You Asked: When is the right time to move to a booster?

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A few weeks ago, I wanted to write something but no matter how long I stared at my computer, I couldn’t come up with anything interesting to write about. After an embarrassing amount of time, I took to my social media channels and asked my friends what their top car seat question was. I found a lot of commonalities among the things people offered up because there are definitely some areas of car seating that are more difficult than others, but there was a wide variety of things people want to know more about. And after looking through the responses and sitting on it for a bit, I’m going to use those suggestions (and new ones that come along), to launch a new series of articles.

I decided my first “You Asked” post would be whichever topic came up the most from my friends, and the result ended up being one of the questions I get most often in person from friends and family, so it feels right to start here.

You Asked: When is it time to switch to a booster?

I think boosters are confusing because all the seats you’ve used up to this point have been sort of similar. They all install in a relatively similar pattern, the way you secure your child is consistent, but then you get to boosters and they don’t install the same way and they don’t work the same way and it’s just hard to know if you’re doing it right. As a parent who is starting to booster-train for the first time, I feel this confusion first hand.

So let’s start with a little terminology. A booster, or belt-positioning booster, is a car seat that does NOT use a built-in harness, but instead uses the vehicle seat belt to restrain the child. There are products that refer to themselves as a “Harnessed Booster” or “Harness-to-Booster” and we call those types of seats “combination seats” because they combine a forward-facing seat that has a 5-point harness with a booster seat. Those are 2 completely different modes of use. If you are using a combination seat with the 5-point harness for your preschool-age child, that’s perfectly fine. Technically, it’s not a booster (even if that’s what the product name implies) unless you are using it in booster mode without the harness.

Most booster seats (or combination seats used in booster mode) have either a 30 or 40-pound weight minimum, a height minimum and an age minimum of 3 to 4 years, generally speaking. Unlike a harnessed seat, which restrains the child with a built-in 5-point harness, the booster is used to literally boost the child up so that the adult seat belt fits properly on the strongest parts of their body – the pelvic bones and collar bone. A good belt fit means the shoulder belt lays flat across the middle of the collar bone and the lap belt lays across the thighs and off the belly.

Now, I realize I just said that 3-year-olds can use boosters, but I want to stop here and clarify something. While some boosters do not list a specific age minimum, and others list age 3 or 4 as the minimum, it is my opinion that dedicated booster seats are not appropriate for 3-year-old children. I am currently raising my second 3-year-old and I’ve spent a pretty extensive amount of time around 3-year-olds and let me let you in on a secret: they are not known for excellent decision making. They just aren’t. My first child was probably one of the most compliant and calm 3-year-olds and even he lacked the frontal lobe development to make the kind of choices that a booster requires a child to make. Putting your 3-year-old in a booster might be legal in some states and with certain products, but it’s not a great idea unless you don’t have any other options.

I put my current 3-year-old child in a booster for less than 2 minutes to take a picture of him and I told him to sit still. This is a progression of what took place in those 2 minutes and it perfectly illustrates the issue:

   

Here’s the thing: boosters require maturity in a way that a 5-point harness doesn’t. A 5-point harness holds your child in the safest position without any effort on your child’s part. In a 5-point harness, your child can fall asleep, can reach for something next to them, can do any number of attempted gymnastics and assuming you have installed the seat well and buckled them correctly, they will still be just as safe. A booster, on the other hand, allows the child a lot of freedom of movement. It allows slouching, it allows toppling over when asleep, it allows them to tuck the shoulder belt behind them and it allows them to lean forward to pick toys off the floor, all the things my 3-year-old did in a matter of 2 minutes. But unlike in a harness, all of these scenarios in a booster are seriously dangerous. A booster only works to keep your child safe in a crash when the seatbelt is positioned properly on the child. So, if you can’t trust your child to sit upright for an entire car ride, even when asleep, they shouldn’t be in a booster. Period.

You can safely keep your child in a 5-point harness until they outgrow it by height or by weight, so there’s not a rush, no matter what anyone else is telling you. There’s no evidence (trust me, I’ve looked for it), that keeping a 6 or 7-year-old in a harness (if they still fit) is more dangerous than using a booster. We do know that allowing a young child who lacks impulse control to move to a booster too soon can absolutely be extremely dangerous.

So, you asked when you should you move your child to a booster and the simplest answer is:

In order to ride in a booster, a child must meet the height, weight AND age minimums of their seat AND they must be able to sit upright through an entire car ride with a good belt fit. Provided that your child is still within the height and weight limits of their harnessed seat, keeping a child in a 5-point harness beyond age 4 or 5 is fine and many parents choose to do that. If your child does not have the impulse control to sit safely in a booster seat but they’ve outgrown all the harnessed seat options, there are medical car seats that will allow your child to remain seated safely for longer (see your physician, medical therapists or a CPST near you for more information).

  

Some other information on boosters can be found here:

IIHS Booster Seat Ratings Bonanza: Where does your booster seat rank?

CarseatBlog recommended high back booster seats

CarseatBlog recommended combination seats

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You spin me right round, baby.

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Roundabouts have been around for awhile, and I’m sure they’re more popular in some areas of the country than others. I just found out that Northerners call them rotaries. Silly Northerners. 😉

We’ve mostly had 4 way stops at our intersections, and the number of accidents, even fatal ones, have been phenomenally high. Traffic lights require money, so therefore a roundabout at the most problematic of intersections was decided upon. It is BFFs with the older roundabout down the road a quarter mile, so basically our main road is a stretch of whirly twirly fun.

