The Car Seat Concierge
"Okay, so good first effort. But you actually threaded the seatbelt through the front facing loop, and not the rear facing loop, so this isn't installed correctly."
"B+ installation, honey", my husband added.
My first solo installation of our new convertible car seat was not off to a good start. After installing our infant car seat numerous times, I figured our new convertible "big boy" seat for our growing Chewbacca would be no problem at all. Luckily, I had signed up for a installation lesson with Kristin Driscoll of the Car Seat Concierges. In addition to being incredibly knowledgeable and a certified Child Safety Passenger Tech, Kristin has a great talent for giving instructions to hapless parents, without making them feel guilty or inept (of which I was both).
Upon having her first child, Kristin, like many first time parents, started doing research on how to install her first car seat, and realized that it wasn't exactly an easy process. She started reading manuals, going to the free clinics at Children's Hospital and the Fire Department, but realized there was a lot more to learn. Driven by a passion for children safety, she became a certified tech and started sharing her knowledge and experience with other parents. She started her own business with the Car Seat Concierge and offers lessons to parents of children of all ages to make sure they are correctly installing their car seats.
Kristin offers at-home consultations with dedicated, hands-on practice installing YOUR seat in YOUR car YOURself. While the free checks at the fire department and Children's Hospital are wonderful, often times you'll be competing for time with other parents. Additionally, they will check the seat for you, but they often won't have time to teach you how to do the install yourself. As Kristen recalled on her first car seat check, "once they installed the seat for me, I was terrified to take it out." For parents like myself who rely on Zip car, we're constantly installing our seat in new models of cars, so I needed to learn what to look for and how to know I had done it right. The Car Seat Concierge lessons are 100 dollars, but for that price Kristin will come to your home and schedule the lesson at a time most convenient for you, rather than trying to make it to the free drop-ins which are often during working hours. And she'll stay there and practice with you until you feel full comfortable.
Kristin began our lesson with a summary of basic car seat tips and practical knowledge. Some of my favorite tips were:
Car seats can get extra hot during the summer, so be sure to throw a towel or a blanket over the seat when you leave the car so it won't be so hot when you come back.
In the winter, it is unsafe to have any material more than 1/4 of an inch thick between your child and the straps. This includes the sleeping bag style blankets that we used constantly with Chewbacca (sorry, kiddo). Because the fabric in the back goes between your child and the strap, preventing a snug fit.
The middle of the back seat is statistically the safest place for the car seat to go.
After our basic overview lesson, Kristin had me install the car seat once on my own (which I completely failed). But, she kindly pointed out the things I had done right and then jumped right in the back seat to show me how to install it properly:
Kristin and I in the back seat doing our installation. Did I mention she was 5 months pregnant and a total trooper, pushing down on the seat and making sure it was snug?
She showed me some excellent tips for my particular model and then let me practice and practice and practice until I felt like I had it down. Our particular model can tip forward too much, so Kristin explained that you can use a stack of pool noodles (which she brought) to prop up the front of the seat. However, being very practical, she also explained that bringing pool noodles can mean one more thing to haul, so she showed me how to install the seat without it as well.
From there, we then put Chewbacca in his seat to make sure I could strap him in properly. Not surprisingly, the fit I had set previously was also improper. Turns out the top straps should be at or BELOW his shoulders (this is the point in the blog where everyone else says "of course that's how it's supposed to be, how come you don't know that, Leslie?" Well I didn't, so this is why I got the lesson.) We refitted his straps and she showed me just how tight it should be to be safe and comfortable.
Chewbacca lounging in his new throne...I mean car seat.
After my turn at the installation, Chewbacca's dad got a turn and got to practice until he felt comfortable as well. From start to finish, the lesson took about an hour and some change, and I felt so much more confident than before.
In addition to home visits, The Car Seat Concierge also offers consultations on what seats to buy next (which I know we're going to need to know, as Chewbacca is growing like a weed). The Car Seat Concierge is also offering discounted hour-long sessions at the Little Lovage Club in the South End on August 1st. You'll get the same great experience, but at a discounted rate because she won't be performing a home visit.
On the whole, I'd definitely recommend this service to new parents, and frankly any parents. Primarily because I was shocked when I was all done how much I thought I knew before, when in reality, I had no idea what I was doing. And, unlike a lot of other child-related things, I realized that with this one, it really is worth the price to make sure Chewbacca is as safe as he can be. So thanks so much to the Car Seat Concierges for helping me make sure that's the case.