Do You Know These 3 Things About Your Car Seat?

When my husband and I drove our oldest child home from the hospital — 15 years ago now! — I remember how very slowly and carefully he drove home, how many times we checked and double checked her car seat straps, and just how dangerous that short drive home suddenly felt! All because our car was suddenly filled with such precious cargo.

Months before, we had done our research about car seat safety ratings and car seat brands and car seat age requirements. We got tongue tied saying car seat so many times in so many conversations! So much so, that our heads were pretty much spinning before we ever brought that precious cargo home.

There’s a lot of information out there and it sometimes felt hard to discern what was best for our baby. All we really wanted was to know that we were making the best and safest decisions for her. Maybe you can relate!

Luckily, there are car seat experts who have done this research for all of us and generously and willingly share what they know. Allana Robinson  is a Parenting Effectiveness Coach and Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician in Petawawa, Ontario, Canada.

Do you know these 3 things about your car seat?

Based on her years of experience, research, and expertise, there are three things she wishes she could tell every parent about their car seats.

Don’t rush the process, keep your eye on the age maximums.

Robinson says, “Moving to the next stage of car seat is not a milestone to be celebrated or rushed into. Keep them in the seat they’re in in the mode they’re in until they outgrow the seat MAXIMUMS versus rushing them into the next seat stage once they meet its minimums.”

Not every car seat is made for every car and there are certified technicians who will install your car seat for you!

Amazing, right? When I first started learning from Robinson, I was so surprised to hear that you can have a professional install your car seat for you. What a relief! Car seat installation can be tricky and this task might be best left to an expert for many reasons. This reason, though, might surprise you.

Not every car seat fits every car. Robinson says, “Some seats are completely incompatible with certain cars and/or in certain seating positions. If you can’t get your seat to install at the correct recline or tight to 1” of movement side to side you need to seek out a certified technician (SafeKids Worldwide in the States or CPSAC in Canada) that can help you determine if it’s your installation technique that needs adjustment or if the seat isn’t compatible with your vehicle.”

Car seat safety is ALL about the installation, NOT about the cost of the seat.

Robinson explains, “All seats on the North American market are safe, and it doesn’t matter how expensive your seat is — if isn’t installed correctly or being used correctly it can’t protect your child in a car crash.”

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While I hate even putting “your child” and “car crash” in the same sentence, this is such important and vital information to have!

Robinson says, “Expensive seats are not safer — they just have more bells and whistles like premium UAS clips and harness covers that the less expensive seats lack. But they’ve ALL passed the exact same crash tests; and it’s a pass/fail system.”

So this then, says Robinson, is the important part:

“Any one seat can’t be identified as safer than the other. As long as you’re using a seat that is tested to your country’s standards (No cross-border shopping … Canadians can’t use an American car seat, Americans can’t use a Canadian car seat. It’s illegal as our testing standards do differ between the two countries so even if it has the same manufacturer and model name, the innards aren’t the same) your seat is safe to use regardless of how much you paid for it.”

{ MORE: Don’t Touch! Why Parents Are Hanging Warning Signs on Car Seats }

This should actually make the shopping stress a little less, well, stressful!

And leave you with a little more time and energy to focus on finding a certified technician (SafeKids Worldwide in the States or CPSAC in Canada) that can help you ensure that your car seat is compatible with your vehicle and that your installation technique is spot on.

I can’t guarantee that Robinson’s advice will make that car ride home from the hospital any less bumpy, but the peace of mind that will come from knowing that your precious cargo is tucked into their properly installed car seat is priceless, I promise!

What do you think?

Do You Know These 3 Things About Your Car Seat?

Galit Breen is the bestselling author of Kindness Wins, a simple guide to teaching your child to be kind online; the TEDx Talk, “Raising a digital kid without having been one”; the online course Raise Your Digital Kid™; and the Facebook group The Savvy Parents Club. She believes you can get your child a phone and still create a grass-beneath-their-bare-feet childhood for them. Galit’s writing has been featured on The Huffington Post; The Washington Post; Buzzfeed; TIME; and more. She liv ... More

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