November 16, 2005

Q: How Long To Stick With The First Car Seat?

My 5-month-old son has outgrown his infant car seat. He's too long for it (though still OK by weight). Questions: a) Is it OK to keep him in it even though he's beyond the recommended size? b) What car seat do people get next? From what I understand, the next model is much bigger and doesn't have the same snap-and-go possibilities that the infant seat has.

How do people get around NYC with it, then? Or do you only use it for long car rides and just avoid taxis all together once your kid is out of infant seat range?

Our kid, too, outgrew her car seat [a Maxi-Cosi Cabrio, rated "Stage 0" by the EU, for kids up to 8kg or 9 months] by height long before she hit the weight limit. We kept her in it for almost a year. The new rig (the M-C Priori) is such a monster, it only leaves the car to wash the puke out. And as for taxis, we either avoid them...or sometimes, I'll strap her Bugaboo frame in with a seatbelt. It's stupid and highly NOT recommended, I'm sure. But what're ya gonna do?

Seriously, what ARE you gonna do? What DID you do?


[update, more seriously: Here's what car-safety.org's faq says about height. It's not the legs, it's the head:

...rear-facing babies in an infant seat are too tall if the top of their head is within one inch of the top of the carrier shell. For a rear-facing convertible seat, the child is too tall when the top of their head is at the level of the top of the shell. It may also be an inconvenience if they are tall enough to kick the seat back of your car, but this is not unsafe. A child is too tall for a front-facing harnessed carseat if their shoulders are taller than the highest slots, or if the top of their ears are above the top of the carseat shell.
Doesn't help with the taxis, of course...]

31 Comments

We were lucky enough to have our kid be born in 2002, and got one of the last Eddie Bauer Cosco 35's still being sold, which we used for travelling. (The Marathon stays in our car, you bet.) I wish they'd reintroduce that or something like it, but there wasn't a big enough market for it, unfortunately. I've heard you can still sometimes get them on eBay.

We just don't take cabs - our kid has never been in a taxi. We don't drive a lot locally; it's either the bus or the subway or walking, so we just try to leave a lot of extra time to get places. My mother is annoyed by this because she sees it as an indirect slap at her parenting technique (not that there really were car seats in the early 70s!), so she gives me flack occasionally out of defensiveness. I smile and try not to say anything.

While my boy still is comfortable in his infant car seat, the two solutions we've heard of are 1) Strap on a Bjorn, and put the seatbelt between you and the baby 2) Use on of those cheap and quick to install devices to make a regular shoulder belt fit a child as recent studies have shown little benefit beyond a regular seatbelt for children over two. Though I'm sure when it gets down to it we will be avoiding cabs too as no solution is truly acceptable, and those plexiglass partitions in cabs are really brutal. Ask anyone who has been in just a little fender bender, I'm sure they smacked their skull on it.

Our Evenflo Triumph 5 is good for 5-30 pounds rear-facing. So we used the infant seat as long as possible and didn't worry when we had to upgrade His Royal Tall-ness sooner rather than later.

Yes, it's not hip and European like Greg's Maxi-Cosi, but it was top-rated by Consumer Reports (even higher than the Britax, I believe, and half the price).

Just noticed that the peer reviewers on Amazon aren't quite in love with it, but I do like it a lot.

We use the Sit -n- Stroll.

A little off topic, but my parents moved from Rhode Island to San Diego in 1967 when I was around 4 months old. They outfitted a small cardboard box with blankets and padding and put me in the back seat of their '67 Dodge Dart and drove me across the country.

For cars, I suggest a convertible. We have a Grayco model, and I think it is suitable for a 5lbs tike to a very large toddler. The convertible can be turned backwards (like an infant car seat); at 20 lbs and 1 year, you can turn it around.

For taxis, I have absolutely no idea. We live in Iowa now, having left NYC 3 years ago. We were proud members of the non-kid universe.

I really think this is your best solution:
Only the five point harness piece. And it's portable, small, etc.

Cosco Tote'n Go Portable Convertible Car Seat With 5-point harness

[whoa. how does that work? -ed.]

We had a super small rear facing cosco that we got second hand (remember to check for recalls people) and then we moved to an eddie Bauer model that will eventually convert to a booster.

It should be noted that neither my wife or I drive, so the question of whether we move the seat around is kind of auto-answered for us. And yes, it's HUGE.

So for taxis when we are going to family we take it with us, otherwise we just don't take a cab and rely on public transit.

