Keeping Our Babies Safe in Motion - Page 2

Author // Bridget Horan, DC, DACCP

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Keeping Our Babies Safe in Motion
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The 5-Step Safety Belt Test

  1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
  2. Do the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
  3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
  4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
  5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, your child needs a booster seat to make both the shoulder and lap belt right for the best crash protection. You can also find additional information at

After reading this, there is no reason not to have your child in their car seat every time they are in a vehicle. It does require extra planning sometimes. You have to think ahead when you are traveling. You need to decide if you are going to take your child’s car seat on the plane with you, or are you going to arrange for a car seat for the rental car. I have never had a problem getting a car seat, both an infant and a toddler seat, when I have rented a car. In my experience, limo and taxi services don’t have car seats available because they are not legally obligated to. It is necessary to bring your own. Hopefully, after reading this article, you will take the time to do the extra planning.

Another tempting scenario occurs when your baby is crying too hard in the car seat while you are traveling and you don’t think you can stop anywhere. It really isn’t worth it to take your child out of his seat. Your child is safer crying in the seat than out of the seat. I can’t begin to count the amount of times I pulled over into a parking lot to take care of my crying infant. I would just jump in the back seat and nurse him. It usually didn’t take longer than 10–15 minutes. He was soothed and ready to ride again. Some other helpful tools for the fussy car rider are to be sure he is comfortable in his seat and that nothing is pinching or too tight. Have some car toys handy, play soothing music, use a window shade if the sun is a problem, and sometimes even a window slightly open to allow a little airflow will calm your baby down. You can try to plan your car rides during naptime, and if all else fails, plan your trips when someone else is home to watch your child.

No matter how careful we are and how well we plan, accidents happen. Although accidents can be devastating for the whole family, our small children are especially at risk. According to the American Chiropractic Association Council on Occupational Health, the weight of the head of a child makes the cervical spine much more vulnerable to injury. The infant has little control in the muscles of the neck, and the head can bounce from side to side and fall forward, which can cause serious spine and neck injury.7 Children have more flexible upper bodies and shoulders. This is why it is so important to have the belts fastened correctly. Consequently, the head and cervical spine of a newborn are the most likely to be injured.8 Be sure the harness comes all the way up, over the shoulders. This is also why there is a need for these specially designed child safety seats. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Kentucky and reported in Nation’s Health found a 37% drop in infant fatalities since 1982, ever since the state law mandated the use of child car seats.7 Of course, these fatal injuries are the ones we want to protect our children from the most. It has been noted that some soft tissue injuries and strains to the neck and low back may be caused by the seat belts themselves. Even though these spinal injuries can be very serious, a child under the age of 4 is still 10 times more likely to be killed if they are unrestrained.9 Because of these injuries, it is important to have any injury, no matter how small you think it is, assessed by your chiropractor. Your chiropractor can examine your child and determine the extent of the injury along with developing a treatment plan for the resolution of such injury. Injuries can even occur when there is no collision. It has been found that sudden swerves, stops, and turning corners cause movements of children in a vehicle and subsequent injury.9 Even though your child may not complain of pain, he may have other symptoms indicative of cervical spine injury. A wide range of pediatric symptomatology may result from a suboccipital strain including fever of unknown origin, loss of appetite, sleeping disorders, asymmetric motor patterns, and alterations of posture.10 Your chiropractor can determine if any of these symptoms may be caused by injury to your child’s spine. So, if you were ever in an accident, it would be in the best interest of your family to have everyone in the car get their spine checked as soon as possible.

The qualities of our child safety seats are constantly improving, as are the vehicles we ride in. This article is not meant to scare you from ever taking your child in the car, but to educate you on how to keep your children securely fastened and protected in the car as possible. I hope when you are finished with this magazine, you will find the manual to your car and car seat and be sure your seat is properly installed.

Buckle up and set a good example for your children by using your seat belt every time you drive. Happy travels to you and your family.

Pathways Issue 14 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #14.

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