Confession: Beanie’s been in a booster seat since he was about two and a half years old, mainly because he’s always been quite tall and big for his age, but also because I just assumed that this was the done thing.
After he grew out of his rear-facing carseat (as he’d hit the maximum weight of 18kgs), we headed to our nearest baby shop and asked about a suitable replacement for his weight, and we were directed to a booster seat. I guess I just figured that the baby shop employees would know what they were talking about, which – come to think about it – is a seriously risky assumption. To place the safety of my child into a complete stranger’s hands without doing any in-depth research myself is something I really regret; I just thank God that I haven’t had to pay for this decision in any traumatic or life-altering way.
When I first found out about the #CarseatFullstop campaign, I knew it was something I could get behind because I’ve always been very adamant that the entire family buckles up, and that Beanie is strapped into his carseat at all times, even when we’re only heading up the road to my parents’ house. I felt quite proud of myself, to be honest, and judged those parents who don’t strap their children into carseats, not once thinking that I might be making a few mistakes of my own! (With regards to parents failing to strap their small toddlers and children into carseats, you’ll be surprised how often it happens – just this past week, I spotted a fellow mom at Beanie’s play school buckling her 4-year-old up in the backseat of her car, no carseat in sight). I think most people believe that it’s better to buckle your child up, whether in a carseat or not, but I don’t think many realise that a car’s safety belts are designed for an adult male that’s at least 1,5m tall, so it won’t offer adequate restraint or protection for children. In fact, according to Volvo’s free Children and Cars manual, when it comes to children aged between 0 – 15, using an adult safety belt offers just 68% better protection than using no restraint at all, while children strapped into rear-facing child seats have up to 90% better protection and those in booster seats have 77% better protection. In fact, Volvo recommends that children be strapped into rear-facing carseats for as long as possible – at least up until the ages of 3 or 4.
When I first found out that children should be in rear-facing carseats up until the age of 4, I considered buying a new carseat for Beanie. Sure, carseats are expensive and it really doesn’t suit our budget at the moment, but I’d rather have the extra expense than live with regrets, if you know what I mean. In the end, after much research, we’ve decided to keep Beanie in a booster seat (a booster cushion with a backrest), but we’ve opted to make several adjustments, based on info gleaned from Volvo’s Children and Cars manual (seriously, if you haven’t done so already – do it now. It’s quick, easy and FREE – and it could save your child’s life. I put off reading it for weeks, probably because of fear, but I’m so glad I finally read it. You can download it here).
The biggest changes we made were:
- Ensuring that the diagonal belt goes down across the shoulder, closer to the neck than the edge of shoulder. It always bothered me that the seatbelt seemed to be too close to Beanie’s neck, as I worried that it would injure him if we were involved in an accident. According to Volvo’s Children and Cars manual, it doesn’t matter if the belt is partly on your child’s neck; it’s far more dangerous if the belt is positioned closer to the edge of the shoulder, as your child might slide out of the belt in the event of a crash. To make things more comfortable for Beanie, we bought a soft, cushioned pad to place over the strap instead – it simply velcros in place.
- Making sure that the diagonal belt is over Beanie’s shoulder. Often, Beanie slips the diagonal belt underneath his arm (I’m assuming it feels more comfortable and less restrained that way), but for the same reasons mentioned above, it’s vital that you ensure that the diagonal belt remains over your child’s shoulder at all times.
- The lap belt should sit securely over Beanie’s hips or thighs – not over his tummy. I’m not 100% happy with how the lap belt sits on our current seat, so I’m shopping around for another booster seat with a better fit. This time, I’ll make sure that I fit the booster seat in my car and make sure that I’m 100% happy with the fit before parting with my hard-earned cash. Surely retailers would allow parents to fit a seat in their car before purchasing the seat?
- Removing any slack once Beanie has been strapped in. I’ve always done this, but I often have to readjust this during the journey – especially on long drives – as Beanie tends to squirm and lean forward, often resulting in slack belts.
- It’s recommended that children remain in booster seats until they are 1,4m tall and 10 years old, but children between the ages of 12 – 14 could also benefit from them. As a result, Beanie will remain in his carseat for at least the next 7 years. He might be seen as the uncool kid on school drop-offs, but at least he’ll be alive!
#CarseatFullstop is sponsored by Volvo Cars. You can download the free Children and Cars Manual here.