This week is National Child Passenger Safety Week and as such I’m going to try hard to get back on the blogging train. In addition to this post there will be a small giveaway as well as a car seat review I’ve been working on. I have an unexpected out of town funeral on Friday, so depending upon how much time I have, the “week” may last more than 7 days.
So today we’re going to talk about aftermarket products. What is an aftermarket product? In this context, it’s anything you add to your car or car seat that did not come with it. And every car seat manufacturer forbids them. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t make your child more comfortable in their car seat.
One of the most common aftermarket products that I see, and that I used before I knew better, were harness strap covers. Now, if your car seat comes with them, you’re fine, use as directed in the manual, however, if your car seat did not come with them, you shouldn’t be adding any to the seat. The fact is, we don’t know how those strap covers will impact the performance in a crash. Maybe your seat didn’t come with them because when crash tested with strap covers, something went wrong. Maybe the strap covers add so much bulk, like a thick coat, that you’re not getting the harness as snug as you think. The bottom line is that your car seat forbids them and they void the warranty.
Since I myself used them before I knew better, I empathize with the reason behind these. The harness straps can irritate sensitive skin on a child’s neck and may be uncomfortable. If your seat didn’t come with strap covers, you have 2 options. First, you can call your car seat manufacturer and ask if there are any approved strap covers. Some companies will send you some that have been crash tested with their seat and are safe for use. This won’t work for every seat/company, but it’s worth trying. If that doesn’t work, pulling a child’s shirt up will help somewhat. If you pull the shirt collar up so that it goes between the harness and the neck, the skin won’t get as irritated. Bonus points if the shirt has ears on it. Obviously.
Another very common aftermarket product, particularly found in infant bucket seats, are head supports. Some car seats come with these (and even then, I personally don’t love all of them), but adding an aftermarket support to a seat can present a very serious and real risk. Very commonly, these head supports cause the head to be pushed forward in the seat, which can cause the airway to be obstructed. This is obviously a very serious issue and I can’t overstate how important it is not to use these.
If your newborn has a hard time maintaining an upright head in their car seat (my boys practically look decapitated at times), there is a safe option to keep the head upright and keep them centered in the seat. Take 2 thin receiving blankets or small towels, roll them up and tuck them on the sides of the seat next to baby. This will keep their body centered in the seat and support the head without pushing it forward. It works like a charm. Will sleeps so much better in his seat when I do this.
Car Seat Covers
If you look online, there are a number of very cute handmade car seat covers. I know it happens where a seat cover gets destroyed by a child or you have a baby of a different sex and want a new cover. But, purchasing a handmade cover, especially one that goes over an existing cover, is not a safe option. Car seats in the US are required to have fire retardants present on the seat covers which may prevent a child from being injured in a car fire. In addition, the car seat covers that go over the cover that came with the seat add an extra layer between the child and the harness, which could be dangerous in a crash and may mask an improperly tightened harness.
So, what do you do if your cover gets ruined or if you need to change a pink seat to blue? Call the company. They can very, very frequently help you with this. You can use another cover from the same make/model car seat if you have one or have access to it, but be sure it’s the same and fits the seat properly.
Clip on Fans
One common reason for turning a child around to forward face is that they don’t get adequate air flow. As it is going to be over 100 degrees all this week and I have two rear facing boys, I totally get this. I’ve seen a lot of people recommend a clip on fan to provide airflow to rear facers and the idea is good, but the reality is dangerous. In a crash, that fan would very easily come unclipped and hit a child in the face, hard. Imagine having one of those fans thrown at your face and that’s what your child would experience in a crash.
So, how can you keep your kids cool? You can cool the car before you get in or use a cover or towel to keep the seat cool. We purchased something called a Noggle earlier this year and it is the best. It attaches to your a/c vents and funnels the air to wherever you point it. It works very well and is easy to use. They post discounts on their FB page occasionally, but for us it was worth the full price.
So this one is tricky. There are a few mirrors I will absolutely recommend against. The ones with lights and speakers and all that should not be used for the same reason as the clip on fans. They’re heavy and in a crash they can become a heavy and dangerous projectile pointed at your child’s head.
That said, I have mirrors in my car. I will not tell you to use them (in fact, if you ask I’ll tell you not to) or guarantee their safety, but I’ll share my personal rationale. I use the lightest weight plastic mirrors on the market. Ones that I would totally be okay throwing at my kids (which is to say they’re light and wouldn’t do any damage). I use them because I’m not comfortable not being able to see my kids. I drive less distractedly when I can see the boys than when I have to call back to Eli or hope Will’s head isn’t falling off his neck.
This is a common aftermarket product in newer cars and cars with leather. Parents are worried, reasonably, about the car seat damaging their seats, so they purchase “seat protectors” which are typically thick mats that go under the car seat. Unfortunately, these are known far and wide to mask a poor installation. That is, they make the car seat seem like it moves less than it really does by adding friction under the base.
If you are super concerned about your seats you have a few choices. One, you can take your car seats out occasionally and oil your seats (if they’re leather. I can’t say I would recommend oiling fabric seats…), which will help protect the vehicle seats. The other option is a very lightweight receiving blanket under the car seat. Check with your manual as some will strictly forbid ANYTHING from going under the seat, but most companies are okay with this. There are a few companies who have made seat protectors for their car seats. You can always call your car seat manufacturer and ask if there are any and where to buy them.
That doesn’t cover every aftermarket product, but it’s the most common ones I’ve seen and even a few I’ve used. If you have questions about specific products, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll respond as soon as I have a free moment/hand.