Grappling With The Royal Baby’s Car Seat Fail

All eyes were on Kate Middleton and Price William and the royal baby yesterday as they excited the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital to make the trip home to Kensington Palace.

Royal Baby Carseat

In a way, it was the most fluid, well-rehearsed hospital departure that anyone could have choreographed.  Looking calm and lovely, the couple walked down the stairs with Kate cradling the baby.  They cheerfully and respectfully responded to questions from reporters.  Looking natural with her post-pregnancy belly displayed, Kate passed the baby to Will.  Will then headed back into the hospital outside of view to place the baby in his car seat, and then reappeared to pop the car seat into it’s (already installed) base in the car.  Will then jumped  into the driver’s seat and off they went.  A modern couple, just like any other.  Or that was the message,  anyway.

Commenting on ABC News, Diane Sawyer marveled that Will had gotten the royal baby into his car seat in under 8 seconds!

Impressive?  Oops, maybe not so much…

I dislike it when I see negative scrutiny directed at any new parents because I think being a new parent is just plain difficult.  But the more I thought about this picture of the royal baby in his car seat, the more it bothered me.  I wasn’t the only one, bloggers were weighing in and forums fired up yesterday with moms wondering why on Earth the royal baby wasn’t properly positioned in his car seat and why the royal couple hadn’t followed car seat safety guidelines.  The latest on Kate and William turned from Kate’s bump, to the baby’s safety.

For new parents, infant car seats are a stresser from start to finish.  For what it’s worth, here’s a little on my own experience.  Let me go back in time to the birth of a non-royal baby, my first, in 2004. 

Like many new parents, my husband and I spent countless weekends grazing through baby stores trying to figure out exactly what we needed and wanted to buy for our baby.  Of course, the car seat was first on our list.  We were SO INTIMIDATED with installing the seat base in our car, and with how to put the baby in the seat.  In fact, the car seat was one of the most intimidating, overwhelming aspects of parenthood!  We had several conversations about how to install the base in the car — with the man at the baby store from which we bought it, with family, with friends.  While some offered to help with the whole affair, others suggested we go to the local fire department. Marc took the road less taken and braved his way through the manuel.  I can’t take any credit for any of it! 

The weekend before I gave birth with Hedley, Marc spent about 4 hours getting the car seat base into the car.  He came back with a white face and his shirt drenched with sweat, not entirely confident he had followed the car seat safety guidelines correctly, and my mother and I stared at him.  I asked, basically, where the hell were you all this time?  I could have given birth.  Truth was as we all know that installing a car seat is not just super difficult, it’s nearly impossible the first time around!

With the base installed, we then needed to figure out how the baby should be fit into the seat itself.  This meant snapping in the newborn head insert, and setting the arms straps on the smallest setting for a newborn.  Another few hours.  Maybe we’re not meant to be parents, we’re telling ourselves!

Our struggles with the car seat didn’t end there!  When the time came to leave the hospital with Hedley, getting him into his seat took a while, I would say at least 15 minutes.  It was a very hard thing to do because it meant waking him up and taking him out of his comfy, warm swaddle, forcing his arms away from his sides (they felt magnetically glued to his sides!) and prying his hands away from his mouth, and then strapping him into that cold, hard seat.  He hated it, and he let us know immediately by crying loudly!  Which caused our blood pressure to rocket up.

This exact thing happened to me each time I first put a newborn baby into an infant car seat, so I know it wasn’t a random thing.  All my babies hated having their hands taken from that comfortable position near their mouths — the exact position you see the royal baby in above — and forced through those thick, bulky straps.  They disliked leaving their warm, cozy swaddle for the tight latch atop their chests (could we call it a straightjacket?).  They ALL cried loud enough to make me want to cry!

Now, I’m sure not all newborns cry, but find me one that doesn’t prefer a cozy warm swaddle to the restrictions of an infant car seat, which prevents the baby from holding his arms and hands where he wants them to be?

OK, back to 2013 and yesterday.

The royal baby didn’t cry and didn’t fuss, because he was still nice and comfy and maybe even still asleep.  He was still loosely swaddled with his hands UNDERNEATH one strap that was also loosely fastened atop the baby.  This is pretty much the picture you could see in a manuel with a big red X on top!  Yikes!  And there was way more than one thing wrong: 1) the baby was still swaddled, whereas you can’t put a blanket between a baby and a car seat, 2) his arms were not through the straps, 3) the chest buckle was not in place, tight and high against the chest, at arm-pit level 4) the straps were not tightened, 5) the carrying handle was not lowered and placed down.   There were at least FIVE THINGS WRONG!  This was not just a car seat fail, this was “How Not to Put The Baby in the Carseat 101“!

How can the royal couple and their entourage and all the people coaching them and helping them have missed this, um, slightly important detail?  Which was really the most important detail about the whole event — the safety of the baby leaving the hospital.  More important than the chit-chat, Kate’s dress and hair and make-up, and Will’s confident swagger.

