Infant Car Seats: Everyday Dangers
Picture is screen captured from this Facebook post. Walking In Hope is not affiliated with any of the individuals in this image or who shared this image.
This picture has come through my FB feed several times over the past few days. After a personal encounter with a new mom recently, I felt it was time to write a new blog post. This one is in regards to three specific infant car seat safety issues that we see most every day, and at any given point in time, any of these babies could face severe or even life-threatening injuries.
I try to not be one of those "know-it-all" strangers who wants to tell everyone in passing how to parent their child(ren). We all have to do things our own way, within reason. There are a few issues though that I will offer to help parents with. I do this as gently as possible even though it makes me somewhat uncomfortable. Sometimes I am met with much gratitude. Other times, walls go up, backs are turned, and I am told in some way or another that what I have to offer is not welcome. However, I continue to speak out. When I know that you are endangering your child's safety, future, and even their life, that is so hard to accept.
Car Seat Safety Issue 1: Grocery Carts
We have, no doubt, all seen this in the store: Mom and/or dad has their little bundle of joy tucked up in the top seat of the grocery cart. Baby is sleeping under (hopefully) watchful eyes, or baby is taking in the view (Mama sure is lovely isn't she?). Many do not even know that there is a warning on the grocery cart:
Note the age and weight criteria, along with standing right in front of your baby/child (not on the other end of the cart to unload your items). Of course, also notice the X on top of the infant car seat in the front of the cart.
I have had many tell me that they "heard it click" into place. Car seats are meant to be used with the specific base that it was made for (no substituting with other brands or models). So, it "clicking" on the grocery cart does not equal secure and safe.
I could not even get mine to come anywhere close to "clicking".
Grocery carts were not made to be used like this. In the event that the grocery cart were to tip over, that car seat is not going to necessarily stay in place. Nor is it necessarily going to stay in place if another shopper were to bump into the car seat or grocery cart, or when you go over a bump. Three-month-old James was killed when his car seat"toppled from the top of the cart". The CPSC states that, "From 2003 to 2008 there were an estimated 121,989 emergency department-treated injuries associated with shopping carts to children under the age of five, as reported by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS)." I don't know about you, but that number is just incomprehensible! Most of those injuries were to the children's heads and faces. It was equal percentages of internal organ injuries and Contusions/Abrasions. According to this site, along with head/face injuries being the greatest, they have risen by 213%, with 92% of those injuries being on children under 1 year of age. So, in short, grocery carts can be incredibly dangerous to our little ones and should be used with the upmost caution, including not putting baby's car seat in the top portion.
So, how should parents grocery shop with a wee one?
Ideally, keep the car seat out of the buggy altogether. However, if that just is not an option, you can at least put the car seat in the main portion of the grocery cart. This keeps baby lower to the ground, along with making the grocery cart no long top heavy, reducing the risk of it tipping over. If it were to tip over, baby is much less likely to suffer severe injury in this position. The downside is, you have a lot less room to put your groceries and the car seat does slide around back there too.
I am all about baby wearing! While that topic will be a future post, I will say that there are SO many benefits to moms AND dads wearing their little ones in some kind of carrier. This solves all of the issues with grocery cart accidents, gives you the whole cart for your items, and you get to be all snugly with your baby. Plus, it gives you more control over who touches, or better yet, does not touch your baby. It's a win-win for most all babies and parents.
Maybe your baby does not like baby wearing or is too big to comfortably wear for long periods of time. You could always put baby in their stroller and bring along an extra set of hands to help with the pushing (sibling, spouse, friend, parent, etc.). Or, if you are solo and do not have the option of an extra set of hands, you can push baby with one hand and pull the grocery cart behind you with the other. You'll really impress other shoppers that way. Super Mom/Dad award goes to....
Some grocery carts have been updated with built in "cart seats" (they look like the infant car seats but are built into the grocery cart). Not all stores have this option though. However, there are a few companies that have grocery cart hammocks. These secure over the main portion of the buggy, baby is buckled into it so s/he cannot roll out and you can still use the main part of the buggy for groceries. I wish someone had told me about this product when I was having babies.
Car Seat Safety Issue 2: Super Cute (Unregulated) Covers and Additions
Car seats come in a variety of styles but some moms just love being able to customize their baby's things, both for visual and comfort reasons. However, car seats main purpose is to save your baby's life in the event of a car accident. Anything that is not designed specifically for use in car seats, all pose the risk of reducing the effectiveness of the car seat's design. Aside from the seat and straps not being able to function properly, baby may be at an increased risk of positional asphyxiation; when baby's position reduces his/her ability to properly inhale and exhale. This site lists several common issues, what the dangers are in the use of unregulated items, and possible safe alternatives. The Car Seat Lady writes a fantastic blog on the hazards of "fluff".
In short, if it did not come in the box with your car seat, is not made by the manufacturer of your car seat, or your car seat safety regulations do not give the ok for that particular something, do not use it. Unless it is something that covers over the car seat (like the rain or winter covers that are cinched along the edge to fit over the top) and has nothing to do with the seat base or straps. Cute and extra comfy is not worth serious injury or even death for your precious baby.
Car Seat Safety Issue 3: Move the Sleeping Baby
What?!?!? If you are like me, the last thing you want to do is wake up a sleeping baby. Those minutes of quiet are pure bliss and a baby woken up too early is a migraine waiting to happen. But, if your baby falls asleep on the ride home, do not leave baby to sleep in the car seat, even if you bring the seat inside. According to the Journal of Pediatrics, "It is important to note that an infant in a properly positioned car seat, in a car, with properly attached straps is at little risk from a suffocation injury. However, contrary to popular belief, the restraints and design of infant sitting or carrying devices are not intended for unsupervised sleeping. 'Infants and young children should not be left unsupervised when using a sitting or carrying device due to the risk of suffocation and death,' notes Dr. Batra." In 2014, HawaiiNewsNow reported three deaths that year in Utah, Nebraska, and Hawaii due to babies being left to sleep in their car seats OUT of the vehicle. Until babies are able to hold their heads up on their own, they are at an increased risk of dying in their car seats because their heads flop down, or they slide down (if they are not buckled) and this compresses their airway. This is a personal story of a family that lost their beloved son due to him being left unbuckled in his car seat to sleep.
A few years ago, I passed a mother in a store and my spirit told me to say something to her. Her little boy was in his car seat in the top of the grocery cart. I stayed quiet and the whole time I tried to shop, I was eat up sick. I followed her, trying to not be obvious and creepy. Right before my eyes, her little boy flung himself forward (his straps were super loose) and his car seat flipped forward. I lunged forward at the same time a worker did. The worker caught the baby before he hit the floor. I learned in that moment to be uncomfortable and speak out when I felt the nudge to do so. That baby could have died and I would have carried part of that burden for the rest of my life because I did not speak up. If I stop you and share with you the dangers of how you are using your infant car seat, please know it is not to belittle you or that I think I am better than you. When you know better, you hopefully do better. Please do not let your pride continue to keep your baby in unnecessary danger. Every which way we turn as parents it seems like this or that has the potential to injure or kill our children. But we can take action to reduce some of those hazards.