In the world we live in today, transporting your child is a reality of day to day life that can not be overlooked.
For most parents, making sure their child is in a car seat while they are driving is a no-brainer; however, many parents don’t realize that they may have installed their car seat incorrectly or that their child may not be adequately secured in their seat.
So how can you be sure that your newborn’s car seat is installed correctly and being used as intended?
The best way to be certain is to consult a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) and have them take a look at everything.
They can help assess the positioning and installation of the car seat as well as the harnessing of your child in within the seat.
Therefore, while this blog is no substitute for having an inspection by a CPST, we will be discussing some of the car seat safety points that they would go over with you at an appointment.
Car Seat Safety
The base or car seat installation is the foundation of car seat safety because if it is improperly positioned, none of the other components in the car seat can function properly.
One of the first and most important things that should be done when installing the base is to ensure that you are using the appropriate setup for your vehicle.
If your car was manufactured after September 1, 2002, it has the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system installed that is specifically designed to secure your child’s seat in place quickly.
As you are installing an infant base, it is important that you have the complete system together including the carrier and any other relevant features in place to ensure that the positioning you set will not change after you install it.
Take care to make sure that everything is tight enough; the base should not move more than 1” from side to side where the belt or LATCH goes through once installed
Finally, the seat must be properly leveled to allow proper function and help protect against positional asphyxiation. Most car seats have an indicator using a bubble or wheel.
Install Quick Tips:
- Infant car seat bases have a recline foot to adjust the height.
- Recline indicators can be found on the side of most car seats, if your car seat does not have an indicator, it will have red text that states “this line should be level to the ground.”
- Always check at the belt path for movement, the front of the seat of base will always wiggle as it is unrestrained.
- ALWAYS use a top tether when your child is forward facing.
The chest clip always goes at armpit level and is designed to keep the straps on your child’s shoulders so they stay securely in their seat in the event of a crash instead of being ejected.
This is comprised of two pieces, one on each strap, that snap together and act as a pre-positioner which keeps the straps in place in the event of a crash.
As such, it is imperative that you make sure it is securely fastened each and every time that the car seat is used.
Chest Clip Quick Tip:
If your child likes to play with the chest clip, you can use the Button Up Shirt Trick.
The straps of a car seat are the physical device that holds your child in place and must be utilized properly to allow the car seat to operate at its best.
Before placing your child in their seat, remove any fluffy, baggy, or compressible items such as jackets, blankets or thick sweaters.
It is okay to place these items over your baby after they are properly secured but allowing compressible clothing underneath the straps can prevent them from doing their job and can compromise your child’s car seat safety.
When securing your kid in their seat, check to be sure that you have removed the slack in the straps around their hips by pulling up toward their belly from the crotch buckle and that the straps are not twisted before tightening them.
Read more about how to keep your baby warm in a car seat during the winter.
Straps should always pass the “pinch test” for you to have confidence that your kid is secure.
Strap Quick Tips
- Always take the time to make sure everything is strapped correctly.
- If your child is forward facing the straps should come from at or above their shoulders.
- If your child is rear facing the straps should come from at or below the shoulders.
Rear Facing vs. Forward Facing
Did you know that your child is 500% safer rear facing?
In the event of a crash, a properly installed rear facing car seat moves with your child and protects their head, neck and spine.
In a forward facing car seat, your child’s head will move forward much like an adults in a forward-backward whiplash motion.
All children under two should be rear facing at all times, and this is becoming the law in many states. Ideally, your child will ride rear facing until they outgrow the height or weight restrictions on the car seat.
These restrictions can be found on the side of the car seat shell.
Some other things to keep in mind when considering car seat safety are to make sure you follow all manufacturer’s guidelines in the use of your child’s car seat.
Be aware that you should never use or attach any accessories to your car seat that did not come from the manufacturer or that have not been expressly approved for use with your model of car seat. It is also a good idea to check your install on a regular basis to make sure you are following the rules and that your child is safe when riding with you.
As your child grows, you will need to adjust strap positions and recline to accommodate their growth.
Be sure to consult with the manufacturer, your owner’s manual or a CPST so you can be confident that everything is installed correctly.