My goal with this blog series is to answer car seat questions and explain some of the most common car seat mistakes I see. So, with this in mind, it would be difficult to write many more without first talking about a mistake I see more often than any other – use of the chest clip.
Before we talk about how it should be used, it’s important to first talk about why correct use is so important. Let’s think about how car seats with five-point harnesses (shoulder and lap straps, a chest clip, and a buckle) protect our kiddos in a collision. Every collision produces a crash force, and the job of the car seat is to distribute that crash force to the strongest parts of the child’s body (shoulder and hips) as well as over a greater surface area. The car seat also keeps the child properly positioned to protect their head and neck.
Why, then, is the position of the chest clip so important? Correct positioning is essential to keep your child restrained in the car seat, so the seat can do its job. To understand this better, let’s talk about proper positioning of the chest clip. For a newborn, the chest clip should be at nipple height. As your baby gets bigger, position the chest clip at armpit height. In a collision if the chest clip is too low, down near their stomach for example, the shoulder straps can become wide enough to allow the child to slip out of the upper part of the seat. This puts them at an increased risk of injuring the spine or neck, the head, or the abdominal organs. Theoretically, if the chest clip is too high, it could injure their airway in a collision, but the likelihood of this happening is low. This is mostly because during a collision, the chest clip usually moves down slightly.
Check out the blog image for correct chest clip positioning. And, if you want reassurance on how you’re using your child’s car seat, schedule a car seat installation check with me.