Parents transition kids from car seats too soon, says new survey

Car seat safety can sometimes feel overwhelming, but when we break it down, it gets really simple.

Parents transition kids from car seats too soon, says new survey

Carseat guidelines have evolved over time but surveys suggest there is still a lot of confusion about the most recent recommendations.

A recent survey by car seat brand Chicco found 42% of parents incorrectly believe10-year-olds are too old for car seats and 40% turn their child's seat to forward facing as soon as the child's legs seem cramped, which is often years too early.

When it comes to car seats everything is based on weight, not age or our assumptions about comfort.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has an updated version of its car seat safety recommendations available online. Car seat safety can sometimes feel overwhelming (especially for first-time parents), but when we break it down, it gets really simple.

Here are five ways to keep your children as safe as you can when they're in the car:

1. Keep them rear-facing as long as possible

Now the AAP suggests parents keep them rear-facing until they outgrow their car seat's height and weight limits. For a lot of kids, this means they'll be rear facing until they're 3 or 4 years old.
It's more about their weight, height and the car seat's manufacturer instructions than a specific age milestone. Most convertible car seats have a weight limit of between 35 and 50 pounds, so kids can be pretty old before they turn around.
The AAP says turning around the car seat is one milestone parents don't want to rush as every car seat transition (from rear-facing to forward and from forward-facing to booster) makes kids a little less protected.

2. Make sure you're using the seat correctly

Car seats can be tricky. Every seat is different and every car is different. That's why it's so important that parents take the time to read the manual and even seek help from a car seat installation specialist if needed.

According to the AAP, one study found that 95% of car seats were misused by parents taking newborns home from the hospital, and 20% of booster seats were being used incorrectly.

We can't do it right if we don't know how to do it, so read up before you install.

Joseph Colella, Director of Child Passenger Safety for the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, previously told Motherly that parents should start thinking correct usage when shopping for a seat. He recommends shopping at stores that allow you to test the models in your own car before the purchase is complete.

Ask the hospital staff for help if you're unsure about your car seat when taking your newborn home for the first time, but don't stop there.

Colella told Motherly the biggest car seat installation error moms and dads make is not tightening the seat securely enough (remember, no coats in the car seat) and not using the top tether strap when making the move to forward-facing car seats.

"You should not be able to move the seat more than one inch side to side or forward at the seat belt path," Colella says—so if you can't get it to that level of lock-down, seek out a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician near you, or ask if your local fire department offers car seat clinics.

3. Keep them in a car seat for as long as possible

It's not just the use of rear-facing seats the AAP wants parents to extend, but also the use of car seats in general. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing limits of their car seat, keep them in a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as you can.

Many modern car seats have weight limits of 65 pounds or more, so kids can stay in them for quite some time.
Earlier this year one mom, Sarah Sutton, told Motherly how glad she was that she kept her older kids, ages 6 and 5, in their forward-facing car seats even after they started complaining about them.

"Alayna and Liam were wanting to move to boosters as 'car seats are for babies,'" Sutton explained, adding that when she and her children were in a collision, all four were safely strapped into car seats that saved their lives. She's thankful she hadn't let her older kids switch to boosters.

"I am so glad I kept them in a five-point harness and will continue to do so for as long as I can," Sutton said.

4. Use belt-positioning booster seats until they're 4 feet, 9 inches tall

The AAP says that when kids like Alayna and Liam finally do max out that 65 pound or so weight limit on their forward facing seats, they should move into a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle belt fits properly. "This is often when they have reached at least 4 feet 9 inches in height and are 8 to 12 years old,"the AAP notes.

Your middle-schooler may not be thrilled about riding in a booster, but it is the safest bet until they truly grow into the adult seatbelt.

5. If they're under 13, they sit in the back

The AAP says kids under 13 should always ride in the backseat. The Centers for Disease Control and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agree. Many states have laws requiring children to be seated in the back seat (although in some cases exceptions are made if the back seat is already full of children or if the vehicle has no back seat).

Statistically, the back seat is the safest place to be in a collision, so our kids should stay back there for as long as possible.

[A version of this post was originally published August 31, 2018. It has been updated.]

A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.


I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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