Shopping Cart Safety

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I take my daughters’ safety very seriously. When parent friends were turning their kids forward-facing in the car as soon as they hit their first birthday and 20 lbs, I kept mine rear-facing until they were well beyond two years old and beyond the minimum weight to be turned forward-facing legally. In fact, I would have kept them rear-facing longer if I were as good then as I am today at standing my ground with my (now ex) husband. They were in 5-point harnesses until the end of second grade, and only moved to boosters because their grandparents said that they didn’t feel comfortable installing car seats in their car.

The reasons for keeping young children in rear facing car seats are well documented. I won’t bother going into them here.

Car seats and grocery carts aren't designed to fit together. Consider placing a seat in the main part of the cart instead of across the handlebar and seat area.

I’ve read the manual to every car seat we’ve had, all the way through. The Graco Snugride. The Britax Marathon. The Diono Radian. The Graco Turbobooster. The Graco AFFIX. Yes, I keep all my manuals and refer back to them often enough that I know where they all are. I’m that person who read the entirety of the manual to my sewing machine before I loaded the first bobbin.

The Snugride manual said nothing about my infant bucket seats not being safe in shopping carts… and I made the mistake of assuming that they were safe. Sure, I’d seen the carts with built-in baby seats and figured they were handy for a lot of families. My two babies weren’t going to fit in that one seat, though. I was so proud of having figured out that I could fit one car seat in the child seat area and the other seat sideways across the main cart area. I had plenty of room for the actual groceries under the cart.

Shopping carts can pose a safety risk for young children. Educate yourself.

In the years since my daughters have outgrown bucket seats, I have learned a lot more about car seats and shopping carts. I’ve read all about the tragic death of 3-month-old James Anderson Berg in a car seat/cart accident. It’s not terribly uncommon for carts to tip. This video, despite its happy ending, is terrifying even for those of us who wouldn’t dream of leaving a 5-point harness unbuckled.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says, “Do not place an infant carrier on top of the shopping cart.” They have some relatively ridiculous “safer ideas” (at least for this home cook and single mother of twins) about leaving kids at home when shopping, but the rules are solid.

If you decide to put your child in a shopping cart anyway, then follow these rules:

  • Place your child in a safety belt or harness at all times when in a shopping cart.
  • Never leave your child alone in a shopping cart.
  • Do not let your child stand up in a shopping cart.
  • Do not place an infant carrier on top of the shopping cart.
  • Do not put your child in the basket.
  • Never allow your child to ride on the outside of a cart.
  • Do not allow an older child to climb on the cart or push the cart with another child in it, because it is very easy for a child to tip the cart over.

Although we never suffered an accident, I wouldn’t put a baby seat in a cart’s seat area if I were to do it over. The Jenny Evolution has some ideas for dealing with singleton infants at the store, and you can check out our thoughts on making it through a shopping trip with multiples.

I encourage you to educate yourself and take a second to think about how you’re comfortable using shopping carts for your infants. They’re a wonderful convenience, and it’s not too hard to use them safely.

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Parenting Petite Kids

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I’m short. People use all sorts of nice euphemisms: petite, vertically challenged, little. At 5’0″ (152 cm), my legs are just long enough to reach the floor when I’m standing. I have to perch on the front edge of your average chair to rest my feet on the ground. If I sit back, my legs swing in a very unprofessional way. I often find myself tucking one or both legs under me at work. As my daughters put it, I’m “a very small mommy.”

My 6-year-olds are very small girls themselves. Their first-grade classmates revel in picking them up and twirling them around. They don’t seem to mind much, instead enjoying being the “cute little ones” of their classes. M just made it out of the 1st percentile on the growth chart, weighing in at 38 lbs (17.2 kg) at age 6 years, 9 months. That’s 3rd percentile, people! She’s a giant! J’s 41 lbs (18.6 kg) puts her in the 10th percentile. She’s come a long way since her 3 lbs 6 oz (1.5 kg) birth weight.

My daughters’ current small stature likely has very little to do with their prematurity. Birth at 33 weeks gestation explains the girls’ low birth weight, but most premature infants catch up with their birth age peers in height and weight by the age of 1 or 2. If you think about it, it makes sense. My girls are 2 months “younger,” measured from conception, than other kids born in May 2006. When they were -2 months old, it was a big deal. At 4 months old, it was still a pretty big deal. At 6 months, J weighed 12 lbs 12 oz, and M weighed 11 lbs 12 oz, and they were on track. At the age 6 years, 2 months doesn’t make all that much of a difference. You can just blame me for their lack of stature.

I suspect it’s much easier to be a short girl than to be a short boy, but society’s gender attitudes is a topic I won’t touch just now. I’ll just say that I don’t perceive myself or my daughters to have any hang-ups about being short.

