats height or weight limit, check the seats tag or manufacturers instructions. That said, here are some general rules of thumb to keep in mind from the American Academy of Pediatrics :
How To Properly Dispose Of The Old Car Seat
So what do you do with the old car seat when you get a new one? Some big-box stores, like Target, normally have a few trade-in events throughout the year. This is where you bring your old seat to be recycled and they give you a discount on new gear.
If you dont take advantage of a trade-in event, you can recycle or dispose of the seat yourself. However, there are specific steps to follow to do it correctly.
- Locate your nearest recycling center: Ask your local recycling center whether they accept car seats and how they would like to receive them. Find a center that accepts car seats here.
- Check if they accept plastic from car seats: Call the center and ask their specific guidelines for car seats. Some may want you to just bring the naked frame and others may want it completely broken down first.
- Remove the cover and any foam padding: These arent recyclable so they can go right in the garbage.
- Cut the harness straps and remove them: This will also need to be thrown away.
- Depending on your recycling centers guidelines, you may not have to do this. If you do, youll probably need a screwdriver to take it apart.
If the seat cant be recycled, it should still be broken down to the bare base and have UNSAFE or EXPIRED written clearly on it. This will deter anybody from picking it up from the garbage.
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My 20 Month Old Is Too Big For Rear
Imagine its November and your 20-month-old has outgrown all of their winter clothes from last year. Would you not buy them new winter clothes because it will be warmer in four months? Of course you would buy them the clothes! The same should go for the car seat!
The car seat is one of the only products you will ever buy for your child that has the potential to save their life! Just like your child needs new clothes frequently, they may need a new car seat sooner than you thought. If you are in a crash, you will be relieved knowing that you gave them the best protection possible.
I Thought My Child Could Turn Forward
This is NOT correct. Many years ago, in the days before the iPhone was invented, the minimum to turn forward facing was 1 year and 20 pounds.
In 2011 both the AAP and NHTSA updated their recommendations to reflect the latest research in child passenger safety. The AAP now recommends that kids sit rear-facing until at least age 2 and for longer if possible. NHTSA now recommends: Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seats manufacturer.
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