Infant car seat safety guidelines
Everybody would be safest facing backward while riding in a car.Babies are lucky to have seats that work this way. Infants are safest when riding facing the rear, because the back of the safety seat supports the child's back, neck, and head in a crash. So, whichever seat you choose, your baby should ride rear-facing until about one year of age and at least 20 pounds. Below are some general guidelines for infant car seat safety.
Infant car seat safety guidelines:
- Read the car seat instruction manual carefully.
- Practice putting the car seat in and out of the car before bringing it to the hospital.
- Always use a car seat. Never hold your infant on your lap.
- A rear-facing car seat must not be placed in the front passenger seat of any vehicle equipped with a passenger side airbag. If your vehicle has side impact air bags, make sure the car seat is secured in the middle seat. The middle back seat is the safest location.
- Never leave your baby unattended in the car. Cars can heat up fast in the sun, and a baby can overheat quickly.
- Be careful about using a car seat that belonged to someone else. Car seats that have been in accidents, have cracks, are missing pieces, or those over 10 years old should not be used.
- If your vehicle seat slopes so that your baby's head flops forward, the car seat should be reclined to a 45-degree angle. A firm roll of cloth or newspaper can be wedged under the car seat below your baby's feet to achieve this angle.
- Make sure the car seat is buckled securely in the car. If you can move the car seat more than an inch side to side or toward the front of the car, it is not tight enough.
Types of car seats
There are two types of rear-facing car seats: infant-only car seats and convertible car seats. Convertible seats can be used in rear-facing mode for infants and then converted to a forward-facing position once the child is old enough and big enough to do so, generally after one year of age and 20 pounds.
Infant-only car seats
- These models are small and have carrying handles.
- Use rear-facing for infants up to 20 pounds. Some models go up to 30 pounds.
- A 5-point harness is preferred. Keep chest clip at armpit level, not on the neck or tummy.
- Harness strap slots should be at or below the shoulders.
- Newborn babies should have a 45-degree maximum recline. Built-in indicators and adjusters help get the correct recline.
- Most models come with a detachable base that can be left in the car. The car seat should click when placed firmly into the base indicating it is locked.
- Infant-only seats may fit newborns better than convertible car seats.
Convertible car seats
- Convertible seats are used in rear-facing mode for infants from birth to at least 1 year and at least 20 pounds. The seats can be used in forward-facing mode for older children.
- These models have higher rear-facing weight limits than infant-only car seats, with some going up to 30-35 pounds.
- These models should be turned front-facing at the 30-35 pound weight limit or if the infant's head is within one inch of the top of the seat.
- You should keep harness straps at or below the shoulders while rear-facing.
- You should keep harness straps at or above the shoulders when forward-facing.
- Models with a 5-point harness and a front adjuster strap are preferred.
- Keep chest clip at armpit level, not on the neck or tummy.
- A 45-degree maximum recline is needed for newborns and infants while rear-facing. Older babies with good head control can have less recline while the seat is in rear-facing mode.
- Upright with no recline is best when these seats are in front-facing mode.
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