Car seats are expensive, no doubt about it. But please… not being able to afford a car seat in no excuse. There is absolutely no reason to not strap your baby into a car seat. After all, your most important job in this world is to keep your child safe. Always.
A car seat is not a luxury, it’s an absolute necessity. Not having a cot is alright, co-sleep. Not having a special baby bath is manageable, you can bath them in the basin or let them bath with you in the tub. A newborn photo shoot isn’t necessary – your cell phone camera (which, by the way – not a necessity) works just fine. A car seat… This is one of the only 100% necessities you need for your child, because there is NO safe alternative. You cannot afford NOT to have one.
“At the moment of impact, when you smash into another car or another car smashes into you, or your brakes fail, or the other driver is drunk or distracted, at THAT moment. Your brand new baby, that teeny tiny bundle that weighs a perfect 3.2kgs as you leave the hospital, or your beautiful spirited 4 year old toddler who weighs 20kgs. If you are travelling 60kmph home from the hospital or 100kmph on the highway. You multiply those numbers. Their weight. That speed. Your newborn baby weighs 192kgs in THAT moment. Your little 4 year old, THAT little 4 year old, weighs 2,000kgs. You physically CANNOT hold onto them. You can’t. It isn’t even vaguely possible.” Mandy Lee Miller, #CarseatFullstop Campaign Creator.
You might think that putting a seat belt over your baby or child is enough to keep them safe. Worse, you might think that wearing your baby or holding them with a seat belt over the both of you is safe… IT IS NOT! You might as well tie them to the roof of the car. If there is a crash, your baby or child would be crushed to death. The force against your child will be equivalent to 30 adults, each weighing 50 kg (or an entire rugby team) standing on top of your child.
It’s one of those things that make so much sense, is pure logic… Yet we refuse to see it and acknowledge it for the sake of convenience. Well, it’s not very convenient to plan a funeral for your child… And you should do anything and everything to prevent that from ever happening. Not convinced?
Maybe you should read Ina Meyer’s story; because it will never happen to you, right?
I know there are people who want to, but GENUINELY cannot afford car seats – of course there are. But I am looking at the parents who can afford to buy a new smart phone, or new shoes, or get take-outs, or buy booze, or go out, or who just won’t at least try to save up enough money to get one. I’m mostly looking at the mom in BMW who didn’t want the hassle with putting her toddler in their seat. Or the dad who didn’t want his kid to throw a tantrum, so he let them ride in the front, unbuckled. You guys are the worst – stop that. Now. But anyway, this post isn’t about you. Check your privilege and use the damn car seat.
To the parents who cannot afford one… It doesn’t have to be a top of the range BeSafe or Volvo Britax seat, there are perfectly safe well-known brands that make child safety seats as well. In the same way I can’t afford to drive a Maserati to get from A – Z (one day…okay maybe not, but a girl can dream), I can get a perfectly reliable car for a fraction of the price.
Just like buying a car… A new one is better, because you know exactly where it’s been and you have all the papers you need for it. A new car isn’t going to have been in an accident and fixed up; with damage you can’t see that is going to cause it to put you in danger when you need it most. BUT, very few people can afford to buy a new car. So you do your research. You find out all the right questions to ask, what to look for, you test drive it and you make an as-informed decision as you can.
Same with a car seat. If you can afford a new one – do it. If you can’t, do your research, use the list below to help you choose a seat that is as safe as possible on a reliable second-hand platform like Gumtree. The second you start trying to fall pregnant or you find out you are pregnant, start saving. Not for bottles and cute clothing and huge sleigh cots you may well never use – but for the most important purchase you will EVER make for your child – your child’s car seat. Their life. Their safety. And if you can only save a few hundred rands, you go onto Gumtree and find one there. I even dropped the link in there, so it literally could not be easier.
Second hand seats aren’t recommended – but that isn’t realistic in SA. The reasons they aren’t considered safe is because you can’t be sure of its history. It may have been involved in an accident and the damage may not be visible. Very often the instructions are missing from second-hand seats which makes it more difficult to be sure that you are fitting and using it correctly or how to clean or care for the seat to keep it safe. Second-hand seats are also likely to be older, to have suffered more wear and tear and may not be designed to current safety standards.
QUESTIONS TO ASK
1. Have you ever been in an accident where the car seat had been strapped in? With or without a child in it. Has the seat ever been in the car in an accident?
2. Are there any missing parts?
3. Have you fixed or added anything?
Many parents add layers of foam to seats under the upholstery to make it more “comfy”. This is very dangerous as it pushes your child out of the safety zone of the seat. Car seats are ergonomically designed for the safety and comfort of your child. No additional padding is required. Parents also attempt to fix straps by hand stitching or stapling them together. This is very dangerous as the straps will tear apart during a crash.
Styrofoam inserts in seats act as shock absorbers and prevent serious injuries. They cannot be glued with the wrong glues as it dissolves at the Styrofoam rendering it useless. If these inserts are absent, the seat cannot function as it should. Then there are the handmade covers: Car seat covers are an integral part of the seat design and add to the safety of the seat. This is even more true in the more modern seats and handmade covers cannot replicate the safety features.
4. How old is the seat? Don’t buy a seat more than 6 years old. Safety measures improve all the time and some seats may have been recalled.
Car seats have come a long way and some designs are outdated and no longer adhere to safety standards of today. Many car seats have foam layered in the upholstery. This foam perishes over time and then gives off a dust. This dust can cause lung diseases and the covers must be destroyed. As much as there is no hard evidence of car seats expiring – technology has moved on and has rendered some seat designs as obsolete.
5. Do you have the instruction manual? You need the manual to install the seat properly. If they don’t, before you agree to purchase, find out if you can get it online. NEVER EVER install a seat without reading the manual first. A huge number of seats are incorrectly installed and the smallest installation error can render the seat unsafe.
YOU MUST VIEW THE SEAT IN PERSON BEFORE AGREEING TO PURCHASE
Other important things to take note of…
• Examine it carefully for damage. Lift the cover to check if you can see any stress marks on the plastic that might imply that it had been in an accident. BUT know that some damage isn’t visible, so you can only do so much.
• Make sure the seat is suitable for your child’s weight and height. The seat mut have an orange sticker on the plastic of the seat that clearly shows the weight limit of the seat.
• Install the seat in your car using the manual (either from the owner or printed from online prior) – if you cannot get it to fit securely, do not buy it.
• Assess the cleanliness of the seat. Check the manual to ensure that the cleaning instructions for the cover, harness and buckles are included. Scientists at University of Birmingham took swabs from 20 cars and homes and found 100 dangerous types of bacteria per sq cm of car seat compared with 50 different bugs on the average household toilet. Bacteria found can lead to nasty illnesses including E. coli and Salmonella. Read the full article here.