It's the first day back to work after you've delivered your child. You're already late, and you forgot to install the car seat the night before. Like most of us would do in this situation, you probably take a quick glance at the instructions, install the car seat quickly, give it a good tug, and put the baby in. It's no surprise that car seat installation is something that is often overlooked by many parents. However, ensuring that your car seat is correctly installed is quite important, both for your child's safety and comfort. Below are the ABC's of car seats to help you ensure your child's safety.
A is for Age and Stage Will Help You Gauge
There are three primary stages of car seats – rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster – and deciding which to use is primarily based on the age of your child. Children under the age of two should always be placed in rear-facing car seats, and some pediatricians recommend keeping them in such seats up until the age of five.Children as young as two can be placed in front-facing car seats and can remain in them until the age of seven. As of four years of age, if your child meets the height and weight requirements, they can be moved to a booster seat, which they should use until they are roughly the size of an adult, normally around 12 years of age. If you have a convertible car seat, and you are unsure which orientation is safest for your child, check the guidelines included with the car seat itself.
B is for Be Sure the Car Seat is Correctly Installed, and in an Accident, No Children Will Be Mauled
Latch. Slots. Clips. Harnesses. It's no wonder that many parents find installing the car seat to be overwhelming! Of course, you should follow the instructions included with your car seat, but if you're still unsure, then there are a few tests you can use to make sure it is properly installed, which we've lovingly borrowed from SafeKids.org:
- Inching along: Once you've installed the seat, give it a tug at the base, where it is secured by the seat belt. If you can move it more than an inch, then it is not safe, and you should reinstall the belt so that it is more secure.
- A Little Pinch: With your child in the car seat, and the harness secured, pinch the strap at the child's shoulder. If the belt is tightt, and you are unable to bend the webbing between your fingers, then you are ready to ride.
C is for Check the Fit, So You'll Be Safe if You're Hit
Our little ones often grow faster than we can keep up with. It can be easy to forget to double-check that the car seat properly fits your child, especially with everything else going on in our lives. But, doing so will ensure that your child is always safe, every time you drive. If your child has recently outgrown a size of clothing, it's probably time to double-check that they are properly in their car seat. The harness should always be over the chest, at the level of the armpits. Of course, you don't want it to be too tight either – an overtightened belt will likely mean a cranky child. When you buckle them in, you should be able to fit one finger, but not more than two between the child and the belt at any point.
Car seat safety is important, and thankfully, it is also something that can be done quickly. Remembering the ABC's of car seat safety will ensure that if the worst should happen, your little one will be protected.