It can be exhausting to research the multitude of manufacturers, types and styles of infant car seats, as well as safety tips and rules for their use, but the hard work is all worth it, knowing your baby is safe riding in your car. Your baby’s car seat dramatically reduces her risk of severe injury or death by more than 70 percent when used correctly, according to SafeKids.org.
Even if you are tempted to turn your rapidly growing baby around, her car seat should face the rear of your vehicle, SaferCar.gov reports. Your little one is up to five times safer rear-facing, as it gives her neck and head the best protection in case of a collision, according to TheCarSeatLady.com. Your baby should ride rear-facing in her infant car seat until she outgrows its height or weight requirements. If she outgrows the infant carrier before her 2nd birthday, she should move to a rear-facing convertible car seat, designed for both rear- and forward-facing usage. Rear-facing is the safest option, even if her legs are long enough to touch the backseat, says the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Install your baby’s car seat in the center-most seat in your vehicle. In most vehicles, the safest spot is the middle of the second row. If you drive a van with two captain’s chairs in the second row, one of those is likely to best place to install your baby’s seat. However, if you have older children riding with you as well, you might have to manipulate seat placements to get the safest seating for all. A forward-facing older child should sit in the center-most seat (provided it has a lap and chest belt or a booster with harness) before even the smallest baby because rear-facing babies are automatically much safer than any forward-facing rider, according to TheCarSeatLady.com.
A secure fit is one of the most important rules to remember. Once installed, your baby’s car seat should not move more than 1 inch in any direction if you wiggle it. Consult the owner’s manuals for your car seat and vehicle manufacturer for specific installation instructions. Most car seats can be safety installed using either lap or shoulder belts.
Your baby should never ride in a used car with an unknown history or in a car seat that was involved in a crash, SafeKids.org warns. When fastening your baby into her car seat, tighten the straps so there is no slack. There should be only enough room to slip one finger between the straps and your baby’s chest, and the chest strap should be buckled in line with her armpits. Newborns should ride semireclined at approximately at 45-degree angle, recommends TheCarSeatLady.com.