It’s so strange to me which is why I’m sort of bothered by this image of the royal baby, and I’m trying to make sense of why this could have happened.  I’m thinking that the royal couple is either so heavily surrounded with others who guarantee their safety, or they were so tired and overwhelmed, that they didn’t think about it.  But getting your baby into the car seat isn’t just something that OCCURS to you as you’re leaving the hospital.  It’s something you look into beforehand.  Right?  If you are not a royal, that is!

One thing is for sure.  The baby left the hospital in a style befitting modern royals, but not in a style befitting modern babies.

What do you think of this whole issue of the royal baby’s positioning in his car seat?  Do you agree that Will and Kate were ill-informed as to car seat safety?  Did you learn all about the car seat safety guidelines BEFORE you left the hospital?  Do you think your baby was properly strapped in when you left the hospital?  Weigh in below in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by and make sure to check back for more! xo

  • mima

    It was the first thing I said when I saw the picture on the news. He’s not in his seat correctly, I am mostly worried about parents putting their own kids in like this, because it’s not easy to put them in right. But I do have to say they did not make 5 mistakes, as a chest buckle is not allowed in carseats in Europe and also some manufacturers over here say to keep the handle up when the seat is fixed. So only 3 to EU norms, but still…

    • Mima, thanks, someone else made the same point, so I apologize for getting that wrong… Thanks for writing in.

  • elizabeth

    just a heads up- car seats in the uk (and europe) don’t have chest buckles… they are a bit controversial. other than that, i agree that someone should have helped this new mom and dad and taught them about car seat safety! i’m surprised they didn’t do the research themselves, but lord knows none of us is perfect.

    • Elizabeth, thanks for making this point, some others did as well, and yes, none of us get anything perfect, that is definitely true.

  • Tara Wiese

    Yesterday when I watched the video of them leaving the hospital, I IMMEDIATELY noticed that Prince William didn’t put the handle in the down position. Today I googled, “royal baby carseat installed” to find any mom sites noting on it. I didn’t see any still photos until your post. Wow, just wow. Number 1 priority seems that it would to keep a future king safe, right?

    • I don’t know how the whole thing happened, but I don’t think it will happen again!

  • bd5688

    First of all yes there were mistakes, but who doesn’t make mistakes being a first time parent??? I know I did and have learned from them tremendously. Secondly European carseats do NOT have chest clips, so there is no reason to say that was wrong, because there isn’t one there to put “in place, tight and high against the chest, at arm-pit level”. And thirdly, most infant carseats now a days (here is a spreadsheet that explain how many allow it to be up. <- came from The CarSeat Lady) allow the carrying handle being up, as well as in other positions, That is specific to the seat, just read the manuals. Yes, he was swaddled and that's a no no as well as the straps weren't tight enough. That's 2 things wrong.

    • Thanks for writing in, I appreciate what you are saying… and it’s not about how many things were wrong, it’s just the whole issue that I think confused me and some other folks! And I appreciate the insights about European carseats.

  • Marie

    Just so you know the UK does not have chest clips for their car seats…

  • CTMom

    yes, yes, yes!! I commented on this on Facebook. I hope someone in England informs the new parents about carseat safety and that a swaddle or any blanket, coat, snowsuit, etc. has no place in a carseat.

    We have a teachable moment for all parents here in the U.S. and I hope the news media features this!

    • I know, you just worry that other parents will say, oh, it doesn’t matter so much. Thanks for commenting!

  • Diana

    Agree with many of your comments – somebody came into the hospital to do Kate’s hair, but nobody bothered or dared to correct them on the correct car seat procedure. It is hard to be new parents… but this is why many of us take birthing classes. One point however, in the UK the handle is used as a roll bar, which means when the car is moving it is meant to be positioned up.

  • Sonya

    I’ve mentioned on other forums my concern regarding how the baby was placed in the car seat. I couldn’t believe how a majority of the comments indicated that there was no need for concern. If someone did express concern they were flamed and deemed to be ‘over- the- top’. I’m not from the US so I am beginning to think is it a cultural thing not to be too worried about the incorrect use of car seats. In my country it is considered to be one of the most important things to get right for your child.

    I find comments that say we should give them a break and that they were under pressure are absolutely ridiculous! I too as a first- time spent a lot of time researching different car seats, reading reviews and talking to suppliers. We too spent considerable time fitting it ourselves and reading the manual.
    I don’t think their error was due to being under pressure, but simply not taking the iniative themselves to find out how to transport their baby correctly.

    • HI Sonya, thanks for writing in and for the support, I have to say that I agree with you!

  • Marianne

    while im sure the prince and princess researched some bit on how to be parents, I’m not sure royals would actually take a “parenting class”. as for them leaving the hospital, I can only imagine every single person biting their tongue because you would never tell a royal, not only what to do, but that they are doing it wrong. There are rules in England for addressing royalty (never turn your back on the queen, don’t speak unless spoken to etc). And I’m sure Will and Kate would have rather someone had spoken up, but no one had the guts to do it!

    • I think you are right. Amazing, right? Thanks for weighing in, Marianne!