Expert Tips for Installing your Car Seat
You’ve survived nine months of pregnancy, delivery, those first few diaper changes, and feedings! The hard part is over, right? Now all that’s left is to figure out that car seat you got.
Car seats can be tricky! The latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows 59 percent of car seats are installed incorrectly and 84 percent of car seats are misused.
As a nurse who has worked in a delivery unit for 20 years, a mom of two, and a certified car seat technician, here are my expert tips to help you bring your most precious cargo home safely!
Keep your baby rear-facing as long as possible
The American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends turning your child forward on his or her second birthday. Look at the labels on your child’s car seat for height and weight limits and keep the baby rear-facing until he or she reaches those limits.
Read your vehicle and car seat owner’s manuals. A center-rear installation is preferred as it keeps your child the farthest away from side-impact crashes.
Tip: many vehicles do not allow a center-rear installation using LATCH. Read the manual carefully!
Use LATCH or the vehicle seat belt, not both. One is not better than the other; using both will not make the installation safer. Always follow the owner’s manual for both your vehicle and your car seat.
Know how to lock off your car seat. Something needs to lock the car seat in place! Many car seat bases now come with a built-in lock-off mechanism, but if not, most vehicle seat belts lock by pulling the seat belt all the way out and then feeding it back in. You will hear a clicking sound as this is happening and when you pull on the seat belt, you will feel it locked in place.
After installing your child’s car seat, make sure it doesn’t wiggle more than an inch side-to-side or back and forth at the belt path. Check out this video.
Buy your own car seat
There are many baby items that are great to borrow from a friend or buy used, but car seats are not one of them! It is very important that you know the history of your car seat, especially making sure the seat has never been in an accident. Car accidents can impact how well your car seat will perform in the future.
Don’t add additional items. Headrests and certain car seat covers that go under your baby can interfere with your car seat’s own safety mechanisms. Additional headrests can push your baby’s head forward and impact his or her ability to breathe.
The purpose of a car seat is to keep your child safe in the event of a car accident, so the straps should be snug! If you can pinch up any strap, it’s too loose. Watch here.
Tip: Fluffy coats or snowsuits are great for keeping your baby warm, but they stop the straps from fitting snugly against the baby’s body. Instead, buckle your baby up with the outfit he or she is wearing at home. Once your baby is secured, put on a hat and tuck a blanket around him or her for warmth.
Fill out the car seat registration form
The manufacturer will alert you if there is a recall with your seat! You can also go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website for a current list of car seat recalls.
Know where to go for help! The Bob Brown Fit Station is held on the first Thursday of every month from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. A car seat technician will assist you with installation and car seat education. Registration is not required but get there early! Bob Brown Chevrolet is located at 3600 111th Street, Urbandale.
Call your local police/fire department – many departments have car seat technicians available.
Nurses at MercyOne Des Moines Maternity and Infants’ Care have received car seat education and can help! Additionally, we have car seat technicians on hand to assist when needed!
Kristen Ernsperger, MSN-CNL, RNC, is the nursing director for MercyOne Des Moines Maternity and Infants’ Care.
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This article is part of a series of sponsored articles by MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center