There’s a reason car seats have a harness, so it makes sense to understand it properly. The most common type of safety harness is known as the 5-point harness. You’ll find it on every car seat in your child’s journey except a belt-positioning booster. Infant seats, all-in-one seats, combination seats…they all have them.
Quiz time! Which are the five areas the harness makes contact on the body?
It’s called a 5-point harness because, just like the name suggests, it makes contact with five different places on your child’s body. If you answered both shoulders, hips and between the crotch then well done, that’s correct! And if you didn’t know the answer this time don’t worry, that’s why you’re here! You might be wondering “Why those five areas?”, and that’s because they are the strongest parts of your child’s body. The reason for a 5-point harness being positioned across these areas is to evenly spread any crash force across the body, almost like a compass guiding the force in different directions.
So, how do we harness our Very Important Passenger in their car seat correctly? Let’s start at the beginning!
Harnessing will vary depending on the mode your child’s car seat is being used.
Rear-facing harness straps should be at or just below their shoulders.
Forward-facing harness straps should be above their shoulders.
Things to look out for include both straps going through the correct harness slots and making sure the straps aren’t twisted. Twisted straps are less likely to distribute crash forces properly which can lead to injury.
When your child is positioned in their seat the next step is to ensure a snug fit. This is where most mistakes are made as you might feel it’s too tight or uncomfortable for your child and fail to get the proper fit. Once the harness is buckled, the “Pinch Test” will help you overcome this. Using your finger and thumb, try to pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder.
If you can pinch the strap together, give another pull on your harness adjuster strap. If you can’t pinch the strap together then the harness is properly tightened. Remember, it just needs to be snug, not super tight. You don’t want the harness to press into your child’s flesh or cause them discomfort. The last step is to buckle the chest clip and position it at armpit level.
Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Below are some common mistakes that parents make when harnessing their children in their car seats. We’ve put together some key tips so you can avoid these mistakes and make sure your child rides as safely as possible.
For children traveling in rear-facing car seats, the harness prevents their body from moving upwards against the force of a forward crash. For that reason, the harness should be close to your child’s shoulder. You should not be able to see the straps above the shoulder, instead, they should be just below their shoulders. Easy as that! When forward-facing, remember that the harness should be above the shoulder, similar to the way a seatbelt is positioned for adults so we’re able to lean into it.
The chest clip is there to make sure the harness straps are positioned correctly at the shoulders. Armpit level is where it should be positioned. If it’s positioned too low on your child’s belly, it can put too much pressure on the abdomen. A low chest clip can also cause the harness straps to be loose or not positioned correctly. This increases the chances of the straps falling off your child’s shoulders which could cause your child to be ejected from their seat in a crash. If the chest clip is too high, it can press against your child’s throat or neck and cause injury in a crash.
We recommend using the pinch test before each journey to ensure a secure and snug fit. As parents we understand the concerns you may have about making your child uncomfortable or harnessing too tight. Remember that the harness straps are designed to keep your child restrained properly in a crash. If they are too loose there is an increased risk of your child slipping out of their car seat or being ejected in a crash. Learning the pinch test will give you confidence that the harness straps are tight enough, but not too tight!
No Winter Jackets
When traveling during colder weather, don’t dress your child in thick clothing or jackets. All that extra material takes up space between your child and the harness and prevents the harness from fitting properly. Instead, dress your child in a sweatshirt or light fleece jacket and buckle them in using our tips to make sure the harness is properly tightened. Then place a warm blanket over your child or put their winter jacket on them backward. They’ll be safe AND warm!
Routing the Harness Straps
Verify that the harness straps are in the correct harness slots. You can double-check this by looking at the back of the car seat and making sure the straps are in the right slots. Sometimes the slots in the cover may not line up with the slots in the seat shell so don’t skip this tip!
That’s it! Super easy, right? By following the directions in your manual and using these tips, you’ll be confident in knowing that your child is properly harnessed and riding as safely as possible. Thanks for reading! We hope the #joyofthejourney follows you wherever you go!