How Did You Make the Transition?

Updated on June 28, 2010
L.P. asks from Uniontown, PA
8 answers

From a 5 point harness to a belt-positioning booster?

My son is 4 1/2, and on the larger size for his age (43" tall and about 45 lbs.)

I am toying with the idea of getting my son a belt positioning booster seat. I found a super nice one, the Compass B540 by The First Years. It has received the highest rating by the NHTSA and looks better than any I've seen, and I've looked exhaustively at all boosters out there.

My questions are this:

Do any of you have this seat? And if so, how do you like it? One of my primary concerns second to safety, of course, is comfort. My son is a car sleeper, and I will not buy a seat where the headrest is positioned too far forward, to where his head falls forward when he is sleeping. The headrest appears to be tilted back enough that his head would not flop. Any experience with this?

And in general, how do you feel about using a belt positioning booster (a good one), as opposed to a 5 point harness? I know it is recommended to use the 5 point as long as possible, and I felt that way too. But I am just wondering if it's ok to move up to using the car's seat belt. I do think my son is mature enough to stay put in the seat belt, but I am just concerned whether it is as safe (if used properly) as a 5 point harness. Having gotten the highest rating by NHTSA, I am inclined to believe it's safe, but I just don't know.

My other concern is that the seat itself doesn't attach to the car. I know that it is not necessary as it is with the much heavier car seats to keep the seat secured, but it still seems to me that it would be better if the booster seat latched to the car seat? Why don't they give the option to do this? One, for safety (which apparently isn't necessary?), but two, just so you don't have the seat moving around every time the child gets in and out of the seat... I haven't ever used one, so I'm not speaking from experience, but it just seems like this would be the case?

I am looking for some wisdom, perhaps encouragement for moving from a carseat to a booster. Happy to hear about your experience.

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So What Happened?

OK, so after reading your responses, and a couple minutes soul searching for what makes sense, I bought another 5 point harness seat. We got the Graco Nautilus, which is 5 point to 65 lbs. My son is about 45 lbs, so we have plenty of room to grow with this seat. I feel very good about this decision. I only had to look at for half a second to realize how silly I was to even consider a belt positioning booster. I couldn't figure out why it would be bad to put my son in a booster, if we used it properly. Well, stupid me, I never even thought about the possibility of the seatbelt malfunctioning. That was all I needed to see. I know that we can't protect our kids from everything, but I will certainly do my best to try.
*****EDITED TO ADD******
I LOVE the Graco Nautilus. And I'm VERY PICKY about car seats, strollers, etc. My son is totally comfortable in it, and his head DOES NOT fall forward when he sleeps. That's a deal breaker for us, because he's such car napper. It's very sturdy, nice safety features, and easy to use. We are very pleased with this seat.

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answers from Dallas on

We just got the Britax Frontier 85 (another mom mentioned it below) and LOVE it. It converts to a booster up to 120 lbs. and 65 inches. And it has cup holders which my daughter thought was TOO COOL. We all love it.

p.s. has it 15% off with free next day shipping. We paid $237 for a $280 seat and received it in 2 days. Can't beat that.

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answers from Sacramento on

My twins transitioned to a seltbelt booster at about 5. I kept them in the 5 point as long as possible, but it was finally just too small. Their 5 point turned into a booster. I too was very surprised when I realized it was not hooked onto the seat and just sat there. It really rattled me at first, but has turned out to be just fine. Your child is heavier and holds the seat down. The point of the booster is to raise your child up so the seat belt hits them in the right place to make it safe. I never had problems with it moving around. If anything it sure makes it easier to have them ride with someone else cause all you have to do is move the seat...not latching it in.

My kids did a great job moving into a booster. Sounds like your dhild is ready. I'm sure he will do fine.

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answers from St. Cloud on

I personally recommend sticking with a 5 point harness.... Britax makes a car seat (I believe it's called Britax Frontier 85) that holds your child in a 5 point harness till 85 POUNDS! And THEN you can use it as a booster after that! We just purchased this seat for our 3 year old son. Expecting it to arrive on Wed! (Tried to get him a Regent because we LOVE his sisters but they are discontinued. Regents go to 80 pounds.)

Even though it's a spendy seat ($230ish on sale) we feel that because he will be able to use it for MANY years, it is worth it. SAFETY FIRST!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

"My other concern is that the seat itself doesn't attach to the car. I know that it is not necessary as it is with the much heavier car seats to keep the seat secured, but it still seems to me that it would be better if the booster seat latched to the car seat? Why don't they give the option to do this?"

