Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another reason to hate infant car seats

First -- I want to celebrate. I realized I am officially over 100 posts. Hooray!

Ok, this might just be me. But I hate those infant bucket car seat things. I see people carrying their babies around in those stupid plastic tubs everywhere, jiggling the plastic when their babies cry in the store, with it propped on top of the grocery cart, and I want to scream: "Why is your baby so hideously repulsive to you that you can't stand to touch that sweet baby skin?"

But, yes, ok, that might just be me. If I'm horribly offending the 99.9% of American parents who think the plastic handle carrier things are the bomb, feel satisfied that you're part of the majority.

Also, I want to stipulate that I have no problem with infant car seats used in a car. Hooray for you for keeping your child safely buckled in. Now, when you stop the car, leave the seat attached to its base and move along, baby in arms.

We avoided an infant car seat altogether by going straight to a rear-facing convertible. I had scattered moments of panic just before labor that this little baby might be born too small for the height and weight minimums on the Roundabout and that Sam would have to rush out and buy an infant seat at Target before we could travel anywhere. Our midwife, after all, had solemnly predicted that this baby would be below average size, somewhere around 7 pounds, 4 ounces.

When Mikko weighed in at just under 12 pounds at birth, I remembered my fears about not filling out the convertible enough. Ha ha ha!

Crisis averted. Thanks, Chubster!

Anyhoo...with our thoughts of buying a Swedish seat that potentially could be used with a potential second child (I don't like to tempt fate's laughing in my face by making concrete plans), we would need an infant seat for #2. (The Roundabout will have expired, and the Swedish seat's too big for a newborn.) I would have to swallow my pride and that bit of throw up in the back of my throat and (gulp) buy a bucket. With one of those stupid handles. So I can carry my baby everywhere encased in plastic, with the little soft baby skull being nicely flattened out, the better to fit the seat's contours.

Whenever I tell people about my distaste for infant car seats, the people who disagree with me -- who are, indeed, the far-reaching majority of other parents in my culture -- tell me about the one salient feature of baby car seats that they cannot live without.

When the baby falls asleep in the car, they tell me, you can just pop the carseat out and carry it into the house, without waking said infant.

And, every once in awhile, I envied that ability. I have alternately woken up a sleeping Mikko (so sad to do) or, more often, spent hours in the parked car, turning on the heat or rolling down windows to keep him comfortable, reading books by flashlight or using my laptop until the battery ran out, waiting for my boy to wake up from another drive-induced nap.

But then I read this story: Study: Infants Sleeping in Car Seats Could Be At Risk. It points out that the head flexion in car seats that are outside the car can restrict breathing in young infants. I believe that this is the study referenced in the article. A Google Scholar search turned up numerous other articles dealing with head injuries due to falls and overturning of the plastic carriers, plagiocephaly from spending too long in the seats, and many recommendations that these infant seats be limited to their proper use inside of cars only. Apparently, bringing them in not only exposes children to the dangers of falling out of them, but it also places them at more awkwardly upright angles that can threaten their airways. Here's a horribly sad story of a baby who succumbed to the threat.

And this is all not even accounting for the strain on parents' shoulders and backs carrying the heavy monstrosities around, nor for the strain on the relationship between parent and baby. I wasn't joking when I said that the only advantage I'm ever told when I protest the bucket's ubiquity is that you can carry a sleeping baby in from the car. But, in my real-world observations, I've seen mostly awake babies carried around and set on the floor or the church pew or a table -- all those missed opportunities to snuggle close. Although, really, it would be fine to hold a sleeping child as well.

I'm content now that my seat has always had to stay in the car, sleeping baby or no. And if I do have to buy one of those *�@ buckets, I'll leave it strapped in -- the side benefit will be that no one will be able to see that I've given in and started using one.


Anonymous said...

As parents, we do all that we can to ensure the safety of our children. Car seat is very useful for baby's safety.

Lauren Wayne said...

That is very true -- that's why I'm a proponent of extended rear facing.

I came across another reason to hate these low-weight models. Friends of ours decided when their 11-month-old son outgrew his baby seat by the 20-lb weight limit that they could just go ahead and turn him around because he was close enough to 1 year. I tried to give them a higher-weight convertible seat, but they refused. :(

Arwyn said...

OK, sorry, old post, but I'm digging through your archives and had to share:

I have, actually, brought the Boychick in, asleep, in the carseat... in his Boulevard (that's a non-bucket convertible for those that don't know -- we too had a 10+ lb baby who did just fine in the convertible from week one). He slept for two hours, me rocking him by foot in his seat placed in the rocking chair. One of the more memorable moments of his babyhood, although not one I was anxious to repeat again.

(Backstory: a friend had given us a ride, her car our carseat, and the Boychick, of course, fell asleep on the way home. Since I had to take the carseat in, and had to take the Boychick in, I figured I might as well do both at once! I never thought he'd stay asleep in there that long.)

On another note, the other legitimate use I've heard for the bucket seats is being able to transport baby in and out of the car fully covered and warm in a very cold environment. Having only parented in the Pacific Northwest, I will take their word for it that it's the saner of the options available, though I also know it's a minority of the times a bucket gets used, and thus doesn't address the legitimate criticism of the overuse of buckets in general.

Lauren Wayne said...

arwyn: I'm picturing you lugging in your Boulevard -- hilarious, and amazing he slept through the transfer. We also had one of those large babies who didn't need a smaller seat! I love meeting members of the pudgy-baby club.

I agree that in cold climates I've lived in and visited, I have seen parents get their babies all situated in their seats before going out into the cold, including a zipper blanket thing that goes over the seat. I wouldn't have a problem with this, except that I've seen babies brought in in such a seat and then just left in it, despite being awake and now in a warm room, etc. But, yeah, I don't want to suggest that parents in cold areas shouldn't do what makes life easier in the winter. It can get pretty danged cold in, say, the Midwest and Northeast, which is one reason I moved away. :)

Lisa C said...