Being especially small comes with challenges all its own. The world is built for average-sized people, so we make adjustments. We have stools in every room of the house so that we can reach the things we need. I learned what products could be tweaked to accommodate the realities of raising short babies, toddlers, and young children.

Car seats

It takes a lot of blankets to secure a baby of less than 5 lbs in a carseat. from hdydi.comThe first time I dealt with the unique experience of having a super-small child was coming home from the hospital. Our Graco Snugride infant seat was technically okay for a 5-pounder, but how were we to keep the babies from rolling around? The size of the infant head support it came with was laughable in comparison to my littles. The NICU nurses came to the rescue, once again. They showed me how to roll up receiving blankets and layer them around the baby to keep her in place on her first hundred or so car rides.

In the US, we’re taught that children should ride in rear-facing car seats until they are both at least 1 year old and weigh 20 lbs, and recent recommendations encourage waiting until they’re 2 years old. As I understand it, the weight limit is a matter of having enough mass to resist being thrown in the air in the event of a crash. The age limit has something to do with the length of the spinal cord in comparison to the spine. As my pediatrician put it when I raised a concern about the girls’ legs eventually getting cramped, “Better broken legs than a broken neck.” My girls were well past age 2 before we turned their Britax Marathons forward-facing.

Now that they’re 6, J and M continue to wear 5-point harnesses in their Diono (formerly Sunshine Kids) Radians. Their classmates are all in booster seats, but M doesn’t meet the 40-lb weight minimum, and I’m in no hurry to reduce the girls’ level of containment in the car. Again, it doesn’t seem to bother them too much, although I occasionally get nasty looks at how long we spend getting the girls situated getting in and out of the car at the school pickup drive through. They can buckle and unbuckle themselves, but two buckles each necessarily take longer than one a piece.

Shoes

M and J started walking at 12 and 11 months, respectively. They both wore infant size 2 shoes at the time. There are very few walking shoes that come in a size 2. I certainly couldn’t find any. I ended up resorting to custom shoes ordered from Preschoolians in their “Walkers” line. They weren’t cheap, but they did allow us to go to the park without fear of stones and splinters in the girls’ feet. It wasn’t long before J and M were walking into daycare in the morning instead of me carrying them.

M tends to end up in light up shoes even at age 6; it’s hard to find sturdy, comfortable, school-appropriate shoes in a kid size 9.5. J’s a size bigger, and there are many more options open to her.

Clothes

Clothes weren’t quite the same challenge as shoes. Preemie clothes were gargantuan on the girls the first few months, but once they fit newborn sizes, it was easy–and so much fun–to shop for them.

J and M will be 7 in a few months. I just gave away the last of their size 4T clothes on Freecycle, because they’re fitting comfortably in 5Ts in most brands. When it comes to clothes that can fit loosely, such as sweatshirts and T-shirts, I can shop all the way to an XXS. The nice thing about being little is that M and J get a lot of hand-me-downs, and some hand-me-ups, from friends.

The girls have been wearing the same 4-6 sized tights for 3 winters in a row now, and they’re starting to fall apart. I’m not complaining. I remember how expensive it used to be to dress two kids when they were growing into new sizes every 3-5 months.

J and M’s first public school in El Paso had a uniform. We had trouble finding uniform shirts to fit them, so they just ended up wearing their XXS shirts baggy. I couldn’t get khaki bottoms that wouldn’t fall down at the store recommended by the school, but ended up finding good options online at French Toast.

Shopping carts/high chairs

For a long time, I’d go to the grocery store with one baby in a front carrier and the other in an infant seat placed in the cart. However, even though this continued to be practical weight-wise, by the time the girls were one, they wanted to sit in the cart and look around. The first time I tried, they flopped all over the place, and I gave up. M and J regaled nearby shoppers with wails and demands to “Sit cart! Sit cart!” as I pulled out the double stroller to try Plan B.

Ikea came to the rescue. They had an inflatable cushion that I could place around the girls to keep them propped up and contained. Unfortunately, they no longer sell it in the US. It was genius! I also used this cushion in restaurant high chairs to great effect.

How do your kids compare to others in size? Do you have any product recommendations to help kids on the smaller end of the size spectrum?

Sadia is the single mother of 6-year-old identical twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX area, where Sadia works in higher education information technology.

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Product Review: Convertible car seats

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Convertible car seats are something everyone has to think about, sooner or later.  Some are cheaper and others cost as much as a monthly car payment!  With that being said, i polled our HDYDI writers for some great info on their favorite car seats.

