Babies are pretty much the definition of “precious cargo.” Ensuring your baby is in the right car seat and properly restrained is crucial! It can be easy to compromise on certain rules or skip certain steps to make your baby more comfortable, but car crashes are a leading cause of death in infants, and using a car seat correctly is the best way to avoid this.

Rear-facing seats

It’s hard to put your baby in a position where you cannot see him for a period of time, but rear-facing is the safest way for a child under three to ride. Babies’ bodies are proportionally different than adults’, and their heads are much larger. On top of this, their neck vertebrae is much more fragile. Rear-facing seats work so well because they take these facts into account and anticipate how a baby’s body will react to impact. Statistically, 60% of crashes are frontal, and 20% occur from the sides. A rear-facing car seat will distribute the point of impact and insure the neck and spine are kept in line, allowing your child to be much safer as a result.

The minimum age for switching your child to forward-facing is two, but it’s wise to try to hold off as much as possible, even if your child’s legs seem a little uncomfortable. Should the worst happen, a broken leg is far better than a broken spine! Your car seat manufacturer’s guide should have a height or weight limit for this position. Once your child exceeds this, it’s okay to move your child forward-facing.

Securing the Harness

The first thing to do before buckling in your baby is to make sure that the harness straps are in the right position. For rear-facing babies, the straps should be at or below the shoulders. Once they move to forward-facing the straps should be at or just above the shoulders. If you’re securing a newborn for the first time, you may want to put the straps at the lowest level and adjust them as your child grows.

Most infant seats will have a five-point harness: two at the shoulder, two at the hip, and one at the crotch. The harness has a chest clip and a crotch strap with a buckle at the end. When the chest clip is buckled and tightened, the clip should sit level to the baby’s armpits, and the straps should have no gaps. If you can pinch together any of the strap’s excess, it’s far too loose. A tight harness secured correctly will ensure a child cannot slip out in the case of a crash and will protect the baby the way the car seat was designed.

Additional Advice

When it gets colder out, remember: coats can be dangerous in car seats! The bulkiness of a coat prevents the straps from fully tightening and can allow the baby to slip out. The best solution is to dress your baby in layers that are easy to take off in the car and slip on after you reach your destination. If you’re worried about your baby being too chilly, you might want to consider getting a car seat poncho that will keep your baby warm and cozy without any risk!

While it might be tempting, it’s best to avoid mirrors that will help you look back in the case of an accident. A mirror can become dislodged in the case of an accident and could hit your baby with a large amount of force. Most car seat safety experts will urge you to opt out of one.

Car seats have an expiration date on the manufacturer’s label. These dates should be strictly followed, and car seats should be kept for no more than six years. It’s also important to replace your seat if it experiences a car accident, even if you can’t see any damage. Most car insurance agencies will work with you on getting this replaced should you find yourself in this situation.

And lastly, the most important thing you can do is ensure you and anyone who might transport your baby (such as grandparents and babysitters) fully understand how to use your car seat. Any car seat manufacturer should have an instructional video for your very make and model to help you properly install and use your car seat. Follow these and share them with anyone who shares the seat. Remember: if you see someone securing your child incorrectly, speak up! Older generations might not be up-to-date with current information, and explaining the proper usage could prevent a tragedy.

Car seats are a fantastic modern invention! They’re created to get your child safely from place to place and provide you with peace of mind. It’s crucial to use them as designed to get the best possible outcome if you do have an accident. If you have any additional questions, contact us at Celebrate Birth! We can give you advice on installation and ensure that your baby is properly secured.