Know the Basics
- Always use a car seat, starting with your baby's first ride home from the hospital. Help your child form a lifelong habit of buckling up.
- Read the car seat manufacturer's instructions and keep them with the car seat.
- Read your vehicle owner's manual for more information on how to install the car seat correctly in your vehicle.
- Never place a child in a rear-facing car seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has a passenger airbag.
- The safest place for all children to ride is in the back seat.
- The harness system holds your child in the car seat and the seat belt holds the seat in the car. Attach both snugly to protect your child.
Which is the "best" car seat?
- No one seat is "safest" or "best." The "best" car seat is one that fits your child's size and weight, and can be installed correctly in your car.
- Price does not always make a difference. Higher prices usually mean added features that may or may not make the seat easier to use.
- When you find a seat you like, try it out! Put your child in the seat and adjust the harnesses and buckles. Make sure it fits in your car.
- If your baby is less than five pounds at time of discharge, be sure to purchase a car seat that will fit your baby. Some car seats state a specific lower weight limit of five pounds-if your baby weighs less than five pounds, then this car seat will not properly fit your baby.
Most new cars have air bags. When used with seat belts, air bags work very well to protect older children and adults. However, air bags are very dangerous when used with rear-facing car seats. if your car has a passenger air bag, infants in rear-facing seats must ride in the back seat. Even in a low-speed crash, the air bag can inflate, strike the car seat and cause serious brain injury and death. Toddlers who ride in forward-facing car seats also are at risk from air bag injuries. All children, even through school age, are safest in the back seat.
Has the car seat been recalled?
You can find out by calling the manufacturer or the Auto Safety Hot Line at 888-DASH-2-DOT (888-327-4236), from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday. This information is also available online at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. If the seat has been recalled, be sure to follow instructions to fix it. You also may get a registration card for future recall notices from the hot line.
- Only can be used rear-facing
- Small and portable and fit newborns best
- 5-point harness are best
Infant-only seat features
Detachable Base: Several infant seat models come with detachable bases. The base stays in the car so you do not need to install it every time you put your baby in the car. After buckling your baby into the seat, you simply lock the seat into the base. Some bases are adjustable to make it easier to correctly recline newborns. These seats can be used without the base or you can buy additional bases for other cars. However, this feature is only helpful if the base fits tightly into your car. In some cases, the seat may fit better without the base.
Higher Weight Limits: Several infant-only seats are available for use up to 35 pounds. This may make it easier to keep your baby rear-facing for a full year.
However, if your infant's weight exceeds the weight limit of the seat before a year, use an infant-only seat or rear-facing convertible seat that has a higher weight limit. (Many now go up to 30 pounds or higher in the rear-facing position for heavier babies.)
Harness Slots: Infant-only seats that come with more than one harness slot give more room for growing babies. On rear-facing seats, the harness slots should always be at or below your baby's shoulders. Check the car seat manufacturer's instructions to be sure.
Handles: Carrying handles on car seats vary greatly in style and ease of use. Check the instructions for how to adjust the handle during travel. Angle indicators, built-in angle adjusters, harness adjusters and head support systems are required.
- Bigger and heavier than infant-only seats, but can be used longer.
- Some do not fit newborns as well as infant seats. WE DO NOT RECOMMENDED CONVERTIBLE SEATS FOR NEWBORN BABIES UNDER SEVEN POUNDS. Make sure that your baby can recline comfortably in the seat. Check the car seat manufacturer's instructions to be sure that harnesses can be adjusted properly.
- Use rear-facing for infants until they have reached at least one year of age and weigh at least 20 pounds The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be kept in rear-facing seats for two years.
- If using a convertible seat for a small infant, the best choice for a more secure fit is the 5-point harness. A shield could contact a small baby's face directly in a crash.
Installing and using car seats correctly
Read the car seat manufacturer's instructions and the child restraint section of your vehicle owner's manual carefully to be sure you are installing and using the car seat correctly. When you install the seat in your car, check the following:
Is your child buckled into the car seat correctly?
In cold weather, tuck blankets around your baby after adjusting the harness straps snugly.
- Be sure to use the correct harness slots for the child.
- Keep the harnesses snug. Place the plastic harness clip, if provided, at armpit level to hold shoulder straps in place.
- Make sure the straps lie flat and are not twisted.
- Dress your baby in clothes that allow the straps to go between the legs. Adjust the straps to allow for the thickness of your child's clothes, making sure that the harness remains secure
- To keep your newborn from slouching, pad the sides of the seat and between the crotch with rolled up diapers or receiving blankets.
Is the car seat buckled into your vehicle correctly?
- Place the seat facing the correct direction for the size and age of your child. Route the seat belt through the correct path on the car seat (check your instructions to make sure) and pull it tight. Before each trip, check to make sure the car seat is installed tightly enough by pushing on the car seat where the seat belt passes through. It should not move easily side to side or toward the front of the car.
- If your infant's head flops forward, the seat may not be reclined enough. Tilt the seat back until it is reclined as close as possible to a 45-degree angle (according to manufacturer's instructions). Your seat may have a built-in recline adjuster for this purpose. If not, you may wedge firm padding, such as a rolled towel, under the front of the base of the seat.
- Check the seat belt buckle. Make sure it does not lie just at the point where the belt bends around the car seat. If it does, you will not be able to get the belt tight enough. If you cannot get the belt tight, look for another set of belts in the car that can be tightened properly.
- Many lap/shoulder belts allow passengers to move freely even when they are buckled. Read your car owner's manual to see if your seat belts can be locked into position or if you will need to use a locking clip. Locking clips come with all new car seats (some have them built in). Read your instructions for information on how to use the locking clip.
- Some lap belts need a special, heavy-duty locking clip, available from the vehicle manufacturer. Check your car owner's manual for more information.
What is LATCH?
A new child safety seat attachment system has been developed to make child safety seat use easier and to improve the safety of the seat. The system is called , which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. This new anchor system will make correct installation much easier because you will no longer need to use seat belts to secure the car seat.
Most new car seats that can be used facing forward are required to be equipped with top tethers. A tether is a strap that hooks the top of the car seat to a special permanent anchor in the vehicle. Most anchors are located on the rear window ledge, the back of the vehicle seat, or the floor or ceiling of the vehicle. Tethers give extra protection by keeping the car seat from being thrown forward in a crash.
Tether kits are available for most older car seats. Check with the manufacturer to find out how to get a top tether for your seat. Be sure to install it according to instructions. The tether strap may help make some seats that are difficult to install fit more tightly.
As of September 2000, all new cars, minivans and light trucks are required to have upper tether anchors for securing the tops of car seats.
Some new vehicles and car seats now have lower anchors and anchor points to secure the car seat.
Starting in model year 2002, all new vehicles and new child seats will be equipped with these lower anchors and attachments. Unless both the vehicle and the car seat have this new anchor system, seat belts will still be needed to secure the car seats.
Information taken from the 2007 Family Shopping Guide to Car Seats-Safety and Product Information from the American Academy of Pediatrics