Car seat safety: Rear-facing

I have this friend who is only a text, email, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram away. She’s a friend of course, but she’s also my own personal car seat safety expert. I send her pictures and ask her questions so I can ensure my boys are the safest they can be inside the car. I feel like car seat safety is one of those things that isn’t explained or taught well-enough. I asked Amie to write some pieces for me in the off-chance that we could help educate and spread the word about proper car seat safety. 

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Hey y’all! I’m Amie. Kyley asked me a few weeks ago if I would be interested in writing a carseat safety post for her blog, so I told her of course!

I’m a 1st grade teacher in Louisiana. I’m single, no kids. So, why am I an advocate of carseat safety? I don’t have a story of anything that’s happened to me, but I do have 2 very precious Goddaughters who I love very much, and when I started toting them places in my car quite often, I decided I might as well figure out the safest way to do so. Turns out, more than 70% of carseats are installed incorrectly. My good friend Ellyn is also a Child Passenger Safety Tech, and encouraged me to find a class in my area and become certified, so I did. I’ll include information at the bottom of the post if anyone is interested in finding this out too!

So, the basics.  There are several types of carseats: rear-facing only (which this post will cover), convertible (rear and forward facing), combination (forward facing with the harness, and then a booster), and then boosters (no-back and high back boosters).

Seat belt vs. LATCH?

LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. In vehicles made after 2003, it’s required that there be lower anchors in at least 2 positions and tethers in at least 3 positions.

They are both safe. The one that gives you the best install is the one you’ll want to use. Just make sure you don’t use both. It’s not crash tested that way, and we don’t know how seats will behave if they are both being used.

Regardless if you’re using LATCH or seatbelts, it’s recommended to always use the top tether strap when using a FF carseat. It helps decrease how far the head moves in a crash. There are only a few RFing seats that allow the use of the tether. Read your manual.

There are different types of seatbelts in cars. Reading your car owner manual will help you figure out which kind you have. The most common type is the Automatic Locking Retractor, which means you can pull the belt all the way out, hear a “click” and then it’s locked, and as it goes back in, you’re unable to pull it out any more. When installing the carseat, you’ll buckle the belt, and then pull it out to lock it, and then tighten the belt while pushing down in the seat.

When installing a seat, regardless if it’s with seatbelt or LATCH, you want to make sure after the install is complete, that the seat doesn’t move more than 1” side to side, or front to back. You check at the “belt path”, or where the belt runs through the seat.

After-Market Products

After-market products, or AMP, are things that you can buy to add on to a carseat that didn’t come in the box with the seat. Not only do they usually void the warranty of the seat, but they aren’t crash tested, so there’s no way of knowing if they will interfere with the way the seat behaves in a crash. So, those cute little monkey strap covers? Don’t need ‘em. There are other tricks, such as pulling their shirts up between their neck and the straps, which help with any uncomfortable-ness.  Sometimes those strap covers are so long, they push the chest clip down too far. The infant body/head support you bought that was sold separately? No. Anything that goes between the child and the back of the carseat, that didn’t come with the seat, can interfere with the harness. Here’s another good post about AMPs.

Rear-Facing

Let’s start with rear-facing seats. Rear-facing, or RF as I’ll refer to it from here on out, is 5 times safer than forward facing (FF). You can’t argue with physics. In a crash, you will move towards the point of impact. So, a RFing baby will move towards the back of his carseat. Those seats are designed to spread the force of impact along the baby’s entire back, rather than stressing the neck like it would if he were FFing. In an ideal world, we would all ride RFing. Since that’s not possible for everyone, it is recommended that you keep your child RFing until at least 2 years of age.

If you are installing a RFing seat that has a stay-in base, you will install the base first, and then the bucket seat will snap on top. Make sure you check the manual of the seat you are using to see what angle your base needs to be. It’s usually indicated on the seat. Newborns need to be more reclined so their head isn’t flopping forward and obstructing their airway. Older babies who have better head control are allowed to sit more upright. If you find that you install your base and can’t get the angle correct, there are some tips and tricks that might work, such as using a tightly rolled towel under the base at the bight of the seat (where the bottom and back of the seat meet. You may also be able to use a pool noodle under the base to create more of an angle. Again, I can’t stress enough the fact that you should always read the manual. It will tell you what you are and are not allowed to do.

