Ask the CPST with clek- Keeping Your Newborn Safe

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. 

clek infant thingy

Dear Trudy,

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.

Trudy

 

Dear Trudy

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? 

Sincerely,

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.

Safe Travels,

Trudy

 

Dear Trudy,

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?  

Peace,

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.

Safe travels,

Trudy

 

Dear Trudy,

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!

With gratitude,

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!

Safe travels,

Trudy

 ________________________

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.

Foonf is Clek’s no-compromise convertible child seat – introducing revolutionary safety technology, extended rear-facing to 50 lb, innovative convenience features, and it’s recyclable.

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

________________________

Trudy SlaghtTrudy Slaght, Clek CPST, CRST-IT As Clek’s Child Passenger Safety Advocate, a previous board member of the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada, and a CRST Instructor from Edmonton, Alberta, Trudy Slaght pretty much breathes, eats, and lives child passenger safety. With her brain crammed full of valuable tips and advice, Trudy attends and speaks at various industry conferences across North America and provides everything from simple helpful guidance to advanced technical support for parents, caregivers, and even fellow technicians.
A mom of three, Trudy has been involved in the field for over 7 years, spending lots of time thinking about, practicing, and preaching the best methods to keep our little ones safe for the ride. And, even with all this on her plate, Trudy still somehow has the passion and energy to be a contributing author to Canada’s National Child Passenger Technician Training curriculum.
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Ask the CPST- summer travel, air travel, and heatstroke in cars

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. 

Dear CPST,

With warm weather just around the corner it seems like every year there are horrifying news reports about children being left in the car and forgotten in the heat. That scares me more than I can say and I know it can happen to anyone. I work outside of the home and we have a schedule that is different nearly every day with grandparents, my husband, and myself taking turns doing the pick up and drop off for childcare. Everything I’ve read says that changes in the routine can contribute greatly to this tragic accident occurring. How can I help all of us who drive my daughter be sure not to make this mistake? It hasn’t happened yet but I don’t want to be overly confident that it won’t.

Thank you so much.

Sincerely,

Sweating It

 

Dear Sweating It,

Heatstroke for children in cars is sadly more common than many people realize. It is also not just a concern during the summer months, though that is typically when we see the majority of cases. The temperature inside a vehicle can rise 20 degrees in a matter of 10 minutes, so on a 70 degree day you can have deadly temperatures within your parked vehicle in a short period of time.

There are several things that can be done to prevent a child from being left in a vehicle accidentally.

  • Have a system in place with everyone that is involved in the care of your child.
    • Make an arrangement with your childcare provider where they will call you and anyone on your child’s emergency list should your child not arrive by a certain time.
    • Have the person that is responsible for the child’s transportation send Mom/Dad/Grandparents a text message or make a phone call every time the child has been dropped off/picked up/arrived at their destination safely.
  • Place an item that you will need at your final destination in the back seat next to the child restraint. This could be a backpack, purse, briefcase, shoes, wallet, etc. This will ensure that you open the door to the back seat of the vehicle once you have reached your final destination for the day.
  • Encourage everyone that is at any point in time responsible for your child’s care to institute a “look before you lock” policy. Every time they reach a destination they will open their back door and visually check the back seat.
  • Keep vehicles locked at all times when they are not in use, whether they are parked in the driveway or the garage. This will prevent children from entering the vehicle when no one is watching and trapping themselves inside.

These suggestions are just a few things you can do to prevent a child being forgotten in a vehicle and suffering heat stroke. For more information I encourage you to visit http://www.safekids.org/heatstroke.

Sincerely,

Julie At Clek

clek CPST heat stroke prevention tips

 

Dear CPST,

Our family is taking a long road trip this summer for vacation. We have 3 older children and by the time we hit the road we will have a 3 month old. In the past I have breastfed my children on such trips while they were buckled in their rear facing infant seats without any problem but I saw on The Leaky Boob FB page that doing that is dangerous. Is there really a risk to be concerned about? I have large breasts and am able to keep my seat belt on, lean slightly toward the seat (not leaning on it), and my baby can latch on and eat. I was planning on doing this again but now am worried I’ve been hurting my children this way or putting them in danger. It is a little overwhelming to think we would have to fully stop for every feed, 12 week old babies nurse frequently and it would take us forever to reach our destination with so many stops. Of course, we’re willing to, I just am wondering if there really is any kind of real risk to this and any evidence that supports that concern.

Any insight you can shed on this would be much appreciated!

Peace,

Road Trip Mom

 

Dear Road Trip Mom,

Road trips are such fun, but can also be quite taxing when you have little ones in tow that need frequent feedings and diaper changes. Having three kids myself and having taken many road trips with them I can certainly attest to that!

What you have read on the Leaky [email protected]@b Facebook page is true. Leaning over to nurse your baby while the vehicle is in motion puts both you and your baby’s safety at risk in the event you were involved in a collision during the feeding. Leaning over towards your baby place’s the vehicle seat belt in a position where it can not properly secure you in the event something were to happen. It also places part of your body in the direct path of your baby should a collision occur. While it might not seem like your breast could cause your child any harm in the event of a collision, keep in mind this simple rule of physics: Weight x Speed = Force. In using this formula we come up with: 2lbs breast x 65mph = 130lbs of force directed at your baby’s head. That amount of force can cause serious damage to your baby in the event of a collision. It is best to just pull over and park somewhere for all feedings. Sure, it will make the trip take longer, but it will mean that everyone reaches the destination as safely as possible.

