Read what our Car Seat Expert, Daniella Brown, recommends to parents, including selection, location, fit and more. Don’t forget to tune in to our Facebook Q&A Thursday, September 21 at 7 P.M. EST to ask all your child passenger safety and MESA questions. We’ll be giving all active participants the chance to win a MESA!
How do I select a car seat?
All car seats on the market are safe otherwise manufacturers couldn’t put their seats on the shelves at retail. They all follow the same safety standards created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). There are some car seats on the market that have additional safety features so after doing your research, these features may be of importance to you.
When selecting a car seat, it is important to find one that best fits your budget, your vehicle and your family needs. Most retailers nationwide will allow you to try to install car seats in your vehicle prior to purchase. This is such a great advantage when you are making such a critical decision. When installing, it is important to select a model that gives you the confidence that you’re installing it correctly every time either with LATCH or seat belt. Each vehicle and each car seat are different which is why doing this exercise will help. When you are reviewing your car seats through hands-on experience, make sure you understand all the features and that they are easy for you to use. Always have your vehicle owner’s manual and the car seat manual on hand, so you can install the car seat correctly and achieve no less than one inch movement in the cross-car direction.
Rear-Facing vs. Forward-Facing
I am sure as a mom, caregiver or Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST), you are aware that there is a big push to leave children in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible. In an effort to increase this awareness, many manufacturers have increased the weight limits on their car seats when they are in the rear-facing mode. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stresses that children should stay rear-facing until a minimum of 2 years old or when they meet the height and weight requirements of their car seat in that mode.
Why is that, you may ask? It’s because a child’s head is so heavy that the rest of their body hasn’t caught up to its weight and size proportionally. If you turn them forward too soon, with their head being so heavy and their neck and spine still under development, they are likely to possibly snap their necks and long-term damage could occur. If a child is restrained in a car seat facing forward and then their car seat is restrained to the vehicle seat, the only object moving forward in a crash situation freely is their head.
Some additional information to note: From an installation standpoint, if a child is rear-facing, their harness should be at or below their shoulders. If a child is forward-facing, their harness should be at or above their shoulders.
Location, Location, Location
I get asked this question quite a bit….what is the best location for me to install my car seat? It is all about what works best for your car seat, your vehicle and your family to ensure you get the tightest install every time.
The standard used to be center is best, but many times it is hard to get a tight install with the seat belt if LATCH is not available. There are other possible installation concerns. For example, if there is a bump there or perhaps not a big enough surface for the car seat to sit on, it’s hard to get that tight install. In the UPPAbaby MESA’s case, we don’t allow the front vehicle seat to touch any portion of our seat so it can react properly in a crash situation. If there is a tall driver operating the vehicle, that center seating location may not work based on where that front vehicle seat is relative to the MESA. It may also come down to the parent’s preference. It could be hard for mom to lift the weight of the baby plus the car seat all the way over to that center seating location.
Many retailers allow you to install a car seat to see if it works with your vehicle. This is a great opportunity because every vehicle is different and there are many things that can affect install like cloth or leather material, the size of the seating surface, or the location of the buckles and lower anchors to name a few.
Lastly, you need to consider who is also traveling with you in your vehicle. Is there another child in a car seat? Is there a grandparent or other occupants? If there is another child in a car seat, you want to make sure that the car seats are not on top of one another and are not affecting the installation. Every car seat should have no more than one inch movement in the cross-car direction. If there are other occupants, please make sure they buckle up because they can be projectiles in an accident as well.
Should every occupant always buckle up?
The front vehicle seat will not stop a moving body in a crash. By buckling up, the risk of injury decreases for every occupant. Through means of buckling up, all occupants can take advantage of the vehicles safety components in an effort to decrease injury during a crash situation. Leading by example for our children is also an important factor to consider. Please always buckle up!
How do I properly fit my child in a car seat?
The first step you should always do before attempting installation or placing your child in their car seat is to read the car seat and vehicle owner’s manual. You need to become well versed in the safety features of your vehicle, what type of seat belts you have, where your LATCH locations are in your vehicle and how your car seat manufacturer instructs you to install your child and your car seat.
When a child is placed in a rear facing seat, their harness must be at or below their shoulders. For older children in a forward facing harnessed seat, the harness should be at or above their shoulders. In all cases, the chest clip (also known as a retainer clip) should be at armpit level and the harness should be snug so that it cannot be pinched at the shoulder location.
A few additional items to point out when installing your child in the MESA are:
- If you are putting a preemie in the MESA, the harness pads will have to be removed because you won’t be able to get the retainer clip at armpit level and you will not be able to pull the harness tight enough to secure your child properly.
- Our infant insert is a tool for properly positioning your child relative to the harness. We provide a recommended weight, not a required weight of 4 to 8 lbs. If your child is sitting on top of the buckle or the harness is cutting into their thighs, these are indications they no longer need the infant insert.
Written by Daniella Brown, UPPAbaby Car Seat Expert. For more questions, feel free to email email@example.com directly.