Worried about safety of friend's baby - how to bring it up?

My friend Tina has two sons. Joey is 6 1/2, and Chris is just one week old. They all came over today after Chris’s doctor appointment, and we just sat around and chatted. When they were leaving, I went outside with them to get my mail. I noticed that it looked like the shoulder straps of Chris’s car seat weren’t very tight (like she just put them over his shoulders and didn’t snug them up). I wasn’t sure how to mention it, so I just asked if they had ever gone to the fire department to make sure that the car seat was installed properly, because we never had. You know, trying to make it sound like casual conversation.

She said, “No. We don’t have the base for his car seat, because it was recalled.”

I said :dubious: to myself, and said, “Oh really? And they didn’t send you a new one or tell you where to get a new one?”

She said, “No. Besides, this one’s more than five years old. I couldn’t buy a new one now if I wanted to.” And she just set the car seat down on the seat of the car and put the seat belt through the slots on it and went on her merry way.

So, she’s using a car seat that’s 6 1/2 years old (it must have been Joey’s) with no base, and then not even bothering to tighten down the straps over the baby’s shoulders!

Basically, I want to know if anyone has ever been able to bring up something like this with a friend in a nice way, because I’m really concerned for her baby’s safety.

I wouldn’t attempt to bring it up, but perhaps you could buy a new one for them and give it as a ‘belated’ shower gift?

I agree. If you can afford one, buy it for them. They are very expensive! I know some communities have loaner programs for people who can’t afford them. You might want to check into that.

There really isn’t a nice way to say “you are a bad Mom” No matter how you say it, its going to come across as “you are a bad Mom.”

If money is the true issue, find a way to buy her a carseat (could a bunch of girlfriends pitch in? Or do you know someone whose baby just outgrew one that isn’t five years old)?. However, I suspect that from the “not tightening the straps” part of the post, more is going on here than money. Is your friend suffering from PPD? Is she just overtired? Still recovering? Is she that casual with the safety of her oldest? Its possible she’s just one of those “whatever” mom’s whose children seem to need charmed lives to survive. Or she might just be at the end of the rope. How you deal with it depends on her personality. Can you take the six year old for a weekend? Even that might help.

A week old baby, a six year old, and broke - I’d be ready to slit my wrists (course, I had PPD, so it was sort of a touch and go time).

Thanks for your replies. I’m currently at home with our ten-week-old son, so buying them a new one just isn’t an option (ours was a gift from my dad). However, we do have a mutual friend whose son is just over a year old. I’m going to ask her what she did with hers.

Honestly, I can’t quite figure out why she had a second child. She sure as hell didn’t want the first one (she was unmarried and 19 - he was truly an accident). And her new husband was A-OK with not adding to the family - ever. (Joey is a bit of a handful, to put it nicely, even now that he’s on Adderall.) I don’t know if she thought she was supposed to want more kids, or if she wanted to see if she could do better the second time around. IMHO, she isn’t a great mom. She’s not outright bad (no abuse or neglect), but just very inconsistent and short-tempered.

Anyway - I’m going to see if a newer one is available. I’ll try to figure out some way to bring it up without saying “I noticed that you were endangering your child the last time you left our house. Would you please not do that anymore? Thanks - it had me worried.”

As I recall, those infant ones that don’t convert for an older child aren’t that high. My kid is 7 though,so it’s possible they don’t even make them anymore; the convertable ones were new when he was just too old for the infant seat. But if they do, maybe that would be more manageable for you to buy for her.

My local Goodwill has car seats for about $20, and I’ve seen them at other used stores like Once Upon a Child for around the same price. If you’re worried about the hygiene aspects, you could bleach it down, but my grandmother has bought a lot of baby stuff there and it’s always been clean.

If you do give her one, tell her that your cousin (or another friend or whoever) gave it to you and you don’t have any room for it. Make it sound like a favor if she’d take it off your hands. That way, her pride isn’t wounded, nor does she get the idea you may have rushed out to get her an appropriate car seat.

It sounds like she is an indifferent mom. Honestly, we’ve put distance between ourselves and those sorts of friends. I just couldn’t take being the “responsible” one when we were around them. They’d parent through benign neglect, I was rescuing their child from falling into the portapotty at the park. Once we had kids it became worse, because their kids didn’t have proper boundries and my kids wanted to know why they couldn’t (insert dangerous, unhealthy, or just plain ill mannered activity here.) So we don’t see them anymore.

