Taking care of babies and driving a vehicle are both huge responsibilities. Coming home from the hospital can be especially challenging, with so many new changes & so little information. Ease off some stress by making sure your car seat is properly installed! Here are some important steps to consider to ensure you know how to safely install a car seat:
Find the Right Fit
No matter how you assemble & install a car seat, if it is not the correct fit for your child’s current conditions, you need to find a different option. Fortunately, there are countless resources to help you determine the best choice for you and your baby! Try this method from the NHSTA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) to help you determine the correct orientation & type based on age, weight, and height!
Read the Manuals
As boring as it may seem, actually reading and understanding the manual is crucial. This includes your vehicle manual and the specific car seat’s manual. No matter how many car seats you’ve installed, each one has different steps to keep your baby safe. So take the time to read through them thoroughly, and keep it close by to refer to during installation.
Belt or LATCH?
LATCH stands for Lower Anchors for Tethers and Children, and it should be present in all cars & car seats manufactured in the last decade.
The first important step of installation is to decide whether or not you will be using the LATCH system or the seat belts to anchor the car seat. Although they will both keep your baby safe, both systems cannot be used at the same time. So before you begin, determine which method you want to stick to and roll with it! Just keep in mind that the LATCH cannot be used on all seats, so consult your car manual to make sure the seat you’re trying to use is compatible.
Use the Inch Test
After following the instructions based on the correct information, you can use the Inch Test, and some others, to make sure the car seat and your child will be tightly secured. With the Inch Test, when you move it from the belt track (where the seat belt or LATCH goes through the car seat) it should not budge more than an inch, both front to back & side to side. If you see too much movement, make sure to tighten it!
Keep Up-To-Date with Changes
As your baby grows, both in size and weight, you will need to adjust the car seat installation & configuration to make sure your child is staying secure. Eventually, you’ll switch to forward-facing, then boosters, and finally just seat belts. For each of these changes, consult the manual again and take note of height/weight min. & max. limits to make sure you are staying consistent with your baby’s maturation!
Consult a Professional
If you are still unsure, confused, or just want to be extra careful, you can always consult a professional! Find the soonest & nearest checkup / installation event, and show up ready to learn. Or book a one-on-one consultation with a Michelle, a child passenger safety technician, and her team for more specialized & detailed help!
Now that you know some of these helpful tips, it’s time to get to work! First find out which car seat is the best fit for your needs. Then follow the instructions (and of course these steps) to properly install a safe car seat for your baby! And remember, regardless of your efforts, accidents can occur, so keep a resqme® within reach to always stay safe!