by Katherine Charchuk
A child who is one year and 22 lbs (10kg) can turn to a forward facing position. A convertible seat is the preferable seat at this time although you can use a combination seat for this purpose. Many convertible seats you can only use the top harness slots because they are the only ones that are reinforced for that purpose. This image illustrates the reason we use only the top slots which are reinforced. None of us what this to happen to our child. Many seats being manufactured today have all slots being reinforced but check with the owner's manual just to be sure. Forward facing only seats do have all slots reinforced.
Your child will stay in a convertible seat till she is 4 years and 40 pounds (18 kg). Also the child must have a standing height of 40" (102 cm). Your child will have outgrown her convertible seat if the tops of her ears are above the car seat and her shoulders are above the top slots. The seat must be anchored to the vehicle use a tether strap and the vehicle seat belt must follow the correct path. There shall be no more than 1" (2.5 cm) of side ways play once the seat is installed. When buying a convertible seat use a seat that installs properly in your vehicle and one that is easy for you to use. A 5-point harness has more safety benefits than that of an overhead shield. You will notice when out car seat shopping that overhead shields are not as common as they once were. A child's head could come into contact with the shield causing severe injury. The reason these seats continue to be on the market is because they prevent death, that is the goal of the seat but the 5-point harness goes one step farther and prevents serious injury.
Once your child has outgrown the convertible seat as described above, you can move her into a combination seat. In the states these seats still only go to 40 pounds (18 kg) but allow for higher height, so if your child is above the 40" (102 cm) she can still remain in a harnessed seat. In Canada these seats go to 47 (21.3 kg) and 48 pounds (21.7 kg). Try to use the harness for as long as you can as it stays snug on your child. The harness should be tightened so that you can fit no more than one finger between the harness and the child. Avoid the use of bulky winter clothing as this can compress causing more space between the child and the harness and then ejecting the child from the car seat in the event of an accident.
When choosing your combination car seat, remember that this is a seat you will use till 80 pounds (36 kg). Look at the benefits of using the harness as well as ease of use as a booster seat. Will it install easily in your car? Will it fit? Is it easy to use? Will you use it properly every time? Just some points to ponder for any car seat that you are shopping for.
Some people say, "A car seat is so expensive!" but can you put a price on your child's life. If you knew that you were going to have an accident you would surely do everything you could to prevent injury to your child and yourself. Unfortunately an accident is never planned. It only takes a moment before each trip to ensure your child is secured properly.
Katherine Charchuk is certified by the Infant Toddler Safety Association as a car seat technician and does car seat clinics.
Copyright © Katherine Charchuk. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.