Car seat accessories are not as safe as you might think

As parents, we want our children to be as comfortable and trendy in their car seats as possible. We want to do what is best for them, and that is exactly as it should be. The thing is: different rules apply for car seats and road safety for children.

Car seats are designed to keep our children safe from harm during a crash. Always keep that in mind when you purchase your car seat and accessories to go with it. Car seats are also ergonomically designed with the comfort and safety of your child as a priority. Bear in mind that babies have much lighter and more flexible bodies than we do and they are quite comfortable in their car seats as is.

Extra padding is a big no-no.

Broken car seat with extra padding
Extra padding is a no-no

All that extra foam, batting, blankets and such that you insert in your car seat do not really add to their comfort and all it does is push them out of the safety zone of the seat! The seat can no longer perform as it should and your child is in danger of serious injuries during a crash.

Neck cushions for babies are the next big parenting trap we fall into.

Baby and toddler seats are designed for sleeping babies and you should first check that the angle at which your seat is installed is correct. Some baby seats have level indicators, but toddler seats do not. Sometimes your baby’s head falls forward and yes, airway obstruction is a huge issue.

Baby wearing neck pillow in car seat
There is a right way and a wrong way to use neck cushions

The best thing to use is a rolled-up cloth nappy under their chin and on the shoulder. You do get lovely neck cushions, but there is a right way and a wrong way to use them! These neck cushions must never push your baby’s head forward. This will cause the dreaded airway obstruction and baby might not get enough oxygen to the brain. Never keep your child in a car seat for longer than two hours. Take a break regularly and give them an opportunity to stretch their legs. You need the break too.

The other device that I have seen popping up all over the pace is the headband. No, no, and again no! There are huge and violent forces involved in a crash – I cannot stress this fact enough. A band like this can strangle your child or decapitate them. They are so cute, I know, but please do not use them!

It would be impossible to list all the variations on the theme here, but here are the criteria for head supports:

  • They must not push your baby’s head forward. This means that the cushion must be quite thin behind their heads and only have side support.
  • They must not interfere with the correct working of the car seat and harness during a crash.
  • The head support must not pose a danger of strangulation during a crash.
  • It must be easy to use.

There are quite a few products available on the market to keep your little one safely sleeping in their seat. I do not advise them as very few of them have been crash-tested. Remember, we are trying to keep our children from harm during the event of a crash. There are huge forces involved in a crash and their little bodies cannot cope with it. Car seats are engineered to keep them safe as is – the rest is up to you.