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. For more questions related to infants in car seats, see questions 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 from our live chat on TLB Facebook wall.
I think we have everything just about in place for our new babe due in about 6 weeks but I’m completely overwhelmed and have anxiety about that drive home from the hospital with our new baby. Is there anything special we need to keep in mind with a newborn in a seat? Older babies seem less concerning as they can support their own heads better and have more muscle tone. I know we’ll have to get comfortable driving with our baby but those first few trips are particularly stressing me. I asked about car seat checks at our hospital tour and they said they’ll send a nurse out with us to be sure we have a proper seat but they aren’t responsible for ensuring we are using it properly. What can we do? What do we need to keep in mind with buckling a newborn?
Thank you for your help!
Worried in Wisconsin.
Dear Worried in Wisconsin,
Having a baby is such an exciting time in life! Having new concerns and worries pop up as you near the big day is perfectly understandable.
You’re right that a newborn baby has a weaker neck and needs help in supporting its head. Installing your car seat so that it’s reclined properly will make sure that your new babe’s head is supported and doesn’t tip forward. Your rear-facing car seat will come with instructions for adjusting the recline and installing it in the vehicle.
Before baby arrives I’d recommend reviewing the information in your car seat manual about securing babe in their car seat. Using a teddy bear or other stuffed animal can help give you some familiarity about how to use and tighten the harness.
When you put baby in the first time, you’ll want to check how they fit in the seat. Depending on the seat you choose, you may need to make some minor adjustments to either the harness height and/or the crotch buckle before leaving the hospital. Your car seat manual will have those instructions in it. Most manufacturers recommend that the harness be positioned so that the straps are at the closest height either even or below the baby’s shoulders.
Once you’ve checked that your seat is adjusted properly for your new babe, make sure that their bum is snug to the back of the seat so that they’re not slouching, and then adjust the harness so that it’s snug over their body. A snug harness has no visible slack, but doesn’t push their body out of position.
I’d also recommend getting in touch with a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST). A CPST has training in helping families install and use their seats properly, and might give you that last bit of peace of mind. You can check for a tech near you by visiting the Safe Kids website and searching by your city and state.
Best wishes as you finish the final preparations for your new baby.
It has been 9 years since I had my last child and now I’m expecting again. The world of car seats seems to have changed a lot and I’ve learned I made a lot of mistakes with my 9 year old, which has caused me to question what I thought I knew. With my son, I used one of those newborn head support inserts that didn’t come with his seat. I have been given a cute little newborn head support insert for this baby but I’ve heard that these aren’t safe yet I noticed many of the seats we have considered for this new baby come with them. Can I not switch out the one in the seat for the cute one we were given?
Confused and Concerned
Dear Confused and Concerned,
Congratulations on your upcoming new arrival! You’re right – car seats certainly have changed a lot in the last 9 years!
Car seat manufacturers test their seats using the specific covers and accessories that come with the car seat, and carefully select each piece to make sure that the car seat will keep your baby as safe as possible. You’re right that the extra head support inserts that are available in stores shouldn’t be added to your car seat. Most car seat manuals include instructions to only use products provided and approved by the car seat manufacturer for use with the seat, so in most cases you wouldn’t be able to switch out the one that came in the car seat.
The extra head supports available in stores definitely are cute. It’s possible you may be able to use it in your stroller instead and then you can still enjoy the cute factor.
Some of the materials I’ve read say that a baby isn’t safe to be left in a car seat due to possible breathing concerns and now I’m worried about my baby’s breathing even when we’re in the car. If it isn’t safe for a baby to be left in a bucket seat while they nap in the house, how can it be safe in the car? Are there some seats that are less of a risk than others for breathing issues?
Ready to breathe easy.
Dear Ready to breathe easy,
There are a few reasons that experts recommend limiting the amount of continuous time an infant spends in a car seat, but the most substantial one is related to possible breathing concerns as you’ve discovered.