Now before i go through all the important info.  I want to state something that is true to some.  If you can’t afford the BEST car seat out on the market, you buy what you can afford!  Although, i myself, have what the consumer reports say are the best and safest car seats, I have to say, a car seat is a car seat, and even the cheapest car seat is better, than not having one at all.  The reason i am saying this, is because, i know from personal experience, that some people can’t afford an expensive car seat.  I won’t mention names or people, but i have seen a few people in my days, that just can’t afford a nice car seat and have opted to, instead, just plop their little tiny babies in the back seat without a car seat AT ALL.  I can say, i have REALLY seen this happen before.  I felt so horrible, i wanted to go out and buy a few families i know, a car seat, just so the poor baby wasn’t hunched over in the regular car seat.  And, YES it is totally ILLEGAL to not have your child in a car seat.  BUT, if you can’t afford one, what do you do???  If you had a choice between, feeding your child & putting a roof over that child’s head, it’s not just so simple to go drop a few hundred dollars on a car seat.  SO, with all that being said, here is a summary of what our HDYDI writers had to say:

  • Best car seat is Britax(per consumer reports) and everyone else.

-there are many different kinds to choose from and they vary in price and go up to right around three hundred dollars each.  I say, before you purchase one, you should really check around.  Babies R Us gives a twin discount, but you have to ask for it.  ALWAYS ALWAYS ask for those discounts…i ask everywhere i go.  What is the worst that could happen, they say NO?   Also, check on line.  Albeebaby.com is a really great website to buy big ticket items & I’m sure there are MANY MANY other websites out there that do the same.  I personally know albeebaby.com is great.  They didn’t charge shipping either.

I could actually write a novel on car seats, which are the best, which are not so great, which have the safest ratings, and such.  But the problem with that, is that everyone has a different want in a car seat.  SAFETY is always number one.  BUT, size, price, weight, comfort and many other different things also apply to a car seat.

I’m going to do a bit of a summary on each Britax car seat.  I’m also going to go through a few cheaper car seats that work just as well, per consumer reports.

Britax ROUNDABOUT – which is the least expensive of the Britax and is one of the safest car seats on the market.   These car seats are not very hard to install and if you have a later model car, chances are, you may have those cool metal hooks that make hooking the car seat in a breeze.  Then always remember to anchor the car seat down with the other hook going over the back of the seat if you have a suv(not sure about cars).   You can use this seat rear facing for children up to 33lbs(which is actually a higher weight for a rear facing seat).   Front facing, these car seats will hold children up to 40lbs.  SO, if you have larger children..you may want to think about the marathon or Boulevard(which both hold children up to 65lbs).  One reason to buy the roundabout is because they are cheaper AND smaller(which is better for people with compact cars).

The Marathons are the larger version of the roundabout.  I think most of our moms have either this seat or the roundabout.  I, myself, have three of these and love them.  What i can say personally, is that they are pretty easy to get in and out of cars.  These are larger and heavier than the roundabout.  They are patented for the HUGS system, which is a type of harness that helps evenly distribute the weight of the child evenly in a crash.  I have never had any problems with the harness system, personally.  Per consumer reports, they do not do as well rear facing, on the car seat crash test b/c of the anchor.  BUT, forward facing, they are one of the best.   The cover also comes off easily.  The straps are fairly easy to adjust but you have to take the entire seat out of your car.  Also, here’s a lesson i learned on a long trip from TX to MO.  BUY A EXTRA CAR SEAT COVER FOR YOU CAR SEAT!  We went on a long road trip a few years ago and my daughter ended up getting rotavirus on the road and i won’t go into details.  BUT, we ende up in the ER and my hubby had to hose down the nasty car seat.  If we had just had an EXTRA seat cover, we would have been much better off.  Every trip since then, we carry a extra seat cover.  You can order them on line or buy them at different speciality stores.  They are semi-pricy, but definitely worth the money to me.

Britax Decathlon & Boulevard are the best of the best.  The Boulevard has some extra padding along the inside of the car seat for added head protection on side impact.  This foam is head adjustable.  There is also a belly pad, infant liner.  There are a few other bells and whistles on the Boulevard, but the one that really jumped out at me is that it has a new knob for adjusting the height on the straps w/o having to rethread them as your child grows.  This is not a huge deal, but just a small inconvenience for those of us that own the roundabout or marathon.

The Decathlon is mostly the same with the only change being three positions for the crotch belt, so it can be positioned further away or closer to the child.  Otherwise, everything else is the same.

Now, after reading some more info on consumer reports.  I also found that the Evenflo Triumph 5 is just as good as the britax and much cheaper(120).  I won’t go into to many details about this car seat.  But in a nutshell, consumer reports said that this seat rates just as high forward facing, although rear facing it was not as safe as a Britax.  This seat goes up to 40lbs, so like the roundabout, if you have larger children, you may want to opt out of this car seat and choose one of the larger britax that are able to hold a child up to 65lbs.

