When you think of using a car seat, installing a car seat, buckling a baby into a car seat, or even choosing a car seat, do you get anxious? I know that my answer was yes to these questions. For three years I worried that I had it wrong. I was not sure whether my car seat install was correct or whether the straps were properly tightened. I like to call this ,“The car seat dilemma,” and have only recently been confident about my car seat’s install in my car. It’s pretty amazing but according to AAA, a properly installed car seat reduces risk of injury by 71-82%.
The proper way to install your child’s car seat is out there, but unless you really know the ins and outs of your car seat, your car, your car’s seat belts, your airbags, and your vehicle manual, there might be some steps that you are missing.
The first step of properly installing your car seat is to make sure you understand what kind of seat it is. There are seats that are rear facing only. There are convertible seats that face rear or face front. There are combination seats that are front facing car seats, then transition to a belt positioning booster. Lastly there are belt positioning booster seats that are only front facing. To know if the seat is the proper seat for your baby, know that most seats have a weight and height limit for each stage. For example, if you have a newborn, then a rear facing option is a necessity. The new norm is to try and keep baby rear facing until at least two years old (preferably even longer if the seat allows) and buying a mirror that faces your baby so you can see their face, and they can see you, in the rear view mirror is highly recommended to help this stage.
The second step to properly installing your car seat is to know your car’s seat belts and what the best options for car seat use are. When I had my first child I didn’t even think to read my vehicle’s operating manual, but this will give you a good idea on where it is best to install the seat you have, as well as how to install it. The manual will tell you where your vehicle’s LATCH is (most cars manufactured after 2002 have LATCH) and what kind of seatbelts you have. Keep in mind that knowing the type of seatbelt you have will assure that the seat is installed and locked properly PRECRASH! It is not as simple as threading the seatbelt through the belt path and buckling it. For example, did you know that you should not use a booster seat with lap only seat belts?
The third step in properly installing your car seat is to be sure that baby is buckled properly (sometimes it feels like you need to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to properly clip these things) and straps should be snug. To assure this perform the quick and simple “pinch test” at the baby’s shoulder level. If you are able to gather belt between your fingers, the strap is too loose. Also keep in mind the position of the chest clip. The chest clip should be positioned at baby’s chest level, or armpit-to-armpit. Be sure that if your child is front facing, the car seat’s tether strap is secured too. You can learn how to do this properly by checking your vehicle manual as well.
The above guidelines are just general. Please know that all car seats and cars are different. As a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) and owner of Momma Love Baby Maternity’s services which operates concierge style, I am happy to come to you, where ever you are, where you are comfortable, to help you install your car seat. Please don’t hesitate to visit www.mommalovebaby.com for more details on this service and other services that are offered here to help you on Maui.
Image Credit: mauimama