Using a car seat in the car is different than using it in the house for a few reasons. Car seats generally sit at a different angle when they’re properly installed in the car vs. when they’re sitting on a surface outside of the car. This increased recline in the car ensures that their head stays in position and doesn’t tip forward. If a car seat sits more upright in the stroller or on the floor, it may lead to positional breathing problems. Infants also typically spend less time in their car seat on an average car ride, than they would if they were napping or sleeping or playing in their car seat outside the car.
In most cases, positional breathing problems happen after a baby has been buckled in to a car seat for an extended period of time. If you have any long car trips coming up while your baby is less than 6 weeks old, I would recommend talking to your baby’s doctor to see if they have any recommendations on how often you should stop for a short break to remove baby from the car seat. In the absence of special medical needs, I generally recommend planned stops at least every 1.5 hours.
Rear-facing only seats are designed to provide protection to your precious cargo at their smallest size, and all rear-facing only seats have a recommended recline angle for when the seat is installed in the car. There can be some variation in the manufacturer’s preferred recline between different models, but provided the seat is installed according to directions, your baby fits the seat properly, and baby’s head doesn’t tip forward chin-to-chest during trips, then you can breathe easy knowing that your baby will breathe fine during car trips.
Our infant car seat from my two older children has expired and we need to get a new one for the baby on the way. I’m trying to figure out if there is any reason to get two different seats or if it is more practical to get a convertible that will go down to newborn weight ranges. Is there anything we need to consider when looking at convertible car seats with the intention of using it from the beginning? Are these truly safe options? How does it work to cover such a wide range of sizes? Would it actually be better to just get two different seats?
Thanks for helping us keep our babies safe!
Two and One on the Way
Dear Two and One on the Way,
The decision about whether to start with a convertible car seat or a rear-facing only car seat is one that a lot of families debate. The answer about which style of seat is better is going to be different for each family, but there are some factors you can consider that should help make the decision easier for you.
Convertible seats come in a wide range of sizes and designs. Most of them start at 5lbs, but some of them do a better job of fitting a newborn than others. Depending on how big your baby is at birth, and the model of convertible seat selected, sometimes a newborn doesn’t fit properly in to a convertible seat. Some convertibles, such as Clek’s Foonf and Fllo when used with the infant-thingy, have inserts available that allow newborns to be properly positioned and fit the seat well.
Rear-facing only seats are designed to fit newborns, so if you’re expecting a smaller baby, then they are generally the preferred choice. A rear-facing only seat also has the benefit of being easily portable. This can be helpful if you live in either a very hot climate or a very cold climate since it lets you buckle baby in in the comfort of your house and then carry him or her to your car. It also gives a lot of convenience if you frequently have short trips with a lot of stops along the way.
Provided you’re fairly certain baby will be full-term and of average size, the convenience factor is often the easiest way to decide which option will work best for you. If you plan to babywear, or not use the car seat outside of the car, then choosing a convertible seat may be a practical plan for you. If you think you will appreciate having the carrier option, then that may mean that purchasing two seats is the best choice for your family.
If you decide to go with a convertible seat, I’d recommend researching different models to find a model that fits in your vehicle at a newborn recline, and is also known for fitting small babies well. Google images or visiting a company’s facebook page where customers often share their pictures can be very helpful in giving you a feeling for how a newborn looks in the bigger seat.
Congratulations on the upcoming addition to your family!
Not only does clek want to help us all get comfortable with getting our little ones secure in our vehicles, they’re going to physically help one Leaky do just that!
Clek is giving away a Foonf Convertible Car Seat in Flamingo or Tank to a Lucky Leaky.
Total Retail Value: $449.99 USD ($549.99 in Canada)
Visit www.clekinc.com for more information
Good luck to everyone! Please use the widget below to enter. A big thanks to Clek for their support of TLB and all breastfeeding women; please be sure to take a moment to thank Clek on their Facebook page for their show of support! You can also follow Clek on Twitter and Instagram: username @Clekinc