He's flown only once, but we took the car seat with us on the plane (we bought a ticket for him and we also checked to make sure it was cleared by the various aviation bodies. More important than anything else, check the width or it might not fit). To say that carting it around at airports sucked is an understatement.

The real problem is between when they outgrow the infant and 2 years old. After 2 years, Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt (the authors of Freakonomics), show that a child safety seat is of questionable use. We're facing the same issue as we look ahead to life in the City without being able to use cabs until our daughter gets to 2 years.

Re: the Cosco Tote N Go...here's a review and pics of it in action.

http://www.carseatdata.org/TNG.html

I'm a former CPS tech, so forgive my craziness.

When we were car-less I dragged my Cosco Touriva all over the place if I had to use a cab. It's kind of a pain, bigger than the infant seat, but a lot smaller than most convertibles out there. It also rear-faces until 35 lbs. When we used the big stroller, it was narrow enough to sort of get wedged in the basket. Obviously, most NYC parents wouldn't have a behemoth stroller like that, though.

The Tote N Go can be a good alternative, but it is really hard to install well. Also, it is only useful for a child over 1 year old and over 25 lbs. Handy for occasional trips though, it fits in the diaper bag

If you could only hold on for another month or two, there are other alternatives coming on the market. The Graco Safeseat will be an infant seat for infants up to 30 lbs.
The Sunsine Kids Radian would be awesome for NYC parents! Look at it here: http://www.skjp.com/Pages/radian1.html Apparently it's pretty freaking heavy (18 lbs or so) but still a good alternative for a parent who travels a lot. I have no idea how easy it will be to use.

Obviously, I don't think going without a car seat is any alternative at all. It is impossible to hold on to a child in a crash.

Oh, and Tim, those seatbelt positioners are actually more dangerous than putting the kid in an ill-fitting seat belt. They pull the lap portion up and increase the probability of abdominal injuries in a frontal collision.

I just reread, and Tim, I didn't want it to sound like I was being snippy. Just typing too fast is all. Sorry.

We, too, have an overly tall kid (in Park Slope, "all children are above average") who outgrew the height requirements of her car seat at 4 months. Now, we have a Decathlon, which I will only remove from the car for flights. I think she was only in a taxi once before that. Now, we take the subway (she loves it), if we aren't driving.

Same problem, and I second the Cosco Touriva -- it's in-between the infant seats and the full child seats, and the local Walmart stocked it for around $60 I think (I shop at Walmart twice a year to remind myself how much I hate the place). It's not as attractive as what we had before, but it worked, although we ended up putting foam padding under the front to level it out.

Our problem was recycling the perfectly good infant seat we had left after so little use -- Goodwill and Salvation Army won't take used. My wife ended up giving it away through a local mother's mailing list. The recipient gave us some clothes in trade.

Our son was 25 inches at 8 weeks old (97th percentile) but not even close to being in the same percentile for weight. We therefore have a skinny and long infant that is going to outgrow his Peg Perego car seat at 12 weeks if he keeps growing at the same rate. We rushed to buy him a convertible car seat (Evenflo triumph)last week for his 10 weeks birthday. We use the car only for very long trips like going back home (13 hours) and a few times a month for groceries and stocking up on baby stuff at Target and the infant car seat is useful for carrying the sleeping one.The rest of the time we use the stroller to go around the neighborhood, so no problems with taxis, I guess we will strap him in his stroller when we go back to shop by car with the new car seat. On this topic, I was once in a taxi in England with a friend of mine and her 3 year old (in her arms) and her 1 year old (in MY arms). I never sweated so much in my life. I know you can't keep a baby in your arms in a crash and I was terrified. She did that all the time to come back from the Tesco with a lot of grocery bags... sounds like the seventies but that was last year.

We also have a long boy - 5 months and 27 inches. On the recommendaion of our pediatrician we got the Britax Decathlon car seat. It has extra supprt for smaller infants and is super comfortable. Of course this meant we couldn't use the Snap-n-Go anymore so I had the perfect excuse to upgrade to the much-lusted-after Bugaboo. I have to say - now we have the Bug, I'd skip the Snap-n-go altogether and use the infant carseat adapter on the Bug from the get go.
The biggest pain of course if that the bigger car seat is permanently in the car, so you have to wake them up every time you stop and need to get out - rather than taking the whole seat out...

I always wondered about cabs in NYC too. I couldn't imagine schlepping our Triumph seat on the train, much less through the city. Last time we went, I was already overloaded with toddler and stroller and bag and extra bag.... I just held him in the back seat of the cab for a short trip from the train station to the village.

