Jersey Shore star Deena Cortese gave birth to her son, Christopher John "CJ" Buckner, on Jan. 5. Since then, the proud mom has taken to Instagram to share some snaps of CJ on his way home from the hospital, but the sweet moment has spurred some major backlash on social media. So, why are some parents upset about Deena Cortese's car seat photo?
Cortese's 2019 kicked off with one of the most incredible moments of her life — the birth of her son, CJ. "Our Little Man has finally arrived Christopher John Buckner (CJ) born January 5th at 4:41 pm at a whopping 20.5 inches..6 Lb 8.5 ounces," she wrote on Instagram. "Ugh mommy and daddy love you so much CJ .. you're our everything i never thought i could love Chris anymore than i did until i saw him hold CJ."
Aww. It's clear Cortese is over-the-moon to be a parent.
Cortese's joy carried over into Monday, when she and her husband, Chris Bucker, took CJ home from the hospital. "Going home," she captioned the adorable shots of her little meatball.
But Cortese had to amend her cute message after some parents criticized her for CJ's clothing in the snap, which they argued was dangerous.
"Coat looks too thick for a car seat," one person commented on the photo.
Someone else said, "Onesie or not it’s way too thick. Car seat safety isn’t something to take lightly. I don’t care if it’s unwarranted advice I’ll say it to anyone."
(Swipe to the second photos in the slideshow below to see the car seat photo for yourself.)
The concern about wearing jackets in car seats is warranted. "As a general rule, winter coats should not be worn underneath a car seat harness because that can leave the harness too loose to be effective in a crash," according to Consumer Reports.
Although it's not as often discussed as other car seat hazards, the clothing your child wears while in a car seat is very important.
A helpful way to check if your child's coat is too puffy is to strap them into the car seat while they're wearing the jacket. Adjust the harness as needed and buckle them in, as Consumer Reports advised. Next, take your child out of the car seat and remove their coat, and once that is done, put them back into the car seat and strap them back in to perform "the pinch test," as seen in Safe Kids Worldwide's instructional video.
The test works like this: According to TODAY, "With your thumb and your index finger, pinch the harness near the child’s collar bone. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing when you pinch the strap, the harness is considered snug enough."
Cortese, however, said in an update to her post that CJ's clothing was hospital-approved. "It’s not a jacket .. it’s a onesie and hospital approved it ) we’re not perfect but we got this," she wrote on Instagram. "Thank you for the concerns."
Some fans sent Cortese supportive messages following the clarification, with one parent writing: "Such a scary and exciting time! Just remember you momma and everyone has 2 cent to put in... Fleece material is fine for the carseat. It's the snowsuits and coats you take off. My son is just turning 3 and we take his coat off every time…."
"For the people commenting regarding the car seat and the cute jacket he’s wearing, you’ve provided the information, she received it and made an informed decision," another person added. "Leave it alone already."
"It's legit freezing out today... I'm thinking this onesie is justified," one fan commented. "Not a puff jacket people. Relax. Let these two new parents make it thru their front door. My word."
Lorrie Walker, a training and technical advisor at Safe Kids Worldwide, spoke with Romper on the phone about the backlash surrounding Cortese's photos.
First and foremost, Walker acknowledges that every new parent "needs a little help at the beginning," which Cortese is no exception to. Cortese gets points from Walker for using a car seat in the first place, stating: "I think she did great by having a car seat at the hospital and leaving with the baby fully restrained. She got the big first part of it down, now we just have to tweak it a bit."
As for the tweaking part? Walker believes CJ's car seat harness could be more snug. She says: "It could be tighter. And I can see that this isn’t [a] down jacket, but I don’t want to get into how puffy the coat might be because it’s different for each baby and car seat."
Walker also acknowledges the backlash here might be blown out of proportion. "This is something she could do better, but she didn’t create any disaster that could kill her baby or be dreadfully harmful to her baby," she shares. "We can make it better, though."
If Cortese wants to brush up on the pinch test, she — and any other parent out there — can visit Safe Kids Worldwide's web app on the subject. Walker says:
We have a wonderful web app. It’s free and it’s available in English and Spanish and it actually illustrates what the pinch test is and how to do it on your child. You’re not going to pinch your baby, you’re going to pinch the straps. Then you’re going to tighten the harness so it gets sufficiently tightened. We don’t want to put big indentations in the baby’s shoulder, we don’t want the baby to be red and sore when they arrive at their destination. But we want it to be as tight as it can be and comfortable for the baby.
The best part about the app? You can put your baby’s weight and age to customize it, or you can make it more general.
Another important point to keep in mind is that the pinch test applies outside of the winter months. "This isn’t only in the winter time," Walker says about the pinch test. "In the spring or the fall, they might have a light jacket on."
If they have a light jacket on, Walker recommends "covering the baby with a blanket once the harness is already on there."
As Cortese pointed out in her Instagram post, she has this situation handled. Although I'm sure she appreciates the feedback because it generally comes from a well-intentioned place, it's probably a good idea to give the new mom some space to breathe and the benefit of the doubt.