Thursday, May 08, 2008

Aftermarket additions to infant car seats

We recently purchased a second infant car seat for two purposes. Primarily, this infant car seat was for use with the jogging stroller so my wife could get out and get exercise. Secondarily, we thought we could use this car seat in our Toyota Matrix which gets considerably better gas mileage than our Honda Pilot. After our first trip walk in the car seat yesterday, we noticed the that our little girl was very vertical and sleeping with her head slouched forward. So, thats no good. I decided to research the safety issues around after market additions...

The Kiddopotamus Snuzzler is the model we own and have already used in thr strollers. It claims the following:

Crash Tested for Safety
If you’ve done your parenting homework, you know that adding fluffy, squishy things to your baby’s car seat can compromise her safety, as the harness straps may not fit as snugly as necessary with all the cushioning around baby. Have no fear, Kiddopotamus knows all about baby safety. Snuzzler has no padding behind baby for the safest harness fit. It has undergone rigorous crash tests by accredited United States agencies to ensure that it conforms to federal standards.

While that might be so, the local experts at the hospital and fire stations still say not to use them. Not able to find any US government information about these aftermarket additions for head and body support, I found a Canadian website which talks about these very issues. The Snuzzler provides head and body support. So, I looked at those sections and saw the following:
Head Support Cushions: If the manufacturer incorporates a head support cushion with the restraint system, then the manufacturer has tested it for that model and make of restraint. Should a head support cushion that is purchased separately be used, then it is possible that the slots in the head support cushion may not line up with the slots in the restraint for the harness system. By re-routing the harness system to accommodate the aftermarket head support cushion, slack may be induced into the harness system, which may increase the likelihood of ejection from the car seat in the event of a crash.

Additional Padding Behind the Child: Any additional padding behind the child can induce both slack in the harness and additional compressibility. The Standard, which regulates children’s restraint systems, only allows for a certain amount of compressibility in the foam and material used. By increasing this amount, during a collision the additional foam/material can compress to the point that the harness system becomes very loose and therefore no longer is capable of restraining the child.

The Snuzzler does not have slots for harness in the head support and does not have additional padding behind the child. So, based on this Canadian website it seems that they are correct in their statement that the known problems are handled by the Snuzzler.

But, you can still find all sorts of statements like this:

An aftermarket product is anything that is not sold with your car seat. Shoulder belt positioning devices, seat belt tightening devices, head cushions and car seat covers are considered unsafe aftermarket products. It is never recommended that you use anything extra with your car seat without the express consent of the car seat manufacturer.

So, at this point we are not sure what to do. We will probably try the car seat again and make sure that our daughter is tight in her straps. Also, we may try to check out how she is in the car seat base rather than the stroller which seems to tilt her even more vertical than the seat already is.

Here are some pictures comparing our new car seat, a 2007 Peg Perego Viaggo SIP with our old car seat, a 2006 Chicco Keyfit which I think shows first that the head support for the Peg Perego is much higher and that the Chicco tilts back further. Both are at the lowest settings available.

Maybe this is a reason the Chicco did better on consumer reports? The only category the Chicco scored higher on was "ease of use." Not sure if this is ease of use or not.

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