Here is a picture of Kyley’s Quinten in his RFing only seat.

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There are several things you want to make sure of when you place your child in the seat:

  1. Make sure the harness straps are either at or below your child’s shoulders. In the event of a crash, the seat is designed for the back to lift off the seat and come back and touch the back of the car’s seat, creating a cocoon around the baby. Having the straps in the right position prevents the baby from sliding up to the top of the seat.
  2. The chest clip – see it in the above picture? It’s called a chest clip for a reason. It belongs on the chest. Its purpose is to keep the harness straps on the shoulders, but if it’s in the wrong place, can cause internal damage to the baby by being over soft tissue. You want to make sure the top of the chest clip is even with the armpits. This rule is the same for all seats. In older kids, I like to call it the “tickle clip”, and that helps them remember where it

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Much better! Doesn’t he look happier now?

3. Tightness of harness straps: Adjusting the straps depends on your seat. Sometimes to tighten the straps you have to come from behind the seat, others will have the adjuster at the bottom, where their feet are. Read your owner’s manual to make sure you know how to adjust the straps. You want to adjust them and then do the pinch test. Try to pinch the straps horizontally at the shoulder. If you can pinch any slack, they’re too loose. If you can’t pinch anything, they are tight enough. Here’s a graphic I got from the Britax Facebook page that illustrates how to do the pinch test:

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4. Lastly, in infant carriers, you also want to make sure you pay attention to the position of the carry handle. Usually there is a sticker on the side that shows what position the handle needs to be in the car. If there is no sticker, the information should be in the manual. This link (and great site) to Car Seats For the Littles has a great graph that shows the different seats and in what position the handle should be.

I think we’re going to break this up into a few different posts, so we don’t overwhelm anyone. 🙂 Next up, we’ll talk about Convertible and Forward Facing seats.

If you’re interested in becoming a Child Passenger Safety Tech, you can visit this site, and just enter your state.

School has started for me this year, but I will try to hang around the comments if anyone has any questions!

 

Thanks, Amie! This is a great post and I hope others find it helpful. I can’t wait for your next post!

Car seat safety: Rear-facing

The ups and downs

It’s easy to see that every baby and child are different. That I expected. What I didn’t expect was my mental or emotional reaction to be different. I think I handled the transition from zero babies to one. It was a little difficult in the summer knowing that my friends were out doing fun things while I was home. Going from a toddler to a toddler + newborn wasn’t as difficult as I feared. I knew the baby would be “easy” to manage in the beginning. I didn’t know how the toddler would be. I’m always honest when people ask, it was rough those first few weeks. Maximus was a mess. At this point it’s not entirely clear, I just remember a lot of tears those first few weeks. (Zero from me!) I also remember being utterly exhausted. Some days when Maximus was home, I wasn’t sure how I was going to stay awake. (I think I should have become a coffee drinker through all these late nights.) Eventually we all figured out our new places. Most importantly, Maximus figured out our new groove and was ok with it.

Now we’ve reached a new level. I knew it would happen and I tried not to be too cocky about the two children thing being too ok. Whether we were ready or not, Quinten is completely mobile. He follows people (and dogs) and he leaves rooms if he wants to. He crawls to door stoppers and bangs on them. (I loved that when Maximus learned to do that. It’s still just as funny!) But mostly he crawls to things he’s not supposed to. And then he laughs at us when we tell him no. I remember that part too. With Maximus, there was zero recognition of the word and then all of a sudden he heard it at daycare enough times that it was a mean word. He would sit on the floor and sob when you told him no. He was also nine months old so he was a little older. Quinten turned eight months old today. And he laughs. He turns and looks at you, smiles at you, then laughs when you say, “no-no Quinten.” Then, of course, he turns back to what he isn’t supposed to be doing. I had a feeling he was going to be a troublemaker…

