5 Car Seat Hacks That Are Actually Dangerous, From An Expert Who's Seen It All

Ad failed to load

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.

Ad failed to load

"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.

Ad failed to load

1Forehead Slings

Giphy

We all know what it's like to peek back at our sleeping tot and cringe at the seemingly unnatural angle of her neck. That's why it's no surprise that some parents are using "forehead slings," which are essentially strips of fabric attached to elastic that slip over your child's forehead and around the top of the car seat to keep their chins from falling forward as they doze. But as uncomfortable as "head flop" might look, Walker advises against using these. In some car seats, she explains, a child's head and neck are actually meant to move in a crash as the energy from the impact is being absorbed by the car itself. Safety in a collision is, of course, much more important than a cozy sleeping position.

2Head Cushion/Neck Supports

Giphy

As with the forehead slings mentioned above, parents generally resort to head supports and neck pillows because their little ones seem fidgety and ill-at-ease in their car seats. And because many of these additions are sold by reputable manufacturers, we assume they're safe... but the truth is, if an insert wasn't designed to go with your specific seat, then it might not be safe at all.

"Lots of times parents will say 'My baby looked so uncomfortable I added a pillow, etc.,'" says Walker. "But we don't want anything that gives the opportunity to create space between the child and the seat," she adds, and that includes inserts. If your child hates his car seat and long rides are a nightmare, try making frequent stops instead.

If your little one really does need extra support, stick to whatever your car seat's manufacturer sells as an official addition to the model.

3Blankets

Giphy

Keeping your child warm in a car seat during the winter can be a tricky proposition indeed, considering that most experts advise against buckling your baby in while she's wearing a jacket (which can interfere with the fit of the harness). But buckling her in sans outerwear and using a blanket over the straps can present problems, too, says Walker, particularly in a crash: If the car rolls over, a blanket can smother your child (and it might not be made of the same flame-resistant material as the car seat). If you're worried about transporting your baby from a building to the car, it's better to go with a car seat cover made specifically for your car seat (are you sensing a theme here?). And once the car is warm enough, you can remove it.

Ad failed to load

4Toys or Mirrors

Giphy

We know, we know...kids get really, really bored in the car (which means they get really, really cranky). As such, you've probably considered adding a few dangling toys to hang from the handle or maybe a mirror that allows you and your lonesome rear-facing baby to make eye contact... but toys can be come projectiles in the event of a collision, unfortunately. As for mirrors?

"Get rid of mirrors," says Walker, for one simple reason: Parents should be keeping their eyes on the road!

5Skipping the Top Tether

Giphy

Not every car seat comes with a top tether, as Walker explains (some rear-facing models in particular don't have them). But many seats do, and alarmingly, many parents don't bother to use them (one study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that only half of car seats were attached by the top tether and most parents assumed it wasn't a necessary measure to take). If your seat has a top tether, Walker says, by all means use it: This can significantly reduce your child's risk of being injured in a crash!

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}