However, one thing I’ve noticed is that not everyone seems to know how to use a roundabout. I can count fairly high the number of times people have shown me gestures of love because I didn’t stop inside the roundabout to let them in. It’s also very common for people to brake inside the roundabout and wait for me to enter. Neither scenario is correct, and increases risk for traffic incidents.

Roundabouts are beneficial for a number of reasons. Most importantly, they reduce the number of accidents. According to the Federal Highway Administration, in the most recent of studies, they reduce total accidents by about 35%, and injuries by 76%. Fatalities in a roundabout are nearly unheard of. That’s much better than getting t-boned when someone runs a stop sign at a 4 way stop! They also improve the flow of traffic, let people make u-turns safely, and require little maintenance.

So, how do you properly use a roundabout and avoid being “that guy”? One word, yield. You yield to traffic within the circle. You don’t stop within the circle to let someone in. You don’t pull into the circle in front of a car thinking they are supposed to yield to you. You stop at the entrance, wait for a break in traffic, and enter. When you exit the circle, use your signal so the car at the next entrance knows you are exiting and does not have to wait for you to pass. If you’ve never used one, they do take some time to get used to. However, after awhile, they’re very straight forward and it’s great to not have to stop completely like you would at a stop sign, providing flow is low and there’s no one in the circle for you to wait on.

So there you go. Now you know how to use a roundabout. Or a rotary. Life tidbits ya’ll, you’ll thank me next time you go on a road trip and come across one of these monstrosities.

Valentines for the Vehicle Safety Nerd

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Still looking for the perfect Valentines, but upset that none of them are safety-conscious enough? Do you believe the best way to say “I love you” is with an abundance of tire tread? Then we might just have the perfect Valentines for you.

Browse through them, then print out your favorites to give to the people you love and want to keep safe.

From all of us at CarseatBlog, have a Happy & Safe Valentine’s Day!

Nuna PIPA Lite Infant Carseat Review: A Master Class in Function

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2018 Nuna PIPA lite and PIPA lite lx Review

I think one of the biggest challenges for a car seat company is when they already have an exceptional product on the market. Typically, it’s not that difficult to find ways to improve your existing product. But when you already have a great seat, like say, the Nuna PIPA, it’s tough to find ways to make it better. Nuna seems to have been working hard on this and for a great majority of families, I think they’ve knocked it out of the park.

First, I’d strongly recommend you read our original Nuna PIPA review because the PIPA lite is, at the most basic level, a PIPA, and that review is a very thorough look at it. I’m not going to waste words retelling the PIPA story because I want to highlight the features of the “lite” model.

The Nuna PIPA lite and PIPA lite lx have the same exceptional base, the same stroller adaptivity, and basically the same dimensions. If you looked at one from a distance, you might not notice it wasn’t an original model PIPA. But when you get closer and especially when you get your hands on it, you can see the ways they’ve taken an already outstanding rear-facing-only seat and thoughtfully upgraded it.

PIPA lite Specs & Features

  • 4-32 pounds; 32” or less AND at least 1” of shell above baby’s head
  • 3 harness height positions, 1 crotch buckle position
  • PIPA base with rigid lower LATCH connectors, seatbelt lockoff AND “stability leg” (otherwise known as a load leg)
  • Energy-absorbing EPP foam through entire top and back of shell
  • FAA-approved for use in an airplane WITH the base
  • 7-year expiration
  • Luxe leatherette carry handle
  • Weight of carrier is only 6.7 pounds including infant insert and canopy
  • The entire seat, foam, fabric, and inserts are flame resistant but contain zero chemical flame retardants
  • Infant insert is now 2 separate pieces
  • 2 sets of inserts/strap covers, one of which is certified organic cotton. The head support insert contains tailor tech memory foam to make it fit and grow with baby.

PIPA lite Measurements

  • Harness slot heights: 6”, 8”, 10”
  • Lowest harness slot height with infant insert and low-birthweight pillow: approximately 4”, the curved nature of the insert makes it tough to measure precisely, but it’s looooow.
  • Crotch strap/buckle position (without insert): 6”
  • Widest point (at the outside of the carrying handle adjuster): 17”
  • Internal shell height: 19”
  • Carrier weight: 6.7 pounds with canopy and inserts (5.3 pounds without)

What Makes it Lite?

So the base is the same, the shell is essentially the same and you might be tempted to dismiss the PIPA lite as nothing new, but you’d be wrong because there are some substantial differences between the original PIPA and the PIPA lite and these differences are big deals.

PIPA lite on left, original PIPA on right

The original PIPA model weighs in at a very reasonable 9.4 pounds, but the PIPA lite (without the inserts) is only 5.3 pounds, making it the lightest rear-facing-only car seat out there. When the seat is empty, it’s almost unbelievably light for an infant seat, especially for such a solid seat made of quality materials. It’s so light you can literally carry it with a single finger. Once you put a baby in it, it’s not quite as light, but I will tell you, without hesitation, the difference in weight between my 4-month-old baby in the PIPA and in the PIPA lite is noticeable. Those 4 pounds make a difference.

I routinely have to carry several handfuls of kid paraphernalia out of the car in addition to the baby, and the PIPA lite is so much easier to carry than other infant seats. I often carry it with 2 fingers or hook it in the crook of my arm and even with Ben in it, it’s generally not the heaviest item in my arms. You might be tempted to dismiss the weight reduction as insignificant, but you would be wrong. I really mean that.

To make the PIPA lite so light, the folks at Nuna had to trim some “fat” from the original PIPA and adjust some of the materials.

What’s missing from the original PIPA?