We are a one-car family. We have a Honda Fit that we call Jumba and the rest of the time we rely on the free shuttle bus to base provided by Tom’s employer and our own feet. Because the shuttle only runs hourly or so, Tom gets to drive the car in these last few weeks of pregnancy so he can leave at a moment’s notice if I go into labor. Anyway, he went to an office lunch off-campus yesterday and offered the extra seat to any coworker who wanted to carpool. A childless coworker took the offer, but had a question:
“You only have one seat?”
“Yes. There are car seats in the two back seats.”
“But you haven’t had the other kid yet.”
“No, but it’s a good idea to have it installed in case we need to transfer to the hospital quickly or whatever.”
“Don’t they just pop in?”
“…Not exactly. At least, not quick enough to make my wife happy if we’re in an emergency situation.”
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa, but not even Santa’s magic can instantly install a brand new car seat. Have your chosen car seat purchased and installed (if you’ve never done it before, preferably with the help of your local certified seat tech so you get the best fit) BEFORE you go into labor. Even those of you who plan to have a homebirth like us should plan ahead in case of…whatever.
And here’s where I get a little ranty: I do not understand people who get snotty about the guidelines for car seat fit and use. The current recommendations are:
Kids under 2 or under the car seat weight/height rear-facing limit should face backwards
Kids under 4 or under 40 pounds should be in a 5-point harness
That…really isn’t that hard to do. “But their legs don’t fit!” Do too. Little kids can sit cross-legged for a lot longer than adults. Just take their shoes off. Maggie is in the 70th percentile for height and is still sitting comfortably rear-facing in our subcompact. She is 2.5 and not quite 30 pounds, so she has another 5 to go before she maxes out of her seat’s rear-facing limit. “But aren’t their legs more likely to break that way?” The reason that it’s better to have them rear-facing is to prevent neck injury because their little spines and muscles are immature; the more time you give them facing backward, the better off they’ll be. Lot easier to fix a broken leg than a broken neck, y’all.
“But those seats are so expensive!” Bullshit. There was a time, yes, where companies like Britax had the extended weight limit market sewn up, and those seats cost more than my first iPod. But there are tons of competitively priced, under $100 car seats for kids who have outgrown the infant bucket carrier but are under 35-40lbs. So if comfort isn’t an issue…and price isn’t an issue…why not listen to the recommendations? Your kid is safer facing backward. I promise.
Not that it matters if you have them buckled incorrectly, by the way. So make sure the shoulder straps are AT or BELOW their shoulders if they are rear-facing or just above if they are forward-facing. The chest clip should be NO LOWER than armpit-level. You should not be able to pinch any slack on the harness straps. And yes, your kid is probably too young for a backless booster or belt-positioning booster. Four or 40lbs is the recommendation, but your kid has to be mature enough to handle not being harnessed. If your kid tends to fall asleep and slump out of correct position, yanks the belt behind their shoulders, or submarines down to the floor during tantrums, you had better get them back into a 5-point harness. Seeing photos on Facebook or Twitter or whatever of 3 and 4 year olds in backless boosters that only position the car’s seatbelt makes me twitch. It just isn’t a good idea.
And people get pissed if you follow these guidelines and they don’t. I have been lectured and mocked for keeping Maggie turned backward even though she is well under the seat’s weight limit, and not by uneducated bumpkins either: these are coming from parents who freak about dyes or chemicals in foods or have their house practically bubble-wrapped in their childproofing efforts. I don’t have gates on my stairs; I let Maggie watch TV occasionally and I have been known to feed her cotton candy at fairs. She climbs fifteen feet in the air on playground structures and hangs there. But she’s more likely to be hurt or killed in the car than anything else she does, and it will likely be someone else’s fault. Why wouldn’t I meet and exceed the current minimum recommendations for her car seat?
/soapbox rant over. Anyway, this breeder says to install a car seat in advance and use it correctly. I hope you’ll never have to thank yourself for doing it. And if you come back to me with “Well we traveled without car seats/on the top of cars/on our parents’ laps and WE turned out fine!” I will run you over myself. You were lucky. That’s all. And now you know better. Willful ignorance is the most unattractive quality someone can possess. Just look at Michele Bachmann.