10 Things You Need to Know About Your Baby’s Car Seat

Posted in Babies, Baby Care, Baby Gear, Motherhood, New Mommy Series
on August 16, 2017

A baby’s car seat is one of the most important and often most expensive purchases new parents will make.  And, guess what?  That’s ok.  What new mommy or daddy wants to cut corners when it comes to their baby’s safety.  No one I know.

But, do you know how to install that fancy shmancy car seat?  Do you know to secure your purse and other items in your car before driving because they could potentially harm your baby in a car accident?  Or, did you know that those adorable mirrors in the back seat that help you keep an eye on your little one can distract from the road worse than texting and driving?

Today I’ll share all these tips and tricks for car seat safety with you.  They just may save your baby’s life.

{First, of all this post may contain affiliate links to some of the safest car seats on the market and other goodies for car seat safety. You can read my Disclosure Policy if you have some extra time (yeah right!! Ha!!).  Also, these tips and tricks were lesson points I learned in an educational seminar with a certified car seat technician, and I knew I had to share them with all of you!  Enjoy! }

1. Car Seats Have Expiration Dates

Did you know that car seat have expiration dates?  Car Seats are usually only last for 6-10 years.  The expiration date is based on the type of plastic that is used and other factors.

The expiration date should be displayed somewhere on your car seat usually around the base.  Sometimes you have to look really hard, as the expiration date may blend in with the plastic base.  When in doubt, check your owner’s manual or call the manufacturer.

If you decide to borrow a friend or family members car seat, make sure the seat is not expired and that it hasn’t been in a vehicle that has been in a car accident (more on this later).

2. Don’t Throw Out Old Car Seats

If you realize your car seat is past the expiration date, don’t just throw it away.  These seats may be dangerous, and I’m sure you’d hate for someone to come and grab that car seat out of your garbage to use with their baby.  Some folks even try reselling the old car seats.

My friend the certified car seat tech suggests destroying the seat.  Like really destroying it.  Like smash it to pieces.  Or, better yet, check with your local baby store to see if they take old car seats.  Some stores will take your old car seat and give you a discount on a new one.  How awesome it that?

3. Register Your Car Seat For Up-To-Date Recalls

Don’t forget to register your car seat so that you receive up-to-date recalls on the seat.  If you’re anything like me, I toss all the papers that come with my purchases and always forget to register them.  The baby’s car seat is not one to mess around with, though.

4. Infant Car Seats Have a 5 Point Harness

Baby Car Seats have a 5 Point Harness buckle system unlike regular seat buckles that we adults use.  A baby is secured at the hips, the shoulders, and the chest.

Certified Car Seat technicians generally advise securing the baby in the seat at the hips first.  1 fingers should be able to fit between the strap and the hip.  The baby’s hips should be pretty tight and snug.  Next, they advise moving on to securing the shoulder straps.  The straps should be tight enough that you are not able to pinch the strap at all.  And, lastly secure the chest buckle at the nipples or armpits.

When your baby is completely secured in the car seat, you should be able to tip the seat completely upside down without the baby moving at all.

Here’s a quick video about The Pinch Test…

5. You Should Secure Loose Items In Your Car

I never realized how dangerous loose items are in a car accident.  Did you know that on average a woman’s purse weight approximately 10 lbs?  And, in the blunt force of a car crash, that same 10 lb. purse is equal to 700 lbs!  Imagine your 700 lb purse slamming into your head, or even worse, your child’s.

That is why Certified Car Seat Technicians recommend buckling in all loose items in your car.  From the bottle of Tide detergent placed on the floor, to your cell phone, to your water bottle….all loose items in the car can become dangerous.

The Car Seat Tech that spoke in our meeting suggesting buckling our purses in the passenger seat buckle and making sure that our cell phones were easily accessible within our purses.  In the event of a car accident, cell phones often times go flying because they’ve been placed in a cup holder or on the seat.  If you and your baby are trapped in the car, you want to be able to easily reach your cell phone.  I thought this was really valuable advice.

Also, if you have an open trunk space like what is in most SUV’s and mini-vans, she suggested using the cargo net to secure items in the lower portion of your trunk so that those items are caught by the net before flying like crazy within your vehicle.

6. There Should Be No Additional Items In The Car Seat

All new parents have the best of intentions when it comes to their babies, but this one thing that most parents do could actually be putting their baby in danger.  Do not add any additional items to your baby’s car seat that doesn’t come from the manufacturer.