Coincidental to your post, I just asked a taxi driver here in town yesterday; he said that some drivers will provide them if they have them. I guess that would only work if you are going through a dispatcher though instead of flagging a cab on the street.

[yeah, I laugh out loud at the idea I have never EVER seen a NYC cab with a car seat floating around in the trunk. Ever. Guess that kind of stuff only happens in Connecticut. On the other hand, a car service with optional car seats might clean up in NYC. I'll check around. -ed.]

What did we do? Simple, we don't use taxis. If we need a ride to the airport we always bring the car seat anyway. Besides that we pretty much changed the way we do things so that they do not involve a cab ride. I mean, this is Manhattan. There is absolutely no need to go anywhere that is not reachable by foot or mass transit.

[spoken like a true New Yorker Manhattanite -ed.]

I think most people approach it in two steps:

1) Bucket (Infant seat) - We used the Graco, which had a few grrrreat benefits: It had a slot where a seat belt could go through to strap it into cabs, airline seats, etc. It also was narrow enough to fit into a standard mini-me sized airplane seat. It was also about 1/2 the price of the Britax which had neither benefit.

Side note, I had to laugh about "Mike"'s post, "there is no need to go anywhere that is not reachable by foot or mass transit". Believe it or not, about 240 million people in the US do _not_ live in Manhattan.

2) Toddler Seat - We justify going commando in the cab with the same rational as "Allon" - the benefit is negligible. We also try to minimize our cab usage, but when going to the airport, we live life on the edge.

Second side note, did I grow up on a different planet, or did most of us survive our childhood years riding with 10 other kids jammed into the back of a Country Squire?

Maybe I'm young, but I survived infancy strapped in to a steel and naugahyde contraption then referred to as a car seat.
The Freakonomics justification bugs me, and here is why: they only looked at deaths, not injuries. Your kid is a lot more likely to be severely injured if they are not in a car seat, especially when driven by a crazed cabbie.

The Freakonomics guys really twisted the statistics to say something to get headlines. Yes, if your child sits straight in a lap/shoulder belt, doesn't wiggle out of position and the belts rest where they should, then it is probably safe. If the lap belt rides up, they put the shoulder belt behind them or under their arms or they flop over when they fall asleep, the situation will not be so good.

[Yeah, those Freakonomics guys have bugged me here before. -ed.]

Speaking of injuries, in the class I took at Baby Safety Center on 6th Ave, the teacher specifically warned against EVER using a Baby Bjorn in the back of a cab (any car actually, but especially taxis because of the plexiglass partition). Apparently, in a collision where the adult is slammed forward -- even with the seat belt around the adult -- the baby can "become an air bag" and be crushed as the teacher (horrifically) put it.
OK I am sure lots of people will object [that can't really happen... or whatever], but for me, this scenario is simply too awful to contemplate. I'll just walk, thanks!

[yeah, I've imagined that happening, too. Or my body whiplashing against the carseat and pushing the kid through the seatbelt like an egg slicer. You're welcome for that gruesome mental image, btw. -ed.]

Lot's of information here, unfortunately it mostly involves things not to do. I'm bringing the boy back to the City in January to visit some friends and family. He'll be about 4 1/2 months and long and lean (because who would admit their child wasn't). From what I gather, the best way to get around with a little one is on the subway or bus. I've never contemplated taking the subway with a stroller, is it as easy and manageable as advertised above?

[We actually take the subway or walk most all the time, and cab--in slight commando-style--very rarely. The subway with a decent stroller (i.e., one you can carry up the stairs, if nec.) is fine, really. The bus is basically off-limits, though; you have to take the kid out and fold up the rig, so unless you have 2-3 people and 4-6 arms, and don't mind being stared down by the old ladies you'll bump into repeatedly, you're SOL. -ed.]

Every morning I taxi from our place in Midtown to my mom's place in Chelsea with the kid in his Graco infant seat, then I take the train to work. Then the reverse at night.

Aside from the time I save cabbing it in the morning, the kid has a metabolic disorder that makes it dangerous for him to be sick, so I'm just freaked out by the concept of taking him on the subway. [Yes, I've seen the "scientific" reports on the news that say the subway is cleaner than your bathroom, but I'm not buyin it. The poles are slimy and nasty, and there was a roach in the 23rd Street station the other day that could've eaten me for breakfast.]