I’ve noticed that my ups and downs are more drastic this time around. I don’t think I’d classify it as depression, but I don’t know much about depression. It’s more that I lose my motivation and focus. I lack energy and drive. It’s a physical exhaustion that wipes me out. Looking at my varying sleep schedules, it makes sense. Add in hormonal imbalances due to increased nursing if Quinten is getting up a lot or whatever else is going on in my body during any given day. It makes sense that some times there isn’t much left to keep me going. Luckily it doesn’t last more than a day or two. I push myself through. I take it in hour increments and find something to help me refocus. Before I know it, I forgot I was exhausted. Or depressed. Whatever it is. And sometimes when I’m feeling down, Bryan tells me to sit on the couch and he hands me my phone so I can zone out and not be present. That helps, too. 🙂

These two make it better, too.
Of course these two can make it better, too. First “big boy” picture together!
The ups and downs

Sleepless nights

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I recently had a conversation with a friend who said, “your boys and their sleeping!” Yes, I’ve had it easy. I’m grateful for that, but know how easy I’ve had it. That’s probably why it didn’t bother me when Quinten spent the first 9 weeks getting up a lot. Of course it’s a distant memory now that I’m back at work and he’s exhausted from his days.

The mommy heart and brain are mysterious things. Sometimes even ignorant. This weekend, I had a conversation with Quinten that went like this, “If you’re hungry at night you need to tell mommy. Don’t suck your thumb if you need to eat. Mommy will get up and feed you.” He smiled that adorable toothless, chubby cheek grin.

Ironically (or not), he woke up around 11 or 12 the next two nights. No problem. Weekends are made for sleeping in and I was actually happy to get another feeding in.

Then Sunday happened. At this point I can’t remember when he went to bed, but he woke up at 9:30, 11:30, 1:30, 3:30, and 6:30. After the first wake up I didn’t put him back in his crib because I was afraid he’d wake up Maximus. He recently figured out he has a voice and he can get VERY LOUD. Very loud. Thankfully most of the wake ups were just to nurse and he immediately went back to sleep. The 3:30 wake up was a different story! He was wide awake and talking and smiling! He’s cute, but I’m not into chatting in the middle of the night. I finally got him back to sleep at 4. And I went to work while he took a 2 1/2 hour nap at daycare in the afternoon.

Not surprisingly, Monday night we were a little anxious about the evening. To make things more interesting, Maximus woke up before 10. Then Quinten was up, too. Two crying babies and two exhausted parents who tried to go to sleep at 9:30. Yippee! I finally got Maximus back to sleep and then tried to figure out what was going on with Quinten. He nursed a couple of times and I thought he was ready to go back to bed. BUT. Every time we tried to put him down he would wake up screaming. UNTIL 12:30. I stood in my room swaying and bouncing until well after midnight. Every time I tried to sit down he would wake up. I finally figured out a very awkward way to sit on my bed and keep bouncing him. He fell into a fitful sleep for three hours while I bounced him about every twenty minutes when he woke up. At 3:30 I finally put him in the pack ‘n play. That was quite the night!

It was a hard couple of nights and even worse work days, but we made it through them. His sleep schedule appears to be back to normal and I’m trying to convince my body that it shouldn’t be more tired after a night of only one wake up.

My lesson learned? Babies are forever changing and you can’t predict what they’ll do next. Last week Quinten weighed 14.5 pounds. On Wednesday night he weighed 16 pounds. I’ll stop analyzing why he woke up. And wonder why I’m eating like a teenage boy. Quinten Growth Spurt: 1, Mommy: 0.

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Sleepless nights

Today

Today I get up with an alarm clock. It’s something I haven’t done for 12 weeks. A little more actually. I started my maternity leave after taking the last of my vacation. That was the last time I slept through the night.

Today I got up with a baby at 4:30 and realized at 5 that 30 minutes would start my day on the wrong foot.

Today is the first day into a regular showering routine. No more nap time showers or baby’s in a bouncer. No more rushed getting ready while Bryan watches the boys. I start doing my hair again and wearing makeup and clothes that aren’t sweat pants.

Today we drop both babies off at daycare and hope they both have good days. We hope that Maximus isn’t jealous of Quinten joining HIS day routine. And most of all, we hope that Maximus is a big brother who “watches out” for his little brother. Not because he needs it, but because he loves him that much. After all, it is mine baby brudder.

