Just a note, please don’t take a shot every time I say rear-facing in this post. It’s not safe for your health. (picture of my toddler in a carseat safe jacket with her chest clip at the correct height.)
Rear-facing to maximums can come with it’s own set of troubles, and it can get frustrating when you’re trying to troubleshoot and are repeatedly told by friends/family/the internet to “just turn them around!” especially when you are committed to keeping your child rear-facing as long as safely possible. For a little bit of set up, my oldest turns 3 in January. She is 38 inches tall and just shy of 30 lbs. We have her in a Clek Fllo, which rear-faces to 43 inches tall and 50 lbs. If you’re new to extended rear-facing, the point is to keep your child in a carseat’s rear-facing mode until they’ve met either height or weight maximum. With our child’s dimensions, we most likely will hit height far before we ever hit weight on this car seat.
Where we ran into problems though, is that my toddler is highly agile, and when she gets irritated by something she will not rest until she’s lessened that feedback. For us, she would slide down chest clips and just slide her arms out of the car seat straps and once, we even caught her sitting in her carseat on top of her straps. She does it so quietly that often we wouldn’t even notice she was out of her carseat. And, no matter how much research you do on a carseat, or if you’re extended rearfacing, it’s pointless if your child isn’t in that carseat and fastened in securely.
I’m going to take you down a path with me on the modifications we tried (all recommended by car seat safety advocates such as Car Seats for the Littles, which is a resource I truly trust.
First Line of Defense: Car Seat Mirror
Now, obviously, nothing installed in the back seat of your car is going to be ideal since they are not actually crash tested and they can become projectiles in the event of a car accident. However, we were using it more as a case study to see if verbal correction could fix this situation. The passenger up front, as well as myself, could check periodically to see if she was messing with the chest clip. You’ll notice in the photo above that when we told her to put her chest clip back and stay in her car seat, she slid the clip all the way up to her throat. This made me think that this was more of a fidgeting situation, and we needed to take the control away from her to access that chest clip.
Of course, whenever we would notice she had moved the chest clip, we would pull the car over, put it back in place and firmly say that it’s not safe to move the clip and it’s there to protect her while we ride in the car. That the driver is in a car seat with a strap, the passenger is, and even baby sister. But, discussion of safety either will strike a chord with a toddler, or it’ll go right over their head. This went right over her head.
I should probably mention at some point that at no point did we spank or use any sort of corporal punishment for getting out of her car seat. It’s not a tool I use as a parent, and knowing my child best, I would never employ that sort of negative feedback with my children. Just clearing the air on that before we proceed.
Second Line of Defense: The Shirt
Now, this worked for a solid 3 weeks. We purchased a button up cotton shirt from the toddler section (the boys department was filled to the brim with lightweight ones). This was in the dead of summer, and we would put the shirt on her unbuttoned, strap her in and adjust her chest clip, then button up the shirt over the clasps and clips. She couldn’t get to the clasps and clips, so it became an out of sight out of mind thing,….until she figured out how to unfasten the buttons. That said, I’ve had a few friends who used this technique and found it highly successful, a couple of them were even able to do this technique for a few weeks on and then when they broke the habit they took the shirt away and their child still stayed in the car seat. For us, once she figured out how to unbutton the shirt, it was over.
Third Line of Defense: New Carseat
Nearly desperate, we took our struggle to the baby aisle at our local Target, Walmart, and Buy Buy Baby. Surely it was our Clek? Perhaps we just needed a new carseat. So, we took her in to the stores and made it a game, we would strap her in and time how fast she could get out of them. Friends, she escaped every one. There was one model at Walmart she didn’t get out of, so we paid them our $80 for a safety first model and took it home. I installed it in my back seat and she promptly escaped in under 2 minutes. So, I packed the thing back up and took it back to Walmart and we basically spent the next couple weeks insanely stressed. We discussed turning her forward facing even though we knew this could continue forward facing, and that this was resulting from boredom and a determination to not be strapped down.
Our Ultimate Solution
Late one night, after I’d had my heart jump out of my chest realizing my 2 year old was out of her car seat while I was driving on the freeway, I discovered this specific product on a Child Passenger Safety Technician forum. This simple yet effective product by Merritt, I only purchased the chest clip guard since the buckle has yet to be an issue. What makes this product insanely effective is the fact that she gets physical feedback when she tries to lower the chest clip that is not painful, but uncomfortable.
At $49.95, it’s not a super budget friendly option, but insanely less than a copay for the emergency room, let alone worse. The first time we used this new chest clip on our Clek, she had noticed her chest clip wouldn’t slide down by the end of our neighborhood, which to be honest, terrified me. We’ve been using this chest clip 3 months now, and it’s such peace of mind to know she’s safe, secure, and I can focus on driving.
Please note: I did not receive any benefits for sharing this review. I am not affiliated with Merritt, and purchased this item of my own money.