Becoming a CPST: My Story

(Last Updated On: September 29, 2020)

In honor of CPST month, we depart from our usual format of informative articles and reviews to bring you a first-person account of Lani’s journey to becoming a CPST.   We hope that sharing this story inspires other parents to become CPSTs or learn more about child passenger safety!

The Maxi Cosi Mico, in a color to suit all tastes

The Maxi Cosi Mico, in colors to suit all tastes

Summer, 2012. My husband and I were expecting our first child, and like many expectant parents nowadays, I tried to do as much research as I could on which car seat to get.  Here is what my research showed: there was a seat that came in orange! Orange, I felt, was the perfect baby gear color, and as a bonus it would match our orange stroller. The Maxi Cosi Mico in orange was my choice.

Car seat adventures awaited!

Winter, 2012. At just over 36 weeks gestation, my 4 pound daughter came into the world via emergency C-section. She was whisked off to the NICU. Thankfully she was medically ok, but she needed to learn how to eat. Unfortunately, she was not interested in this mini-curriculum of ours, and she lost weight.

And then, finally, her weight got back up to 4 pounds, and we were advised that discharge would be soon. Terrific!  But then I got a text from my husband late one night during his NICU-sitting shift. “Nurse wants to know what car seat we got.”  I answered, “Maxi Cosi Mico.”  His reply: “Nurse says that starts at 5 lbs. We need a diff one.” (Note: The Mico does have current models which do accommodate 4 pound babies. But they did not in 2012.)

Chicco Keyfit 30, in orange of course

What? I was so surprised. Didn’t all infant car seats fit all infants?  Apparently not.  I furiously researched and cross-referenced to see if there were any other orange car seat with a 4 pound lower weight limit which fit on our stroller. Good news: There was one!  The Chicco Keyfit 30.  The next morning, during my NICU shift, my husband quickly went to the store and picked one up and lugged it up to the hospital room.

NICU car seat test

NICU car seat test

The doctor and nurses informed us that they’d be doing a “car seat test” to make sure the baby could breathe ok in the car seat. Fine with me — car seat meant leaving soon!  As I had no clue about anything car seat, the nurse put her in the seat. And then, my tiny little girl, who hadn’t let out as much as a peep during her whole NICU stay, started crying. A lot. I asked the nurse if I could just take her out of the seat for a minute. Nope. I shoved a pacifier in her mouth to try to stop the crying.  She wasn’t really interested.

Thankfully, in the middle of our 90 minute test, the crying stopped. Yay!  I peeked down at my little girl. Had things improved for her? As I was contemplating this idea, I heard a beeping. It was her monitor. I looked up and panicked.  The oxygen reading, which had been a perky green color, had now turned a nasty shade of red. 89, 88, 87… beep beep beep.  Then, she gasped and the green came back. The nurse came in a moment later and took her out of the seat.

Well, to make a long story shorter, the nurse and doctor informed me that although my baby had failed the test, we could take her home if we made sure to pull over and take her out of the seat if she stopped breathing or looked blue. (Note: This is NOT the correct advice.  If a baby has failed the test, they should not be sent home in that car seat until they pass the test in it, or other options such as a car bed should be tested and considered.)

Home and slightly bigger than a box of wipes

My husband had a CPST at the hospital install the seat. They showed him how to install it, but I didn’t care. I hated this thing that had made her stop breathing! We got her home, and I was in a panic.  I severely restricted her time in the car, and whenever I did drive, I had my husband or my mother accompany me and sit next to her.

And then, after three months of this, in the middle of a cold and snowy New England winter, we decided to take a trip to Los Angeles, where we would decide to move to a few months later.  I knew one thing: I could not take that Chicco Keyfit with me. (Note: It’s actually a great seat for preemies! Read on!) I went to the baby store and came home with a Graco Snugride Click Connect 35. (In green! I was branching out.)

But this time, I decided to do something I hadn’t done before: read the manual.

I learned so many things.  I learned that it could be installed without the base! I watched a video on this, practiced, and planned to do this for our trip. I learned that many car seats’ inserts are removable, and when I checked the Keyfit manual, lo and behold, I learned that head pillow was removable. Removing it likely would have changed my daughter’s results on the test as her head would have been able to lean back, which would have opened up her airway. I learned that strap covers are removable on most seats (always check your manual!) which would have also led to a more snug fit.  I learned that there is a range of recline acceptable with the base on both the Keyfit and the Graco.

Almost a year old snoozing in her Graco

Almost a year old snoozing in her Graco Snugride Click Connect 35

I shared some of these insights with a close friend, who is now also a CPST, and she pointed me to a Facebook group, Car Seats for the Littles. I read threads there and learned even more!  I now cringe when I see the picture of my little girl at discharge in the seat with a cloth diaper that the nurse placed behind her head, as I know it’s not allowed.

Ten pound big brother in his Graco Snugride Click Connect 35

Ten pound big brother in his Graco Snugride Click Connect 35

Eighteen months after my daughter was born, I gave birth to a huge healthy full-term baby boy.  My husband brought the very same Graco up to the hospital room (thankfully no car seat test was needed!), and I adjusted the straps like a pro.  The car seat was a source of zero anxiety. It was so refreshing.

At my CPST course with essential supplies

At my CPST course with essential supplies

And then a funny thing happened, and I think this happens to many people who start learning about car seat use. You want to help everyone! Your friends who come over with their babies, the people at the supermarket, the moms in the park. Everyone.

With my family’s encouragement, I decided to take the CPST course. It took me a while to find one that fit with my schedule, but I did!  I had met and networked with some local CPSTs, so one alerted me to an upcoming new course. My mother came to babysit, as I am a stay at home mom and didn’t have regular childcare.

I wasn’t sure how much I would learn in the course, as I had been reading CSFTL for quite a while.  I learned quickly though that reading and hands-on are very different!  My favorite part of the course was one which many people mention as their least favorite: seatbelt systems. I enjoyed trying to identify the various types of seatbelts in real vehicles.   It’s not as easy as it sounds!

And so, I became a CPST, filled in the gaps in my knowledge, started answering questions on CSFTL instead of just lurking, found some terrific mentors in the car seat world, and was asked to join the CSFTL team!  I now do private appointments in my local area, write articles and reviews for CSFTL, and answer many questions online.

To anyone reading this who has anxiety over their child’s car seat: Don’t! Post in our group or meet with a CPST. We’d all be happy to help. And to anyone reading this who thinks they might want to take the CPST course, go for it!

Little brother in his Graco Snugride SnugLock 35

Littlest brother in his Graco Snugride SnugLock 35

Postscript:  Two and a half years after huge little brother was born, he became a big brother! I gave birth to medium-sized little boy just over a year ago.  I had my husband bring the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 with him, which I was in the middle of reviewing, and I installed it myself a few days after my C-section.  My car seat anxiety had come full circle!

In honor of CPST month, we’re giving away one registration to the 2018 Kidz in Motion conference! Enter below for your chance to win!
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