Today marks the start of a new normal. We’ve all enjoyed the past 12 weeks but they haven’t been a good representation of what life really will be.

Today I go back to work.

Today

Our nursing adventure

I’ve had this post written for months. It bounces around a little too much but I feel like I should post it. So here it is …

I can’t pinpoint the thing that made me decide to breastfeed. I can remember that it was a decision, not a want. I had no idea what it would be like and it seemed weird. Fast forward two babies later and it’s a want and need. It hasn’t always been easy, but has changed my life.

Breastfeeding in your home is one thing, breastfeeding in public is another thing. I got over my privacy very quickly when I had Maximus. Breastfeeding wasn’t easy and it didn’t come naturally. We had to work at it. Lots of people helped us, in turn meaning lots of people saw me half-dressed.

My first public nursing experience was a follow-up appointment from my c-section. Granted, there were only two people in the room. But, it helped ease me into my new way of life. It showed me that it was natural and ok. It helped tremendously that my practice is pro-breastfeeding and the nurse told me that no one had any issues if I breastfed during my exam. I wonder if that woman knew exactly what she was telling me. In a way, it wasn’t just that I could feed my crying newborn that very minute, it was the acceptance that when he’s hungry he gets to eat. Regardless of where I am.

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I nursed Maximus for 12 months. I was able to nurse him in public until he turned into a wiggly baby who was easily distracted. Then, we had to keep nursing to quiet places. When we were out in public, I used a nursing cover. It’s basically an apron with baby feet sticking out.

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With Quinten, I use a swaddling blanket. It’s big enough and doesn’t quite shout, “I’m nursing!” So far, Quinten doesn’t love it. He’s a naturally sweaty baby so getting covered makes him get really hot. That means he can’t focus.

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My experiences are pretty much the same, just easier. Easier because there wasn’t the learning curve. When things didn’t seem to be going well, I knew to try new things. The football hold worked on both of my boys when they were little. I think I used it on Maximus until he was too big and was trying to kick off the back of the couch. With Quinten, around a month old he started wiggling and not nursing very well. Instead of stressing about it, I changed him to rest across my body. Crisis averted with no tears from either of us. Lately, Quinten gets carried away cooing at the ceiling fan and basically has baby ADD. He forgets he was nursing and talks to the fan instead. This usually happens when I’m sitting on a certain part of the couch and he has a great line of vision to the fan. If it’s dark, I can turn off the light. If that doesn’t work, I switch him back to the football hold and refocus him. Or, I lay him down and let him have a good chat with the fan. Usually he gets fussy and realizes that he’s hungry. Other times he moves around a lot and can’t focus, if I give him my finger it usually calms him down.

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Nursing a newborn can be a lot like wrestling a wiggly … newborn. Sometimes they go at it nicely and other times they act like a newborn. My advice? Treat each experience separately. Just like life with a toddler, some moments are precious. And, others are not.

Our nursing adventure

Baby sleep styles

Somewhere along the pregnancy journey, most people buy a crib. We did that. It’s been sitting in a bedroom untouched for about eight months. Both of my babies spent the first few weeks sleeping in our room in a bassinet. Maximus moved to his own room much earlier than Quinten did. {Maximus 1, Quinten 0}

At 11 weeks, we moved Quinten into his crib! We’ve had a long journey getting here. We’ve had problems figuring out his swaddle style. We struggled again when he got too big for the bassinet and he had so much space in the pack ‘n play. Then there was the sleep itself. He spent A LOT of weeks getting up every two hours, regardless of day or night. He slowly moved to a better sleep schedule. At first waking three times, then twice, and now once at night. He teased us a lot along the way, going one great night followed by a really bad night. Once he went three or four days with only one wake up, we decided to move him to his crib. {Naturally, that meant making his room into the nursery instead of just having furniture thrown in there. :)}

Well, it’s been a success! At 11 weeks, he’s sleeping in his own room! We still can’t get him to go to sleep earlier than 10:30 because he’s wide awake from 7-10. And he sleeps until 9 or 10 am, but he’ll soon figure out that he can’t sleep in every day! His average schedule is 10:30-4. Depending on the noise level in the house, he’ll wake again at 7 or 9. I’d love to push his bedtime earlier so he wakes in the middle of the night instead of it being so close to my wake up time, but I’m hoping that will work itself out once we start our new routine next week.

