Today’s Hint: 3 Tricks for Untangling Car Seat Straps

One of life’s little annoyances that I’ve only had to deal with since having a baby: tangled car seat straps.

My daughter’s car seat straps always seem to get all twisted, requiring that my husband and I spend more time than we want to putting her into her seat. And often times, I hate to admit it, we don’t take the time to untangle them properly.

So to find out if tangled straps are a bad thing and if so, if there are any tricks for fighting the tangles, I turned to my favorite car seat expert, Dr. Alisa Baer, one-third of the team over

First, the bad news: According to Dr. Baer, tangled straps aren’t a good thing. In fact, “it’s important that the straps aren’t tangled,” she says, because the tangles prevent the force of impact from being properly spread out across the straps.  If you twist your backpack straps, you know how it hurts your shoulders, as the straps dig in?  She says it hurts because now the force is concentrated on a smaller part of your shoulder. Similar problem with the car seat straps – if they are twisted in a crash they concentrate the forces over a smaller part of the child’s body. This can increase the risk of injury, act like a rope and cut through the child.

In addition, it turns out that the car seat I have is actually known for having straps that don’t tangle as much as others as the straps are made of a thicker material than many. In other words, I can’t imagine what kind of twists and tangles parents with other car seat models are dealing with.

Now, the good news. Dr. Baer recommends these three untangling tricks:

1.) Remove the shoulder pad covers that Velcro onto the straps. “Those tend to be the culprit for the tangles,” she says.  (Currently only two car seats require the fabric shoulder pad covers – the Graco Smart Seat, only for kids under 40 pounds, and the Chicco Next Fit.)

2.) Take the time to loosen the straps, and then tighten them up, each time you put your child in the car seat, and employ the “triangle technique.” “Putting the child in with the straps loose, and tightening them each time tends to make them twist a little less,” Dr. Baer says. “It’s really just about having a bit of vigilance in how you put the child in and out.” And when one of the straps is tangled as you’re about to buckle the straps, try what Dr. Baer calls “the triangle trick” (watch her explaining it here).

3.) When buying a car seat, look for a seat where the straps can’t get uneven - meaning that the left side of the straps is separate from the right side. This is as opposed to the left and right side of the straps being part of one long continuous strap that goes from the left side to under the child’s bottom and comes out the right side. Straps like this also tend to twist more, she says.

What are your tricks for dealing with these kinds of tangles?

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