A New car seat out there is the Sunshine Kids Radian 65.  This car seat has yet to be tested by consumer reports, so they can only go with what parents are saying on different reviews.  These seats are right around two hundred dollars per seat.  This one is for children up to 65lbs and has only been reviewed in the forward facing position.

There is also a Sunshine Kids Radian 80, which holds a child up to 80lbs.  These are a bit more expensive, but if you have a larger child, this may be the way to go.  These seats run about 280 each, give or take a bit.  A few things to know about the Radian seats is: they are fold-able(makes it easier to carry these around and travel with them), they are also narrower and have a steel frame(unlike the plastic frame from Britax).  A few cons would be that they are heavier(b/c of the steel frame), the crotch strap is to restrictive & they both have height limits of 49 inches.  So, even though the radian 80 is for heaver children, their is a chance that they child can outgrow the height limit before they hit the 80lb mark.

Here’s a tid bit of info i found on consumer reports about these car seats:

Sunshine Kids Radian Granite Convertible Car Seat

Price Range: $199 – $200 at 3 stores

Sunshine Kids’ Radian Convertible Car Seat was conceptualized and designed around a set of strict safety and performance parameters. Radian positions the child’s center of gravity as low and as far back as possible on the vehicle seat for optimal restraint performance, especially in oblique-angled crashes, which is how most car accidents occur. The Radian Car Seat’s EPS safety foam around the child’s head, torso and seating area, providing increased safety for impact protection. The Radian Car Seat has 3” more interior shoulder width of any car seat in its class. Its unique design is more than 2” narrower on the outside making it easy to fit 3 seats across. A 3” longer seat bottom and the forward-facing recline option provides increased comfort for longer rides and more leg support for the older child.

With all that being said, i feel that there are different car seats out there, to fit different needs for each individual.  With my situation, we have a big car, so seat size was never a big problem.  Our problem was having to purchase a bench seat so that all three of our children were in the middle seat.  The third row of our car is now non-existent.  Since our first child was so young when our twins were born we had to put her in the middle and the girls on the side.  It was easy when the girls were still in their infant car seats.  We’d load her up in the middle and then plop the car seats in the bases.  After we bought our big car seats and faced them backwards, it became a challenge of how to get our middle one into the car.  She learned to climb underneath the rear facing car seat and hop into her own middle seat.  Then i’d get into the car and turn around to strap her in her seat.  Sometimes i’d get so frustrated, i’d just take her in through the front seat and let her climb from the front seat into the her car seat.  The other problem for us, was the Britax are SOO big and my husband is so tall he’d ram the back of the seat into the back of the rear facing car seat.  The really bad part of this was that we have t.v.s in the head rests of the front seats.  After it was all said and done and we flipped the girls car seats to forward facing, we found out he ended up breaking the drivers side head rest t.v.!  I guess if we had been smart, we would have just poped the t.v. out of the head rest for a few months.  Maybe my story will save someone else some money.  If you too, have t.v’s in your head rests and your babies are still rear facing, simply pop the t.v’s out if your hubby keeps ramming them into the back of the car seat!  :)

Lastly, here are a few tips to remember about car seat safety:

1. Don’t buy used car seats.  You don’t know where they are coming from and if they’ve ever been in a wreck or not.

2.  If you have a wreck, always replace the car seat.  Do NOT reuse it after it’s been in a wreck.  You have no idea what has been done to the seat during the crash.

3. The safest place for a car seat is in the back middle seat.  Obviously for those with more than one, that just isn’t an option.  I would do my best to keep them in the middle seat and not put children in the back seat if you have 3 rows.  Of course if you have more than three children, you don’t have an option on that one either.

4. A five point harness is much better than a regular safety belt.

5. Always keep the receipt when you purchase a car seat.  Just to make sure you know that the seat works in your car.

6. BRU lets you take the car seats out before you buy, go there if you are not sure if the car seat will fit in your car.

7. Always fill out the paperwork that comes with the car seat and send it in.  That way, if there are recalls, etc, you will receive a note in the mail notifying you of the recall.

8. Check reviews on the car seat of your choice.  Actually, i do this with EVERYTHING i buy now.  That way you know what other people think about the item you are planning on purchasing.  Those reviews are awesome.  I can’t tell you how many times i’ve backed out on purchasing something b/c of bad reviews.  Also, if you find something you don’t like about a car seat, etc.  Leave a review and help others out.  I write reviews on items all the time.

Lastly, here is the consumer report website for car seat reviews.

http://www.consumersearch.com/www/family/car-seats/review.html

BTW, if you find a car seat you love or dislike, leave a comment here to help others out.  OR, if i’ve missed something you think is imperative to know about a car seat(purchasing one, etc), please leave a comment.  I did my best to cover as much as possible, but like i said before, i could write a book on car seats(pro and cons of each one).  There are soo many out there and everyone has different wants, so there just isn’t a short way to cover every want of every parent.

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