I feel like I grew up in an intermediate age in regards to the evolution of the infant car seat. I clearly remember my mother placing me on the seat next to her so that she could reach out her right arm whenever she stopped the car in order to prevent me from flying forward and hitting my head on the un-padded car dash.
She used the same routine with my younger brother and sisters, well into the 1960′s. In those days, seat belts were a rarely-ordered option on new cars – if they were available at all.
If I remember correctly, California mandated a bunch of smog and safety features in 1966 and these became federal requirements in 1968. Seat belts became a standard feature, but many people resisted their use, preferring the thought of being thrown clear in an accident rather than facing the possibility of being trapped by the seat belt and burned alive inside a wrecked car. (Sometimes I marvel that we managed to grow to maturity and pass our genetic material on to another generation at all!).
By the early 1980s, “baby carrier” designs had evolved to include provisions for securing them with the auto’s seat belt. There was not much thought given to keeping the baby secure inside the baby carrier, but the thought seemed to be that if the baby carrier was secure, the baby could pretty much bounce around inside the baby carrier and it was “good enough”.
But “the infant car seat” was beginning to appear also. These were somewhat similar to what we see today … except that they were simpler, lighter, and a whole lot less expensive! The car seat we used with Jeremy was plastic and was held in place with a seat belt. He was secured in the car seat with a three-point harness made from materials – both belt and buckle – similar to those used in automotive seat belts.
As he grew, he graduated to a larger car seat – I believe made by Graco – that had a chrome tubing frame that elevated him maybe 6 inches above the automobile seat. It placed him in an upright position and allowed him to see through the windshield. Again, he was secured with a three-point harness. By this time, his cooperation was required as he was quite adept at getting out of the car seat on his own when he decided that he wanted out.
If I remember correctly, the first time I had to visit a chiropractor was after I tweaked my back placing Jeremy into this car seat. Think of it … take child, bend 90 degrees at the waist, lean into car and extend arms holding child, twist (somehow) to the right to place child into the car seat …. and OUCH! … forget about standing up again. Yep. That is one vivid memory!
Eventually, the car seat was replaced by a simple “booster” seat. This just sat on the rear seat of the car and once Jeremy was in place, the automotive seat belt was stretched across in front of him, securing both the seat and its cargo into the car.
I confess to suffering from sticker shock after shopping with Jeremy and Mel for their “baby transport systems”. Science, government regulations, and inflation have all added to the cost of providing state-of-the-art safety for this most precious cargo. In some cases, the lineage of today’s models can easily be traced to those models I remember. Sometimes, today’s state-of-the-art car seat little resembles those of yesteryear. They are heavier, better-built, and probably safer – so I guess the cost makes sense.
And while you are counting the cost – check to see if your medical insurance covers chiropractic treatments. I highly recommend it!