Wait a sec, what’s wrong with using an older model carseat? As long as it hasn’t been in a accident, and it was the base that was recalled, not the entire seat, it should be perfectly fine. And older carseats were base OPTIONAL, not base only the way newer carseats are. Those slots are designed to hold a seatbelt if you don’t want to use the base. The bases were phased in as a potential convenience so you didn’t have to do the seatbelt every time, but the seats worked just fine without them.

The straps not being tight is another matter. That is important, no matter what the age of the carseat. It may be that she doesn’t know how to adjust them, or they’ve gotten sticky or hard to move with age. If it were me, I’d start playing with the straps next time she and the car seat are in my living room. While I fiddled, I’d say something like, “Wow! These are really hard to adjust, aren’t they?” And keep fiddling. Take them in while you’re fiddling and leave it at that.

Depending on your state, this may be illegal. It’s illegal to sell or even give away a used carseat in Illinois, because you can never be certain it wasn’t in an accident and therefore damaged invisibly. Obviously, I’ve accepted and given carseats to my friends because I believe them when they tell me it’s not been in an accident, but I’d never accept a used carseat from a stranger or resale shop.

Bingo. It’s really a tough call. I’ve known her since we were in high school, and she lives less than 20 minutes away. It would be really really hard to distance ourselves from them after more than ten years. I didn’t agree with 95% of the way she raised her first one, and don’t know what’s going to be so different with #2. I have a feeling we won’t be spending much time at their house as the boys grow up. Not necessarily because the rules are so different, but the enforcement measures are worlds apart. So I’m being woefully optimistic when I think that maybe - just maybe - I could be a good influence on her in regards to parenting? :frowning: (This is the person who told me I shouldn’t hold my two-month-old while he sleeps - I’ll spoil him.)

(bolding mine) This may be the case - I’m not sure. However, our car seat (purchased this year) has a big notice on the base that it is not to be used after 2010 or 2011. Why? I dunno. Is it a racket to get you to buy a new one, or a genuine concern that the safety measures will be so much greater in five or six years that you’re putting your kid at danger to use the old one?

Anyway - the mutual friend with a one-year-old has her infant car seat, but it’s in storage while she and her husband look to buy a house. As soon as she can get it out, she’s going to offer it to Tina.

Thanks for the replies. I’ve always felt like I didn’t have “the right” to voice my concerns about her parenting choices because I wasn’t a mom myself (I’m sure some of you can relate!). Now, I’m an expert - right?!? :smiley:

I bet the car seat manufacturers love that law! :smiley:

I don’t believe there is such a law in my state, especially since there’s a huge industry around used baby stuff and many, many stores openly sell them (and advertise that they have them.)

I’m certainly no expert, but it seems like to me that an accident severe enough to damage a car seat would leave some visible signs when you inspect it. Car seats aren’t exactly complicated machinery. I would imagine that a severe impact would have left marks on the places where the seatbelt rubs against the seat and on the clasps themselves.

Giving the buckles a few sharp, hard tugs should show you if the clasps are working properly. (I would imagine that an adult could pull hard enough to replicate the force that a 10 lb. baby would exert on a carseat.)

Lastly, is it true that an accident always renders a seat useless? My aunt was in a terrible crash with her baby in the car. (They ended up upside down.) The seat she was using did not appear damaged, so she kept using it with no ill effects (and she was in another accident no too long after that.)

Personally, I would say something like “wow, until I became a mom myself, I had NO idea how much stuff there was to keep track of! like I just adjusted babyAvarie’s carseat straps because I found out I had them too loose - did you know you’re just supposed to be able to fit one finger in between the chest strap and your baby’s chest?”

If she does nothing with the information, at least you will know you have tried. The carseat’s age sucks, at least in Canada it is stated that you should not use a carseat that is more than 5 years old, due to safety standards etc - the older ones aren’t reliably up to snuff. But there’s probably not much you can do about that, unless you are able to find her a cheap, better one through the grapevine.

When I had my baby in October I got a zillion pamphlets about resources, mommy groups, etc. Do you know about any of those in your area? Perhaps you could pass the information on to her, really casually.

The structure and safety of the car seat could indeed be compromised by an accident. If you know a carseat has been in an accident, you are not supposed to re-use it - it should be destroyed and dumped. The plastic shell could easily have small cracks or have flexed too much, and could be useless in a future accident. Your aunt and your cousin were extremely lucky.

Have you seen the movie “Fearless”? It replicates the force exerted on a baby in its mothers arms during a car accident - I have no idea how true it is - but it graphically contradicts your statement that “an adult could pull hard enough to replicate te force that a 10 lb baby would exert on a carseat”.