It shouldn’t, but I’m surprised that I have different feelings this time around. Once Quinten reached six weeks, I realized I was no where ready to move him into his own room. {Maybe because he was getting up every two hours…} I’m not sure how I did that with Maximus. It must have been because he was basically sleeping through the night. {I think he was actually sleeping Quinten’s current schedule.} I had these panic attacks of having him be on the other side of the house. I wasn’t ready to not hear his sleeping noises. I was also nervous about the noises associated with the boys sharing a wall. A crying baby would wake Maximus in the middle of the night or a crying toddler would wake Quinten in the morning. So far, Maximus hasn’t heard him and Quinten goes into the pack ‘n play after his 4 am feeding. Parenthood is full of compromise. 🙂

We’ve had a hard time with the baby monitor. We still had it in Maximus’ room. We were used to his noises and it has come in handy many times. We know when he’s waking up vs. actually ready to come out of his room. We hear him when he’s upset and we know when he actually falls asleep. Now, it’s in Quinten’s room. It’s taken some getting used to. The sleeping noises are that of a baby, but our mind tells us it’s Maximus. With a toddler, you don’t worry about him unless he needs you. With a newborn, you stop at every noise. Ok, maybe not everyone does that. I do. It’s hard to wake up in the middle of the night when there are noises over the monitor. Then all of a sudden you remember that’s a baby, not a toddler.

Using that “other” bedroom as a nursery is one of those moments that slaps you in the face. I HAVE TWO BOYS. Two boys who each have their own room. I am almost used to checking on sleeping babies in both rooms. That was weird that first time I went in there to check on Quinten.

Now that Quinten is in his own room, I remember how peaceful a bedroom can be when there isn’t a newborn sleeping in there. No more tip toeing around. When I fall into bed at night, it feels lighter. I didn’t realize there was a weight associated with a baby being in the room, but I know I’m sleeping better now that he’s in his own room. And he appears to be doing just fine in there also!

Sleeps with his arms up. Always.
Sleeps with his arms up. Always.
Baby sleep styles

My solo outing

February 12, a Tuesday afternoon, came quickly and in a cloud of anxiety. Anxiety because I was solo parenting a dual pediatrician visit. The appointments put me on edge because Quinten likes to eat every two hours during the day. I was semi-nervous about nursing in public when I wouldn’t know our exact schedule or be 100% accessible to Maximus should he decide to wander, or whine.

I mentally prepared and went back-and-forth trying to decide if I wanted a stroller for Maximus. Reminding myself to put my wallet in my purse so I could only take the diaper bag. Planning the snacks and activities to entertain him.

What I didn’t think about was juggling TWO BABIES in the small exam room. I wore Quinten and he slept until I took him out to undress him. I also didn’t think about Maximus wanting to bail. They were running late so we played in the waiting room for forty minutes. As soon as they called his name, he was ready to leave. He asked to go bye-bye. I awkwardly picked him up and carried him and the diaper bag. {Why is it that when someone is leading you things are very awkward?}

I coaxed Maximus onto the scale while he was shooting daggers at the nurse. Our appointments were forty minutes apart but I think they called someone else back before us so we could do both at the same time. Maybe? I didn’t ask!

When the nurse left me alone with two naked babies on my lap, I had a little bit of panic. HOW WAS I GOING TO HANDLE MAXIMUS?! In my head I was wearing Quinten during Maximus’ appointment. Not juggling two babies at once! Thankfully this wasn’t the first dual appointment for them. The nurse came back in to hold Quinten while I tried to keep Maximus calm. Whew! That was a huge stress reliever!

It was a nerve-wracking day, but we survived and it gave me the confidence to do a couple solo grocery store runs and other activities.

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What things do you do to make it a successful outing with babies and toddlers?

My solo outing