Happy Road Tripping!

Julie At Clek

 

Dear CPST,

I am going to be traveling by air soon with my 18 month old son who breastfeeds frequently. I am planning to purchase a seat for him and install his car seat but I’m not sure how I’m going to keep him in it. Breastfeeding is such a great tool and such a comfort to him I imagine he’s going to want to breastfeed for take off and landing which would greatly help his ears and probably the ears of everyone on the flight with us. I want to keep him safe of course, but breastfeeding is a big part of him feeling safe. Is it ok if I take him out to breastfeed on the flight? Is it worth buying the seat, he even going to end up being in his seat?

Thanks for your thoughts!

Taking Flight

 

 

Dear Taking Flight,

It is strongly encouraged that children two years old and under have their own seat on an airplane and are secured in an appropriate child restraint. This practice ensures that your child is safely restrained in the event of any turbulence, or any unexpected emergency maneuvers, required by the flight crew during take off, landing, or in flight. Lap children are at serious risk of injury in the event of something happening during the flight because they have nothing securing them. A lap child can easily be ripped from a caregiver’s arms in the event of unexpected turbulence, which not only can cause serious injury to them, but also potentially injures others aboard the aircraft.

It is wonderful to hear that you are planning on purchasing a seat for your son! It will be worth it for you in terms of his safety and both of your comfort. It is also something familiar to him and a device that he is used to sitting in while riding in your vehicle. He will likely think that he is just getting into his seat for another car ride, but this time with the added perks of sitting next to Mom!

At 18 months old I would suggest utilizing a favorite toy or snack for your son to chew on during take off and landing to help with the change in air pressure on his ears. If he uses a cup, pacifier, or bottle, those would be options as well. Pack games, videos on an electronic device, and a favorite stuffed animal or blanket to keep him occupied and content during the duration of the flight. While in the air and the seat belt sign is turned off, it is at your discretion that you may take him out of his seat for feedings. Should you decide to remove him from his child restraint for a feeding, it is important to return him back and have him buckled in as soon as the feeding is over, as unexpected turbulence can happen at any time. I hope that you and your son have an enjoyable and quiet flight to wherever it is you’re headed!

Safe and Happy Travels!

Julie At Clek

 


Have a question for one of our experts? to ask the expert child passenger safety technician, pediatrician, sleep consultant, infant and early childhood development specialist, fitness coach/personal trainer, IBCLC,  or infant feeding counselor, use this form.

 

 

Julie_LR copyJulie McCuen, Clek CPST Since becoming a Child Passenger Safety Technician in 2012, Clek CPST Julie McCuen has willingly sacrificed her digits and limbs all in the name of keeping kids safe. After feeling inexplicably drawn to learning about weight limits, velocity factors, and Rigid LATCH connectors, Julie enthusiastically entered the wonderful world of child passenger safety to help families install and use their car seats properly every single time.
Despite a few bruises and broken nails, Julie’s fervent curiosity and commitment to safety hasn’t waned one bit. She’s now working towards becoming a CPST Instructor so she can pass along her valuable knowledge and insights to others who are equally eager to learn. When not working with Clek, Julie spends her time raising her three beautifully unruly children who are 9, 6, and 4 with her husband of 10 years.
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Ask the CPST- of spit up, screaming babies, turning to forward facing, and tethering

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. 

smelly car seat

 

Dear Julie,

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? 

Sincerely,

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.

Ride On!

Julie At Clek

 

Dear Trudy,

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.

Thank you,

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.

Kind Regards,

Trudy At Clek

 

Dear Julie,

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?

Gratefully yours,

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.

Safe Travels,

Julie At Clek

 

If you have questions about car seat safety, feel free to ask on the clek Facebook page, send them a tweet, or email your question to be included next time to [email protected]

 

Trudy SlaghtTrudy Slaght, Clek CPST, CRST-IT As Clek’s Child Passenger Safety Advocate, a previous board member of the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada, and a CRST Instructor from Edmonton, Alberta, Trudy Slaght pretty much breathes, eats, and lives child passenger safety. With her brain crammed full of valuable tips and advice, Trudy attends and speaks at various industry conferences across North America and provides everything from simple helpful guidance to advanced technical support for parents, caregivers, and even fellow technicians.
A mom of two, Trudy has been involved in the field for over 7 years, spending lots of time thinking about, practicing, and preaching the best methods to keep our little ones safe for the ride. And, even with all this on her plate, Trudy still somehow has the passion and energy to be a contributing author to Canada’s National Child Passenger Technician Training curriculum.
Julie_LR copyJulie McCuen, Clek CPST Since becoming a Child Passenger Safety Technician in 2012, Clek CPST Julie McCuen has willingly sacrificed her digits and limbs all in the name of keeping kids safe. After feeling inexplicably drawn to learning about weight limits, velocity factors, and Rigid LATCH connectors, Julie enthusiastically entered the wonderful world of child passenger safety to help families install and use their car seats properly every single time.
Despite a few bruises and broken nails, Julie’s fervent curiosity and commitment to safety hasn’t waned one bit. She’s now working towards becoming a CPST Instructor so she can pass along her valuable knowledge and insights to others who are equally eager to learn. When not working with Clek, Julie spends her time raising her three beautifully unruly children who are 9, 6, and 4 with her husband of 10 years.
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