There's the rub, so to speak. It's really weird after years of kneeling on, securing an car seat to the seat that booster are just sitting there, kind of "flapping in the breeze"! But that's because it's a "belt positioning booster" and the idea is that it "boosts them" into position for the car's seat belt to be the primary (really, only) restraint system in play.

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answers from Seattle on

Personally, one of my (long standing) gripes is that *I* don't have a 5 point. I grew up with my uncles racing... so all of our cars were converted into 5point harness belts.

My son outgrew the 5point seats when he was still a toddler. (Of course, he'd outgrown the infant seat by 6months). THE MOST IMPORTANT THING about a 5point is that the straps have to terminate ABOVE the shoulders (or the seat itself can snap your spine in 2 in an accident). At the time, they didn't have any 5points to fit him... so he was in an adj seatbelt booster by 2. (Ours DID have LATCH points, however).

The transition was fine. No head flopping.... and he learned that the belt MUST stay on his "hard parts" ((I would press on his sternum and hips))... and after about a week of "Hard parts?" while he adjusted his belt back from where he'd pushed it, they've been there ever since. I also pushed hard on his "hard parts" and his "soft parts" (aka hips & sternum vs stomach and neck) so he could feel a little of what it would be like if the belt was in the wrong place if we stopped suddenly. Not enough to hurt, but enough for the glug/gasp thing.

My neice and nephew used to be notorious about squirming out of their belts. My SIL started doing the "hard parts" bit, and they quit squirming. Of course, that won't work for all kids... but the 3 of ours tend to be the types who will do something if the reason makes sense to THEM.

Anyhow... he outgrew the positioned seatbelt between 3&4 (the highest setting had the belt half and half on hard and soft parts... and his head was getting higher than the headrest)... so we switched to a straight booster, which has worked grand.

I STILL want a shelby with 5point belts though. Or a hybrid with 5point racing belts. Sooooooome Daaaaaay Over the Rainbow.....

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answers from Chicago on
At 4.5 I put my son in a booster. At 5 he's now back in a 5 point harness. He's more comfortable and I'm happier. The harness keeps the child strapped to the car seat, the latch keeps the car seat attached to the car. The latch has no use if the child is not strapped to the car seat. The booster seat may be safe, but when the seat belt fails, he won't be safe. His small body will have no chance in a high impact collision vs your body without a seat belt.
Yes, the booster was always moving around. Not a whole lot but enough. When he slept, he slumped all the way to the side, falling off the booster seat.
My son loves his new seat better. He sleeps more comfortable and sits more comfortable. You've done a lot of looking at boosters, research the 5 point harness for older ones.

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answers from Boston on

We switched my daughter at 3 (she's super tall and heavy) and will probably do the same for my son. The booster seat is wonderful. They can unbuckle themselves at least, and it makes switching cars so much easier! It is a little annoying that it slides around a tad when they get in and out of the car (but not too much - maybe an inch or two, it just makes it hard to buckle sometimes), but when we're moving, I haven't noticed that she moves at all.

As for the safety factor, everyone has their own comfort level. Its true that statistically it's not as safe as a 5-point harness. That's not as safe as being rear-facing. Still, your son is getting older, and he's probably feeling ready to be into a big-boy seat. He's just growing up, so the switch is a good thing. Good luck

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answers from Harrisburg on

Keep your child in the 5pt as long as possible, 8yrs/80lbs. One of my triplets is very large too, which is why we bought the Britax Rgent. They're phasing them out now but there are others out there that fit larger/older children. Just do the research and check the measurements for the largest ones.

Please don't be swayed by other parents who tell you they don't use the 5pt because they're too expensive or unnecessary, or they've never had a problem with them. Of they haven't had problems. They've not been in a high impact accident and had their child throw and killed. How many incidents I've heard (check for starters) about having kids in a car and one using a booster and another in a 5pt and the family was in a high impact accident. Every time, the child in the 5pt walked away and the one in the booster with just a seat belt (why even bother with the booster at that point) was killed or at best paralized or horribly hurt beyond repair.

Drives me nuts when people put their kids in something that is just a modified seatbelt and think it's fine. They're sold and recommended because the industry knows that many parents can't "afford" or don't think it's important enough to use the 5pt. So the industry feels that at least they're using "something", which in my opinion is the same as using nothing. And every time, the parents change their minds and wish they used the 5pt... after their child is killed.

Think about how a child will withstand an high impact accident in both scenerios, and then make your decision. We're not made of money but we saved and shelled out the money for 3 in our van for our triplets, and later got one for my husband's SUV so he could take one with him once in a while. I'd stop eating out and sell a few belongings before using a booster. They're useless.

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets
events and chat within 2 hour radius

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