Installing your infant’s car seat for the first time is a learning experience. After all, 95% of families made at least one error when installing their infant car seat, according to a recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics. And 91% of families made a serious error when installing and using a car seat. Yikes!
Car seat safety is obviously a very big deal, so let me offer you a few tips to help you make sure you’re doing it right for every single ride:
• Always follow the specific weight and height limits for your car seat. They are not consistent from model to model. When I had a seat inspection last year, the technician dinged me on this one. My son was just a smidgen too heavy for our car seat.
• Car seats make bad hand-me-downs. They expire for many reasons including updating safety standards and the degradation of safety materials like the interior foam core that you cannot see.
• Properly installed, the car seat should not slide or scoot more than 1″ in any direction. I like to really get in there and press my knee in the seat while tightening all straps.
• When rear-facing — which you should do for all babies under age two — the harness straps should be slightly below baby’s shoulders.
• Keep straps snug and tight with the chest clip at arm pit level. Harness straps should lay flat allowing no more than one adult finger to slide between the straps and the baby.
Another common mistake is adding additional toys, padding, or mirrors to the car seat area. These items can become dangerous projectiles in the event of a car accident or sudden stop.
I highly recommend you find a local agency to install your car seat for you the first time and to answer any specific questions you have about your particular brand of seat. It is well worth the hour you take for the usually-free inspection to make sure that your baby is safe in the car. Where I live, AAA inspects seats year-round with an appointment and offers periodic blitz days to help even more people. I believe certain children’s stores and the police department also install and inspect baby car seats.
This infographic recaps a few common car seat safety tips.
Good luck, parents, you already have enough to worry about without adding a PhD in CarSeatOlogy to the mix.