10 Questions with a Child Passenger Safety Technician

1) What is a CPST? Doesn’t the fire department check car seats?
 

CPST stands for Child Passenger Safety Technician. We educate parents and caregivers on the proper installation and use of car seats, boosters. and seat belts. SOME fire fighters are CPSTs as are some law enforcement officers, but not all. It is important to check for current certifications before letting anyone check your seats. 

2) Does the hospital check my car seat at discharge? What are they looking for?
Not usually. They need to know that you HAVE a seat, but most nurses are not allowed to touch it. Some hospitals do have a CPST on staff that can help prior to discharge. 

 

3) How do I know my seat is a good one? Is price an indicator? 

Every seat currently on the market is safe if used properly. They all pass extremely stringent testing before being sold to the public. Price is not an indicator of safety. A properly used $40 seat is safer than an improperly used $300 seat. The more expensive seats have more bells and whistles and comfort and ease of use features, but as far as safety is concerned – using ANY current, in date, seat properly is the best way to ensure your child is safe. 

4) Can I sit in the back with my baby and nurse him/her if I keep us both buckled?

As tempting as that sounds, it’s a very dangerous idea. If a crash were to occur while you’re leaning over your baby, your body weight would crush him. It’s much better to stop and nurse or pump a bottle for the road. 
 
5) How do I handle spit up on my car seat? Blow out diapers? Can I put a blanket or pad under my baby?

Always refer to the manual for cleaning instructions. Straps should never be machine washed, submerged or cleaned with anything harsher than a baby wipe or mild soap. This can compromise the strength of the straps by stretching them and/or weakening the fibers and cause them to perform poorly in a crash. Putting a bib on baby OVER the harness after buckling securely can help keep spit up off the seat. A chux pad or puppy potty training pad can be placed in the seat under baby to protect against diaper related messes. These are extremely thin, and as long as they aren’t placed in such a way that interferes with the harness, shouldn’t pose a safety risk. Some manufacturers make specific pads that can be used with their seats. When in doubt, a quick call or email to your seat’s manufacturer can be helpful in figuring out what is best to use.

6) I got a bunch of car seat covers and strap protectors as shower gifts. Can those be used with any seat or are some seats better designed for them?

I always say “if it didn’t come in the box with the seat, then don’t use it in the seat”. These items can claim to be “crash tested” but since there are no federal regulations for such aftermarket products that doesn’t mean anything, Manufacturers test their padding, harness covers, inserts, etc with their seats so they know they pass safely with them. The non-regulated products are not tested in this way. It’s always best to leave the testing to the crash dummies and not take a chance with our own children. 
 
Those products DO often work beautifully in strollers, though!

7) Why does everyone tell me to rear-face my seat so long? I worry that I can’t see my baby. 

EVERYONE would be safer rear-facing. But it’s kind of hard to drive that way. 😉 From age 12-24 months, children are 5Xs (532% to be exact) safer rear facing than forward facing. A young child’s vertebrae are in several pieces and don’t begin to fuse together until after the 2nd birthday and doesn’t finish until between 4 and 6 years of age. Rear facing provides maximum protection of this delicate spine by allowing the seat to cradle the child’s entire body keeping the head, neck, and spine aligned and fully supported and transferring the crash forces over a much larger area. In a forward facing seat, all that force is on the child’s head and neck since the only body parts supported are the hips and shoulders while the head and limbs are thrown violently toward the point of impact. The goal should be to keep a child rear facing to as close to their 4th birthday as possible with the absolute minimum being age 2 to turn forward.
 
8) My baby has reflux. Can I prop my seat or add a positioner?
Every seat has a recline indicator on it somewhere. If allowed (based on age and/or weight) by the car seat, the angle can be decreased as long as baby can support his head. Sometimes convertible seats can help babies with reflux because they tend to be more “L” shaped inside the seat as opposed to their “C” shaped rear-facing only (infant carrier) counterparts. As far as positioners go, as I stated above, if it didn’t come with the seat, then no, they should not be used*.
 
*A few manufacturers DO make accessories for use with THEIR seats that have been tested. Always check your manual.

9) We take long car trips often. Any tips for helping my baby stay relaxed in the car seat? I don’t want to have a car screamer.
Car screamers are the worst. I’m on my second one. Here is a list of some things to try to make traveling more pleasant (and quieter).

– Good air flow. No one likes to be too hot or too cold in the car.
– White noise. Sounds such as beach waves, thunderstorms, and rain forest noises can help calm baby. Even just an out of range, staticky radio station or open windows can be enough.
– Soft, lightweight toys that are special and only for the car. Steer clear of anything hard, heavy, large, or battery operated as these can be dangerous projectiles in a crash. 
– A lightweight, plastic mirror can help rear facers feel closer to mama and daddy in the front seat. These do also pose a projectile risk, so be sure to find one that is soft, fits your car’s head restraints well, and attaches firmly if you choose to use one.
– A backseat buddy can help entertain baby. Having the non-driving parent in the back can make it a little more fun back there!
– A backseat buddy can help entertain baby. Having the non-driving parent in the back can make it a little more fun back there!
– Frequent stops so baby can eat, get a clean diaper, and stretch his legs are very important (for mama and daddy, too!). Usually, every 2-3 hours is the longest you’ll want everyone to remain strapped down. Let them run off that extra energy that they siphon from us. 😉
– Traveling at night or leaving at nap time can sometimes make things easier, too. A sleeping baby, is a quiet baby. Unless they snore.  
 

10) Can I pump and bottle feed my baby on car trips right in the seat? Can I prop the seat to help him/her not choke?
Keeping in mind the projectile risk the bottle poses, as long as baby remains properly strapped into a properly installed seat, feeding a bottle while driving could be a good last resort. The best idea would be to stop and feed at a rest area, though.

 

Bonus Question 11) Share your favorite breastfeeding memory!

When my girls first glance their eyes up at me while nursing and give me that milky smile is always my favorite. It’s kind of like a little “thank you” for the gift I’m giving them and the hard work it can sometimes be to do it. ❤
Rori Holisky is a mother of two little girls, ages 4.5 years and 5.5 months and the wife of a law enforcement officer. She became a Child Passenger Safety Technician in 2013 and started Birth to Booster about a year later. Her hobbies include playing with car seats, watching Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and sewing. 🙂
 
www.Birth2BoosterSafety.com
https://www.facebook.com/birthtobooster
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