Most new parents are disillusioned that their baby needs a plushy, super comfy head rest to protect their tiny little noggins, but that is just not so.  Adding in extra padding, head rests, and even toys in your car seat, could negate the warranty and make the seat less safe.

The items that come with your car seat have been specifically tested to be safe to gently cradle a baby, and when the seat is locked into the base, the seat will be at the perfect angle to keep your baby the most safe.  Adding extra stuff could compromise the angle at which your baby’s head is tilted, therefore closing off his airway without you even realizing it.

Also, there should be no additional fabric, such as seat covers for wintertime, in between your baby’s body and the car seat.  Only use what is included with the seat at the time of purchase.

These MilkSnob Cover protect your baby from the elements without adding any additional bulky fabric between your baby and the seat.  Plus they double as a nursing cover and are super cute!

7. Do Not Install A Mirror In Your Car For Watching Baby

Ok, I know what you’re thinking!  “But, I have to install that cute little mirror on the back of the seat so that I can peek on my little one while I’m driving.  You know, to make sure everything is alright, and to not miss anything new and cute that he does.”  Am I right?  Is that pretty on point with your thinking?

Of course, it is!  And, that’s all right!  Your baby should be your top priority.  Every mom wants to make sure their baby is happy and content in the car, and that the pesky pacifier doesn’t fall on the floor.

However, did you know, that moms with those cutesy mirror in their cars are more distracted than drivers who are texting?  We shun and even fear those drivers who are unabashedly texting while driving.  In fact, I stay as far away from them on the road as possible.  But, maybe I should be steering clear of those cars with the caution “Baby On Board” stickers.

Resist the urge to buy one of these mirrors.  It doesn’t belong on your registry.  Keep your eyes on the road.  You baby will be fine.

8. Your Baby Should Not Wear A Coat, Snowsuit, or Swaddler While Buckled In

Like I mentioned before, any extra fabric between your baby and the car seat could create a dangerous situation.  So, you baby shouldn’t wear a coat, or a snowsuit, or a swaddle while buckled into the car seat.  Just simply place your baby in the car seat and cover with a light blanket.  Yes, even in the wintertime.

9. Your Baby Should Not Be Left In The Car Seat To Sleep

I know that it is so tempting to let your little nap while in the car seat.  They fall asleep in the car, and look so peaceful all snug as a bug in their safe seat, right?  But, when you take the car seat out of the base in your car and place it on the floor in your home, the seat is no longer level.  The seat is at an angle that could close off a baby’s airway.  That’s why it’s so important to make sure the seat is level, which we’ll talk about in a second.

Babies have been found dead in their car seat when left to sleep in them.  And, you and I both know that those parents were probably convinced that sleeping in the car seat was safe.  Don’t make the same mistake.  It could be devastating.

10. Adhere an Emergency Sticker to the Side of the Seat Just In Case

And, last but not least, don’t forget to adhere an emergency sticker to the side of your car seat.  Just in case you are in a car accident, you definitely want first responders to know your baby’s name, medical history, and who your emergency contact is.  No parents likes to imagine the worse case scenario, that’s for sure.  But, give your baby a voice when you may not be able to speak.  It just may save your baby’s life and yours as well.  You can by the emergency sticker on Amazon.

The TLC Method of Installing A Car Seat

T- Tight

You want the seat to move less than 1 inch in the base in the car.  Here’s a quick video explaining this…

L- Level

Every car seat includes a level on the side of the base of the seat.  This ensures that when you click the seat into the base, the car seat is level and safe for your baby.  Your baby should be at a 45 degree angle.

C- Clear

Make sure that your car seat is clear and not touching the seat in front of it.  Some parents try to cram their baby’s car seat behind the front row seats.  Some even think that this tight squeeze will keep their baby extra safe.  But, unfortunately that’s just not the case.

If you have any more questions about how to properly install your baby’s car seat, visit safekids.org.  They offer a complete Ultimate Car Seat Guide that is free on their website, and is constantly updated with the latest research.

And, if I could give new parents any piece of advice it would be this…have your car seat checked by a certified car seat technician.  You can find local car seat even near you, click here.

So, did you find these tips helpful?  Is your baby’s car seat installed correctly?  Have any questions, please let me know and I’ll do my best to get you the answer.  Have a wonderful day!

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