Oh, I HATE it when people carry their babies in the car seat. It's like they are afraid to touch their child! So afraid, in fact, that they'd rather lug around the extra, very awkward, back-breaking weight. For some reason, my husband did this a few times when our son was a newborn, and I complained so much that he stopped. I don't get it. Do they think it's cool or something? I guess they just are hoping the baby will fall asleep in it, which is dangerous! Hmm...just like making a baby sleep alone is dangerous. People will rather risk their little one's life than break from the mold. Ugh, I just feel so bad for the babies.

Anonymous said...

I hate to burst everyone's bubble but without a carseat a lot of babies would be dead. There are no perfect drivers. After being in a car accident when my child was very young less then one the car seat saved his life. The car seat is the safest place for your child when you are in a car not in your lap!

Lauren Wayne said...

Hi, anonymous — No one's suggesting not using a car seat in the car! It's the carrying around out of the car that's the problem.

Here's a quote from my article above: "I want to stipulate that I have no problem with infant car seats used in a car. Hooray for you for keeping your child safely buckled in."

I'm a proponent of extended rear facing and general car safety, but that's not what this post is about. Thanks for helping to clarify that, though.

Jenny said...

I am just seeing this post now and had to comment. We sell baby slings at work and there are frequently people who say "oh, it scares me to death to see women carrying their babies in THOSE THINGS. It looks like the baby could just fall right out!" I just want to say "Well, it scares ME when you leave your newborn on the floor by our front door in a bucket while you shop. It looks like someone could just step on him!" Or a child could cough on him, or a stranger could walk off with him. I have to admit, we used the car seat carrier at times (mostly in the winter so our daughter could stay covered or because she was asleep) but we never left her sitting around. And the funniest thing is, most of those carriers (plus baby) are considered too heavy for a freshly postpartum mom to lift. They are just not practical! Good to know that the Roundabout will work for a newborn though. We recently bought one of those and a Recaro convertible seat and were wondering if we'd have to use a bucket for a few weeks.

Lauren Wayne said...

That's funny! It's strange what seems dangerous or inconvenient to people — I usually have very different ideas. :) A sling or wrap spreads the weight out so nicely, but you'll often hear moms suppose that wearing their baby would hurt their backs vs carrying one of those heavy plastic things. ??

I will fully admit that we live in a mild climate, so I can't speak for the usefulness of keeping baby covered up in winter. That makes sense to me.

I'm thinking the Roundabout's weight minimum (5 lbs) would work for any newborn but a preemie, so I guess it would just depend how tall your newborn's torso is in terms of whether the minimum height will work. The lowest strap holes need to be at or below the shoulders. So here's hoping you'll be able to use your convertibles, but in the worst-case scenario, you'll have to run out and buy a bucket. At least they're pretty cheap. Was your first daughter on the bigger side? We did have to tuck cloth diapers around our newborn's head to offer a little more neck support, but otherwise he looked comfy.

Roxanne Beckford Hoge said...

The scariest thing I saw when I was pregnant with my twins was a couple entering the doc's office when I was leaving. The dad was toting TWO buckets for their two babies. He was the size of your average linebacker. I, however, am 5'2.5" and pretty small-boned. I almost started hyperventilating at the sight -- how would I carry my babies? Yep, in a sling (or two). Wish I had a dollar for every time someone would say, OMG, aren't they heavy? Not as much as 2 seats + 2 kids, lady!

Kacie said...

My baby went home in a convertible car seat, too. After losing his initial 10% bodyweight, he was only 5 lbs. 11 oz! Sooo little. And yet, he fit in his First Years True Fit nicely.

Did I mention it was -11F that day? Yeah. He was fine. I bundled my parka around us both, I did.

I always feel sad when I see babies chillin in their car seats. It's like, "I'll hold your baby if you don't wanna!"

Lauren Wayne said...

roxanne: All I can say is: Oof! I didn't even think about carrying twins in those stupid buckets.

kacie: Aw, what a sweet little snuggly baby you must have had! And as to your last sentence: YES!! That's exactly what I always feel. I have to stop myself from reaching in and snatching up their child.

Olivia said...

Ditto on everything you said. I have always thought carrying the baby buckets (yuck) looked so awkard, so hubby and I bought only convertable car seats. And the only advantage of the infant seats I've heard is the sleeping baby thing you mentioned.

I do feel a little sad when I have to wake my daughter to take her out of the car, but I figure it's a small price to pay. Besides, she almost always goes back so sleep once I put her in the sling.

I want to yell at parents "Pick up you baby!" whenever I see a babe, awake or sleeping, in a carseat outside the car.

Momma Jorje said...

I found that I generally had don't-wake-the-baby success if I pulled her directly from her car seat to my waiting breast. That's right, not just in my garage, but often outside I whipped out by breast before picking up my child. Then I'd carry her inside and lie on the floor with her while she settled back to solid sleep.

Though with my first I would unlatch the entire convertible car seat rather than wake her.

My other concern with leaving babies in the seats is that they hold so much heat! With Sasha rear-facing she gets no A/C except what floats over and onto her legs. Her legs get cold, but I pick her up and her back is sweating. Poor dear. The way the seats curve around your baby there is just no good airflow.

Unknown said...

I get annoyed every time I see someone carrying their baby in one of those car seats! It's like, how about just hold them! Or wear them. Literally every time I see it I'm bothered. Especially when the mother props up the bottle while the baby is laying inside. I've refrained from saying something (on numerous occasions ) but God do I want to. Just hold them and wear them and love them!

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