Before Baby: DeMystifying Car Seat Installation

Three out of four car seats are improperly installed, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). For first-timers and even veteran parents, car seats can be an intimidating piece of safety equipment. But it doesn’t have to be a mystery. Infant safety classes include information and demonstrations for how to install the car seat during class.

Here are additional quick tips to get you started:

  • Use a new car seat. Used or second-hand seats may have different safety features which are no longer safe.
  • Install car seats for infants in the rear facing position in center of rear seat. Take time to read your car seat and vehicle manuals to best understand how to install your car seat.
  • Use LATCH strap or seat belt to install the car seat tightly and securely. To check for a tight hold, hold the seat near where the LATCH strap or seat belt goes through the car seat and pull forward from side to side. The seat is secure if it does not move more than an inch. Do not check tightness of the car seat by pulling up. Movement in upward direction is acceptable.
  • Check seat’s manual for instructions on how to recline the seat. Roll a towel or cloth and place under the seat to help recline car seat, depending on the vehicle set-up.
  • Supports help. If your baby has room on its side, place rolled up towels, cloths or blankets around him/her to create a snug position. You may be able to purchase supports for the head, neck and body if there is room on the baby’s sides.
  • Growing up! Most babies who outgrow a rear-facing car seat can move to a convertible seat to stay rear facing. Per new Illinois law, children must remain rear facing until the age of two or unless the child weighs 40 pounds or is 40 inches or taller.

Attend a Living With Baby: Infant Safety Class at the Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation to learn more about car-seat safety and how to childproof your environment. Find a class here.