Car seats: Do you have the right one for your child?

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By: Denise Peltier, RN, OB/Prenatal Educator

Do you travel much? Do you have kids? If the answer is yes, then let’s talk car seats.

From 1930 to the ’50s, car seats, which originated as a sack hung on the back seat, were designed to keep kids still and maybe give them a view. In the ’60s, a few were made with safety in mind. Federal safety standards were adopted in 1971.

Tennessee enacted the first restraint law in 1979. By 1985, all states had a minimal car seat law, but only 80 percent of those children were restrained. Today, you wouldn’t think of holding your baby during a car ride. We have come a long way. Are you shopping for a seat? Start with research. The website healthychildren.org, managed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), has a product listing of car seats, which is updated every year. You will see a section that includes rear-facing only, convertible, rear-facing and forward-facing, three in one, combination and booster seats, as well as height and weight limits and approximate cost. Choose a few seats that will fit your child’s size. Then go to safercar.gov and check the Ease-of-Use Ratings. By cross referencing, you now have a better idea of what to look for in the store.

At TCHC, we want to help you. Our nurses have been trained and can answer your questions and even help you in your car. We have hosted car seat clinics for the past 13 years, where you can drive in and get one-to-one help in your car with your child and car seat. Watch for those now through September around Todd and Wadena counties.

Let’s review the law, MN State Statute 169.685, Subd. 5, which is listed at carseatsmadesimple.org:

Denise Peltier (arm on car seat) with one of the ECFE classes she educated in March about car seats.

Infants less than 20 pounds and 1 year of age must be in a rear-facing safety seat. A child who is both younger than age 8 and shorter than 4 foot 9 (57 inches) is required to be fastened in a child safety seat that meets federal safety standards. Under this law, a child cannot use a seat belt alone until they are age 8 or at least 4 foot 9. It is recommended to keep a child in a booster based on their height rather than their age.

This is an abbreviated version of the complete law. There are also exceptions to the law listed on the website. The best practice is to keep your child boosted until they reach 4 foot 9.

Compared to laws in neighboring states, Minnesota, along with 25 other states, has the safest law. A new law in California that went into effect on Jan. 1 states that children 2 years or younger or less than 40 pounds must be in the back seat in a rear-facing seat. We likely will see more of this.

AAP recommends that once your child exceeds the height and weight limit of his or her infant car seat, you should purchase a convertible or three-in-one car seat with a higher height and weight limit and continue to use it rear-facing until age 2 or until your child reaches the height or weight limit for rear-facing use.

If you’re really into car seats, here are a few more facts:

  • Each manufacturer has a website listing products and videos of use and installation.
  • If you’re into blogs, thecarseatlady.com can really keep you up to date on topics and changes in child passenger safety.
  • And if you want to help others, the National Child Passenger Safety Training is available in our area for anyone. Join the team of more than 39,000 child passenger safety technicians and be a community advocate or resource. Go to safekids.org for more.

Todd Wadena Healthy Connections, a community health collaborative organization, will sponsor a car seat clinic on Thursday, June 8, in Wadena. To register or for more information, contact Sarah Riedel at (218) 631-7538 or sarah.riedel@tchc.org or click here.