Infant Car Seat Safety – We are a society that thrives on mobility. Car seats are necessities in balancing parenthood with an on-the-go lifestyle, and car safety is a huge concern.

Time constraints, safety shortcuts, and a lack of accurate information are some of the primary reasons why we continue to count children’s car injuries and deaths in the thousands each year.

Infant Car Seat Safety
Infant Car Seat Safety Specifications

Choosing an infant seat depends on your child’s age, size, developmental needs, the make of your car, and other factors. When you are expecting, read about the correct installation of the specific infant car seat for your vehicle.

A lot of parents and caregivers expand the scope of car seats beyond their intended use. This quest for convenience endangers children. Putting kids in portable car seats and then placing those seats on flat surfaces (tables) or soft surfaces (beds and sofas) can lead to accidents where car seats topple.

Important Car Seat Safety Facts
Infant Car Seat Safety Facts At A Glance

Rear-facing or rear-facing convertible car seat

Toddlers and infants must be placed in rear-facing car seats until they are at least two years old or when they reach the height or weight maximum set by the car seat manufacturer [1].

A rear-facing car seat provides better support for the head, neck, and spine of infants and toddlers. In case of a crash, rear-facing infant car seats distribute the force of impact in a collision [2].

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends bringing your newborn home in a rear-facing seat. We will be focusing more on rear-facing car seats in a bit.

Forward-Facing Car Seats
Forward-Facing With A Harness Or Convertible Car Seat

If a child has outgrown the height or weight limit for their rear-facing child seat, use a forward-facing seat with a harness. Use this until the child reaches the maximum weight or height allowance set by the manufacturer before moving on to a belt-positioning booster car seat.

Proper Car Seat Installation
Infant Car Seat Safety Installation System

Infant car seats are installed using the car’s default safety belt or the LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system. One method is used at a time unless otherwise specified by both the car seat manufacturer and the vehicle manufacturer. LATCH is an attachment system that you install. Most rear-facing child seats have a base that you can leave in your vehicle making it easier to move the seat in and out of the car.

Consider consulting a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) who can help and teach you how to correctly install your car seat [3].

Rear-Facing Infant Car Seat Dos and Don’tsDos & Don’ts For Rear-Facing Car Seat
Infant Car Seat Safety #Tip 10 – DO Read The Car Seat And Vehicle Manuals

Read your vehicle’s manual on car seat installation and your car seat manufacturer’s instruction manual before attempting any installation.

Tightly secure the base of the car seat. Move the car seat sideways, front and back, and adjust if the seat moves more than an inch.

When using a convertible car seat, make sure that the harness is over your child’s shoulders. Lay all clips and straps flat on your child’s body. Re-secure the straps if there are twists and turns. These may cause further injury during a crash or make the car seat less secure.

DON’T Place Your Car Seat In The Front Seat
Infant Car Seat Safety #Tip 9 – DON’T Place Your Car Seat In The Front Seat

A deployed airbag is dangerous for an infant in a car seat, particularly in a rear-facing car seat. Inside the vehicle, the middle back seat is the safest place for your child.

DON’T Use Your Infant Car Seat Outside Of Your Car
Infant Car Seat Safety Tip #8 – DON’T Use Your Infant Car Seat Outside Of Your Car

Do not use it for feeding or sleeping. Sitting too long in a car seat poses health risks for your baby including infant acid reflux and breathing difficulties. Also, your child’s movements may destabilize and wear out the car seat if used outside of the car. Use a baby chair or a crib.

DO Recline The Seat At The Correct AngleInfant Car Seat Safety Tip #7 – DO Recline The Seat At The Correct Angle

The recommended recline angle ensures that children’s heads do not flop forward and also ensures open airways. The prescribed angle provides maximum protection for children’s spines.

Age, weight, and height may change the manufacturer’s angle recommendation, so adjust the seat angle as your child develops. Your car seat is equipped with angle adjusters.

DO Remove Bulky Outerwear
Infant Car Seat Safety Tip #6 – DO Remove Bulky Outerwear

During colder weather, bulky clothes create space between the harness and the child making it less snug, safe, and secure.

It is critically important that you remove the outer layer of clothes, secure the harness, and then place a blanket or coat over your child.

DO Use Tightly Rolled Receiving Blankets
Infant Car Seat Safety Tip #5 – DO Use Tightly Rolled Receiving Blankets To Prevent Slouching

Place tightly rolled blankets on both sides of your child. Most manufacturers recommend using a small, tightly rolled cloth in the crotch area between your child and the crotch strap. Only use inserts that come with the car seat or are made specifically for that use. Always check your car seat manual for their recommendations.

DON’T Hang Toys From The Carrier's Handle
Infant Car Seat Safety Tip #4 – DON’T Hang Toys From The Carrier’s Handle

Hanging toys entertain your child during long car trips. However, these toys may become projectiles that can injure your child in a crash. Soft toys can even suffocate your child.

DON’T Use Your Car Seat As A Crib
Infant Car Seat Safety Tip #3 – DON’T Use Your Car Seat As A Crib

As mentioned earlier, this is an important point to highlight. Your car seat is not a crib substitute. Remove children from car seats as soon as possible, and move them into cribs or bassinets. If the car seat falls over during improper use, you risk serious injury to your child.

DON’T Worry If Your Child's Feet Touch The Seat
Infant Car Seat Safety Tip #2 – DON’T Worry If Your Child’s Feet Touch The Vehicle Seat

Infants are flexible and bend their legs easily and comfortably. Leg injuries are rare in rear-facing car seats.

DON’T Remove A Harness Or Strap
Infant Car Seat Safety Tip #1 – DON’T Remove A Harness Or Strap Even If Your Child Is Outside The Car

Make sure that your child is snug in the car seat even if you are both outside of the car getting ready to enter. Secure each buckle and belt as they can cause injury by hitting children’s eyes or mouths. Unsecured straps pose strangulation risks.

Give Yourself Extra Time

Infant car seats have made travel safer for children. They may have become more complicated, but information and knowledge provide better safety and more security.  An extra 15 or 20 minutes is a small price to pay for the safety of our children.


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Car Seat Safety References:
[1]   American Academy of Pediatrics; AAP Updates Recommendation on Car Seats, March 21, 2011.
[2]   American Academy of Pediatrics; AAP Updates Recommendation on Car Seats, March 21, 2011.
[3]   National Child Passenger Safety Certification; About CPS Certification.

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