This post features questions from readers for a CPST (Child Passenger Safety Technician) focusing on car seats and is made possible by the generous sponsorship of clek who have made their staff CPSTs available to The Leaky Boob community in order to answer your questions and help you keep your children safe.
My daughter spit up badly in her infant seat and now the straps smell like spoiled milk. My sister-in-law told me that if I wash the straps it will ruin them and the car seat will be ruined. The whole car smells like old spit up, what can I do?
Gagging in Florida
Dear Gagging in Florida,
That spoiled milk smell is always a tough one to get out of anything! The answer to this question can vary widely based on manufacturer. The first course of action would be to refer to the instruction manual that came with your child’s car seat. Typically there will be instructions included within the manual that cover cleaning the harness system. If for some reason you cannot find this information in the manual, or the information provided doesn’t help remove the smell, then it might be time to give your seat manufacturer’s customer service department a call. They will be able to give you more personalized advice based on your individual situation. Sometimes, depending on the seat you have, replacing the harness straps may be necessary. I hope you are able to get the smell under control quickly and back to enjoying car rides.
Julie At Clek
My son is 9 months and a big boy at 24 pounds. He hates his car seat, crying when we even start walking toward the van and when he is in it for much longer than 20 minutes or so, he starts vomiting. My husband wants to turn him around but I had planned to do extended rear-facing. I’m at a loss, what are our options? Is there anything we can do to help him? I’m not sure if he’s experiencing motion sickness in the van or if he’s just mad and ends up throwing up because he’s upset. We have older children with events and activities so just avoiding trips really isn’t possible but we’re all on edge any time we go anywhere because of his screaming. Please help, I hate seeing him so miserable.
On Edge Mom
Dear On Edge Mom,
It sounds like your little guy is having a tough time on car rides. I can sympathize with how stressful car rides are for your family right now. Sometimes kids just hate being in the car and buckled in, but a lot of times their crying is a way of communicating with us and telling us that something else is wrong. I’ll do my best to give you a few tips that will hopefully help to make car rides a little easier for everyone in your family.
If your son is still in his rear-facing only seat, then my first suggestion would be to move him to a rear-facing convertible seat. Sometimes a baby’s fussing is specific to one seat. Kids will often find infant seats to be more confining and uncomfortable as they get older, so if this is a relatively new problem, you may find switching seats solves your problem. Likewise, if the fussing started after moving him to a convertible seat, it’s possible that there is something in the seat that he finds uncomfortable – every seat is designed with different features, and while most babies aren’t picky, I have seen babies who cry in one seat but are happy in another. If the fussing just started when you moved to a rear-facing convertible seat, then you might consider trying a different seat if you have a trusted friend who might be able to lend you one. You’ll notice a change almost instantly if it is comfort related.
Some other tips that work with some children is having a variety of soft toys that they are given only in the car. At his age he might appreciate a cloth book with the corners that have the different teething textures if you can find one.
Sometimes unhappiness in the car around his age can be a bit of separation anxiety. If it’s possible to test another adult sitting in the back with him on a trip some time, that may give you a way to check and see if that is the trigger. That cause can be a little bit harder to deal with sometimes – but finding the cause is more than half the battle.
Rear-facing is absolutely the safest way for infants and toddlers to ride and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child ride rear-facing until at least their 2nd birthday. It’s great that you’re seeking out solutions to try and keep him safe and also solve his fussing. I hope these ideas help make car rides a little less stressful for your family and wish you well in finding a solution that helps your son be more content on drives.
Trudy At Clek
Our vehicle is from 2001 Mercury Villager and while we’d love a new van, we can’t really afford one at the moment. My parents got us a nice convertible car seat though and we’re ready to turn our 4 year old forward facing on her birthday but how do we use the top tether in such an older vehicle?
Confused in New Mexico
Dear Confused in New Mexico,
First off, I’d like to commend you for keeping your daughter rear facing past the minimum recommendations! It is after all the safest way for children to travel. At Clek we are strong advocates of extended rear-facing. Our convertible seats, Foonf and Fllo, were designed to international best practices for extended rear-facing use, which is to accommodate children in a rear-facing installation until their 4th birthday.
In regards to your question about the use of top tethers in older vehicles, I’m going to answer yours specifically, and then provide some general information for other readers that might have a similar situation. I’m happy to inform you that your 2001 Mercury Villager is already equipped with not only top tethers, but lower anchors as well. Location of these is dependent on what type of seating layout you have in your Villager. Locate your vehicle Owner’s Manual and read the section that discusses installing child restraints. In that section you should find mentioned where the top tethers and lower anchors are located in your vehicle. If ever you find that you need help with something pertaining to using your car seat, first reach out to your car seat manufacturer. Most will be able to direct you over the phone, or help locate a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) near you for some in person assistance. You can also locate one online by visiting cert.safekids.org.
Now I’m going to give a little background on top tethers and lower anchors. LATCH (which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) became a standard for 2003 or newer model year vehicles. Vehicles since that date are required to have at least two seating locations with LATCH. There are also some 2001 and 2002 model year vehicles that included LATCH prior to it being mandated. Those vehicles will have this information in their Owner’s Manual.
Top tethers themselves, however, can be found in vehicles dating back to model year 2000. Approximately 80% of model year 2000 vehicles came with tether anchors already installed. Why is this important? Top tethers help to minimize the forward motion of a car seat in a collision. So what happens if your vehicle doesn’t have top tethers? Many vehicle manufacturers can provide consumers with a tether anchor kit to be able to retrofit your vehicle with a tether anchor. Some vehicle dealerships will even install the kit for you free of charge.
The Owners Manual for both your vehicle as well as your car seat contains a wealth of information and is always my first recommendation for clients when they have a question. And when questions still go unanswered, Customer Service is standing by to lend a helping hand.
Julie At Clek