A baby’s safety is worth the $$$ for a new carseat imho.

My sister-in-law was in a car accident with her (then) two year old and her four week old baby. Airbags went off, car was declared totaled, Mom and two year old had bruises–Mom’s were worse, baby woke up, cried briefly and then went back to sleep–causing worse panic than if she’d kept crying.

A week later they checked with the local fire department which was checking car seats. The consensus was that there was no visible damage to the seats, but the plastic might have been stressed in ways not visible to the eye and should not be used. Baby got a free infant seat given to them on the spot, the two year old might have, had they not been able to assure the fire department that the seat in the car (and thus in use) was not the one which had been in the accident. (Two car family, two carseat family–more or less).

Despite that, or perhaps because of that, my brother and his wife were kind of left with the feeling that the seats they would no longer be using were probably mostly safe–it’s just that the fire department for fear of liability/etc. would not certify as safe any seat which had been in a car accident. Safety inspector was also unsympathetic to bruises on two year old–straps should have been tight enough that she couldn’t move that much, probably meaning so tight she couldn’t wiggle, which makes for unhappy child, and thus unhappy driver. As I am not a parent or a child safety seat expert, I am not picking sides in this debate.

My guess is that the “expiration date” on carseats has to do with compliance with a law which is based on assumptions about how well plastic ages, or how many times one can use a buckle without it wearing out or maybe just a law trying to make it easier to detect a carseat older than 5 years, something vague and not neccessarily stupid, but also something not neccessarily likely to make car seats sold in 2010 or 2011 substantially safer than a car seat sold now.

My manual warns that the seat may be damaged but not visibly. Microscopic cracks in the plastic can rapidly give way in a second accident.
The American Academy of Pediatrics warns against used carseats:

I’m not a math and physics person, but this site mentions that an unrestrained 10 pound infant can fling forward with a force of 300 pounds in an accident. *I *can’t pull a strap with 300 pounds of force.

Obviously, a used seat is better than no seat at all. And, since my cite says 6 years is the limit, it may be better than the seat the OP’s friend is using now. But I do see why such laws are made prohibiting the sale of used carseats.

My family passed down the same car seat for twenty years. It was very sturdy and still looked fresh when my sister (who was the last to use it) was using it. I think that as long as the seat is not broken and does not grossly violate safety laws there is no harm in using an older seat; older things were made to last and I can’t see car seat technology changing that much in 6.5 years. (Of course someone will come along and say that your child will DIE if they use something more than a year old, so YMMV.)

The part about the loose straps does sound worrisome though.

Ten years is nothing. We’ve dropped friends of twenty years like hot potatoes over kid issues. Kids just CHANGE things. You know the old saying that you should never sleep with a friend and expect it to be the same - cause sex changes everything - holds for kids, too. And when they are their kids and your job is to be the “responsible adult”, yes, you can hope to help influence them. But once your dear little angel is in the mix, do you want to risk the influence going the other way…? It isn’t too many years from now when her kids will be bringing yours outside, away from your eyes, down into the basement, to teach them poop jokes and eat the m&ms they pilfered from the cabinet (your kids always asked before). Then it will be “what do you mean, your mom hasn’t let you watch Chuckie’s Revenge - its so cool when the blood splatters all over the place!” And who knows what else.

We have really good friends who are childless. But they have a poorly parented neice and nephew that they spend a lot of time being a good influence on. And sometimes that means that we see them with their surrogate children. And Brainiac4 and I always cringe on these occations, and avoid the ones where their mom is around (they are much better behaved kids when being parented by our friends).

The nice thing is that kids change things. You’ll get busy. She’ll get busy. Suddenly, you won’t have time and distancing yourself will become easy. If you really enjoy her - but not her parenting style - make her one of your grown up friends - I have girlfriends I see regularly, but seldom see their kids.

Concerning the expiration dates: Have you looked at 10 year old plastic? Especially plastic that has been left in a hot car most of it’s life? Some of it is fine, some if it looks awful. I would hope that car seats are made of the better quality plastic, but some parts of them may not be. Weakest link, and all that. I wouldn’t risk it.

I stand corrected.

I should have thought about natural breakdown of the plastic. It’s my nemesis at work.

Thanks to Whynot for backing up my woefully cite-less posts. :slight_smile:

As to using the same carseat for 20 years - WTF?!?! That seems recklessly cheap to me.