Here are five essential tips for keeping your new baby safe in the car.
Types of Car Seats
You will want your child in a rear-facing car seat until at least age 2.
There are three types of rear-facing car seats:
- People often buy rear-facing-only car seat because they are portable. Most, but not all, can be used in strollers either sold with the car seat or recommended by the manufacturer. Caregivers can also purchase extra bases for use in several cars.
- A convertible car seat is larger and stays in the car. You can use it rear-facing until your child is at least 2, then you can use it forward-facing.
- A 3-in-1 car seat also stays in the car. You can use it rear facing, forward facing, and then later, as a booster seat.
Any of these will work for a child under two.
The 3-in-1 car seat has the advantage of potentially being the only seat you'll ever need. The downside is that one seat, used daily for up to ten years, might get a little grungy! The rear-facing-only car seat won’t be used as long, but it is more convenient. It uses a base that stays in the car, but the carrier is lifted in and out, so you don’t have to move your sleeping baby when moving from car to destination. Like the 3-in-1, the convertible seat stays in the car, so it is not as easy to move baby from car to stroller.
Three Important Installation Tips
- Install your rear-facing car seat in a back seat using either a locked seat belt or lower anchor attachments.
- Find the car seat’s angle indicator (on the seat) to make sure the recline angle is correct. The recline angle is critical for infants who can’t yet lift their heads to breathe. Check the car seat manual or labels for more help.
- Make sure the car seat is snug enough to pass the Inch Test. A properly-installed car seat should not move more than one inch side-to-side or front-to-back when pulled at the car seat’s belt path.
Return the mirror you got as a gift to keep your eye on the baby while you are driving. You may think it provides a benefit, but the safer move is to keep your eyes on the road at all times.
Four Steps to the Right Fit
- Your baby’s back and bottom should be flat against the car seat without anything added under their bottom or behind their back.
- Make sure the harness straps come through the car seat’s slots at or just below the baby’s shoulders.
- Buckle and tighten the harness so it is snug. Take the Pinch Test to make sure you cannot pinch the harness strap at the shoulders.
- Position the chest clip at armpit level.
Every time you put your child into the seat, make sure the harness straps are snug. That means you cannot pinch the webbing at the shoulder once it is buckled. You have to loosen and tighten the harness each time you put a child in the car seat.
When to Change for new baby
Keeping your child rear-facing until at least age 2 is the safest option. Keep in mind that it might require you to move your child from a rear-facing-only car seat to a convertible car seat or 3-in-1 car seat installed in the rear-facing position.
You will know it’s time for a larger, rear-facing car seat when your child is over the weight or height limit on the car seat label or the head is within one inch of the top of the car seat.
Riding in a rear-facing car seat will help protect your child’s head, neck and spine in a crash.
Older children with longer legs can stay in a rear-facing car seat and comfortably cross their legs. Experts agree that children rear-facing suffer fewer injuries to their head, neck, spine, arms and legs when riding in that direction.
All children, even those with special healthcare needs, follow the same rules for staying safe in the car.
Never leave your child alone in the car. Leave a phone or something you'll need at your next destination in the back seat as a helpful reminder to open the back door. New parents get pretty tired and a change of routine makes it possible to forget a sleeping baby in a back seat.