36 Weeks: Car Seat Installed!

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10 weeks ago I did a post on car seat safety after listening to a Pregtastic podcast. The podcast was excellent – everyone should listen to it. One of the things the expert in the podcast recommended was taking the car seat to your local police or fire department for a lesson on proper installation and use. I think something like 80% of people do something wrong the first time.

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Here in Albemarle County, the fire department offers this service for free. I found this pamphlet online and emailed to schedule an appointment. It was easy to do and she said it would last about 20 minutes. We just needed to bring the seat – no need to try putting it in ourselves first.

We bought the Chicco KeyFit30 in Midori, which came with one base. The bases are expensive ($80) so for now we are just going to use my car for baby transport, but we might end up getting a second base in time if we feel we need one. This car seat got excellent reviews both online and from Consumer Reports. I also know a lot of friends who have it!

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We brought a few loaves of bread to our firemen as a thank you – they were much appreciated : )

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We had 3 firemen come out to show us the install and talk about how to put a baby in the seat. The first step was a very, very, VERY tight fitting of the base.

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I couldn’t believe how hard he tugged on the seatbelt, and Matt said this was the #1 reason he was glad we did the lesson because he would not have thought it needed to be so very tight. I’m not sure if I could have done this myself… I thought the seatbelt would break, but the fireman reminded me they are designed to hold people in during very serious crashes, so they are very, very strong. [Note my car is a 1999 so too early for the LATCH system!]

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We also learned that the seat cannot be touching the passengers seats at all (new info) and that the front of the seat will move and jiggle some – it’s the back part that must be totally secure.

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After the base was installed, we talked about proper use – things like putting the shoulder straps in the proper place, not putting the baby in too much padding before going in, adjusting the straps both when he’s in and when he grows bigger.

I was given a mirror for my car as a hand-me-down – one that’s supposed to be used for looking at baby while driving. The expert on Pregtastic said she does not recommend them because they distract the mom from safe driving. I can see how it would be useful though (at a stop light when distraction isn’t as much a concern), so I asked the firemen their opinion and they said do not use it as well but for a different reason – that it has not been safety tested. Given the unpredictability of crashes, you never know what might happen if I mirror flies around your car. That’s 2 experts who say no, and since safety is the ultimate goal here, I will be giving it away. Matt says it’s not really a big deal because it really doesn’t matter if the baby is crying, asleep or awake and I don’t drive that much alone anyways.

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Matt and I both practiced getting the seat in and out. The middle is the safest spot because it buys you more space from a side collision, but I found it really hard to reach in and get out – especially since this car is low to the ground and required a deep bend over. I asked the firemen what they thought about moving it to the passenger side and they said it would still be very safe, just not quite as safe, so I might consider that if I have back problems or if he just gets too heavy.

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Last but not least, a Twitter friend offered to give us his car seat that his family was finishing used. A very generous hand-me-down, but unfortunately, it was 6 years old and I checked with Peg Perego and their seats expire at 6 years.

But the great news is that the fire dept. took the seat and will use it in their training sessions, so it went to a good cause!

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I’m glad we went for the appointment and feel pretty comfortable with the seat. Hopefully its safety will never be tested.

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