The kid is 6 months and 18 pounds (and unlike everyone else on this post, I have a kid who's proportionately plump), so he's getting tight in the Graco around the shoulder area. We're out of that seat reeeaaalll soon.

I agree with Greg - a car service that would pick us up in the morning with a car seat would be awesome. I would set up an account, like, yesterday. Right now our answer seems to be - move to Chelsea.

[everybody's doing it! And frankly, I'm surprised the plump baby thing doesn't come up more frequently; what do you think this is: Cookie Magazine? It may be that people are just more cognizant of their kid outgrowing the seat's design specs with the height than with the weight. Or that the weight limits are high enough for infant carriers that kids hit it later, i.e., closer to the expected age range. -ed.]

Dash_Dad, going on the subway with a stroller (especially with a child under 6 months) is eminently doable. It helps to have a fairly light stroller - this is one case where a gigantor stroller will be counterproductive - because while you are SUPPOSED to unfold your stroller, carry it down in one arm with your baby in the other, and then proceed into the subway, absolutely no one does this. Everyone picks up the stroller with both arms and walks it down the stairs. I'm sure this isn't the safest possible thing - I could barely manage it myself, but happily enough there was almost always some kind person at the top of the subway stairs (or, more helpfully, the bottom on the way up) who would ask if I needed help, which I was always grateful for. You then wheel the stroller right into the subway car, and reverse the process on the way out at your destination.

It's also great to know which subway stops have elevators. Off the top of my head: 66th St. on the 1 line, 72nd St. on the 1/2/3, and 14th St. on the 4/5/6/N/R (but it's only near the 4/5/6 portion, at the southeast corner of Union Square). I'm sure there are lots of others, but those are the only ones I know offhand. Either way, with a child that young, as long as you have a relatively light stroller (say, under 15 lbs), you should be fine, especially if you make an effort to avoid rush hour.

As for the bus, they do enforce the rules there. In order to board, you must have the stroller folded. This is one reason you see lots of parents with small babies in Bjorns on the bus, and then not again until the kids are old enough to be in light, easily foldable umbrella strollers. It's just too annoying otherwise, because during the interim, you tend to have so much crap hanging off your stroller that it's not really foldable. Now that my kid's out of the stroller entirely, we go on the bus all the time - kids really enjoy looking out as they travel.

Lastly: if you have or are contemplating purchasing, or borrowing, a Bjorn-like carrier, that is a GREAT option for both subway and bus for a trip to NYC. Pair it with a backpack with all the kid's stuff, and you are super-mobile. I miss those days!

Three things:

1. Re: Freakonomics - exactly what Throkky said. The statistics are skewed to be sensational and in no way account for a difference between living through a car accident, and living through a car accident with a life-altering brain injury. Don't mind the brain injury risk? Go ahead and skip the car seat.

2. The safety of taking a child in a cab without a car seat is not inversely proportional to the number of times you do it. i.e., saying that you rarely take the kid in a cab without car seat does not diminish the extent of the injuries your child will suffer if you get in an accident, just once. "But, doctor, she can't be seriously injured - I only go commando on the weekends..."

3. The "We all survived growing up without carseats" argument is convenient but invalid. Think about it. The people who did not survive growing up without car seats are not here to post the counter-argument. "We all" are only the ones who survived to tell the tale.

Get 'em in the car seats, folks, or find another way to get there.

Most kid safety related stats seem to focus solely on death stats, it's like the whole debate on co-sleeping. One of the last reports I read focused on numbers of deaths from suffocation that had resulted from co-sleeping.

Gosh, useful that.

Neal, yeah, but most of these 240 million people own a car (or have access to one) and thus don't have that kind of problem. I always thought that the toddler/car seat/cab combo is a typical Manhattan (maybe San Francisco(?)) thing that sparks fierce debates (see UrbanBaby for proof).

Thanks for the feedback!

My wife and I travel quite a lot with our son and are always nervous about how to secure him in cabs, on planes, etc. We just bought the Radian from Sunshine Kids - it is awesome since it folds-up and is easy carry around. He is about 36 pounds now so I expect that this is the last seat that we will need to buy.

A little off topic but as a concerned ER doc with many years trauma experience, I will tell you to USE A CAR SEAT OR BOOSTER each and every time you get in a vehicle until your child is tall enough to safely use an adult seat belt, and even then with an adjuster. A child on your lap in a plane, train or automobile is just another word for human airbag.

For you urbanites get a carseat and use the snap-and-go for hauling it around.

Car seat every time no excuses.

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