Not all modern day baby gear is indispensable, but there are some things we truly can't live without as parents, and car seats are at the very top of that list. After all, you can't even drive your baby away from the hospital without one. Still, as life-saving and truly essential as these contraptions are, they can also be frustrating to figure out, hence the popular hacks you see on the internet that enterprising parents have invented, because we're all looking for ways to make using the dang things easier. But are these car seat hacks actually dangerous? Turns out, yes.
We consulted Lorrie Walker, training manager and technical advisor for the Safe Kids Buckle Up Program, for her take on some of the shortcuts and additions used by well-meaning (but perhaps ill-informed) moms and dads to improve car seat travel... and it turns out almost anything you do beyond exactly what it says in the directions that came from the manufacturer with your individual car seat could be dangerous. "You have to follow the instructions for your particular seat," Walker tells Romper. "Not your neighbor's seat, not the one you saw on the internet... your seat!"
There's a very important reason for this: While you might think many car seats are similar enough, they're really not; even the most seemingly insignificant features are part of a specific architecture meant to keep your baby safe in a crash.
"Don't overthink what engineers have designed," says Walker.
The single most important thing you have to be concerned about is making sure that your little one's car seat is installed correctly. Sounds obvious, but a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study revealed that 46% of car seats and boosters are used incorrectly, reported Kid Sitting Safe. If you misplaced the directions that came with your seat, you can usually find them online by looking up the make and model; you can also seek help from a certified child passenger safety technician (Google someone in your area), and some local fire and/or police stations also offer assistance to parents, too.
Even if your car seat is safe and secure, you might be tempted to make some adjustments. Maybe your child doesn't seem quite comfy enough, or you're looking for a way to keep her entertained, or you think you can rig the seat to make it even more secure. Whatever hack you're looking to try... well, you probably shouldn't. Here are a few car seat hacks you should avoid.