With a newborn in your arms, proper care and maintenance ensure that your baby is safe at all times. That is why any traveling advisory will necessitate on a child safety seat that will prevent the kids from suffering fatal injuries when an inevitable car crash happens.
Car safety for babies is a requirement by the law as we will see which needs you to restrain your child correctly when traveling. Speaking of restraining, complying with the right standards means choosing the rear-facing child seat technique as opposed to the forward-facing seats when they are young and vulnerable.
During a car crash, a forward-facing seat will not prevent severe injuries since your baby’s head is still big and the body parts including the spinal cord are under development. When compared to the rear-facing seat, your baby’s head, neck, and spine are well held by the back of the child seat so, everything will be intact when the unexpected happens. Watch this video to learn on rear-facing technique and various child safety seat installation measures while in the car.
To make sure that the seat you choose is the right one for the toddlers and have it correctly placed, this guide will help you:
- Choose the right seat for your child
- Tips on how to make sure your baby is safe while in the car
- Points to remember when installing the safety seat
- A checklist to use when purchasing the right safety seat
Table of Contents
- Best Child Safety Seat Review
- 3+ Tips for Child Safety in the Car
- Child Car Safety Laws
- Travelling With Kids in the Car
- Points to Remember When Installing the Safety Seat
- Buying Child Car Safety Seat Checklist
Best Child Safety Seat Review
Before you go to the stores for a search, here is information about the types of child safety seats that you can choose from depending on your kid’s current status. It will serve as a guideline to not choosing the wrong seat.
Also known as rear-facing only, child car seats meant for infants have the following to make them distinguished from the rest.
- They are secure by being rear-faced and come with a five or three-point harness. Most of what you will find has the five-point with included straps that protect the shoulders and hips, two at each part. All the straps connect to a buckle that goes between the legs. The other type, three-point harness, is not common but functions the same with no points at the hips.
- The carrying handle feature extends portability. This means that you can use the infant seats as carriers when moving the baby. When in the car, the handle should be down after placing your little one on the seat. For more tips on how to set the handle, check the manual.
- The seats are compatible with detachable bases that can be used by the baby seat for support and left in your car when you are out. There are many bases to consider for use in your car independent of the model. Most of the seats that you will come across can also be held by one seat belt without using the base.
- They have weight limits which will need you to check the manual for the maximum allowed weight. On the other hand, infant-only seats can be used by kiddos between 22-35 pounds or more.
- Babies who have outgrown the infant seats will need a larger one that is rear-faced until they are 2 years old. Consider a convertible safety seat that allows forward-facing when the time comes.
Infant only seats are good for:
- A healthy newborn child with no special needs.
- Protecting the young one’s back, head, neck and shoulders in case of a crash.
- Carrying the baby when getting in and out of the car.
Not good for:
- Older babies who have exceeded the limit weight.
- Little ones with special needs such as premature birth among other complications.
Convertible Child Safety Seats
They represent the seats that can be forward or rear-faced. Regardless of how you can use these types of seats, you should only have a rear-facing position in your mind, at the backseat of your car until your child reaches the height and weight limit dictated in the manual. Only then can the seat be turned to forward-facing.
There are two types to look out for here:
- Can be converted to rear- or forward-facing as your child grows
- They are bigger than the rear-only and don’t have carrying handles or detachable bases.
- They have a higher weight limit, 40-50 pounds.
- They have belt paths to suit both rear- and forward-facing. Check the manual to know where to pass the seat belt when installing the seat in the car.
- Child positioning utilizes the five-point harness.
- They can be used in three modes: Rear, forward and booster.
- When used in the rear-facing mode, they have the same properties with the convertible rear-facing seats.
For both types of convertible seats, they are
- Parents looking forward to buying ahead
- Long trips where you will be able to switch the kid to various position to relieve stress and getting tired
- Older children with heavier body weights, above 40 pounds
Not good for:
- Children under six months
- Children with special needs
Some of the convertible seats are not fit for smaller newborns with special needs such those as born too early (preterm) or have a low birth weight. A better substitute is a car bed to make sure that the baby does not move or change positions as you travel or in the case of a crash or a sudden stop.
They allow the baby to travel while lying down. To know whether your child needs a car bed or not, the medical staff responsible for the test will check the following before the first trip:
- Is the infant gestational age less than 37 weeks at birth?
- Can the child cope with sitting in a semi-reclined position using the rear-facing seat?
- Is the young one at the risk of oxygen desaturation, apnea or bradycardia among other complications?
Once the pediatrician knows that the child is not fit to sit on the above-discussed chair types, the next recommendation is a car bed with some safety tips to adhere to when traveling.
Car Bed Safety Tips
In addition to what the manufacturer has instructed you to do, follow the points below when using the seat:
- Place the seat in the center part of the rear seat away from the windows and doors.
- Attach the car bed to the vehicle using the seat belt and tighten it.
- Unless otherwise instructed, place your baby on his or her back.
- Does the kid need some breathing equipment? Check on how to secure it from moving in case of a crash.
- Have somebody else by the side to watch the baby as you drive.
- Avoid long trips with the baby unless you have no other choice until he or she is medically stable to use the child safety car seat. If traveling for long, take a rest after a 2-hour drive.
3+ Tips for Child Safety in the Car
Securing your baby does not end after buying child car safety seats. To ensure proper installation and doing it correctly when traveling, here are tips for you:
- Always consider rear-facing position every time you are strapping the child on the seat until he or she is 2 years of age. If the child attains the front facing car seat age, you will know when they exceed the allowed height and weight by the manufacturer. You might be worried about the child’s legs bending at the knee or touching the rear seat. They will still be comfortable and it will not harm their knees.
- Do not put your baby in the front seat while driving. Instead, consider the back seat and at the center. Riding when your baby is at the front is risking your baby’s life due to the passenger side airbag when a crash happens. Placing the seat in the back center seat is a much better newborn car seat position since there will be no attachment on the sides and the child will be safer if the window breaks. If you have two kids, you can place them at the center with the one needing more attention at the center position or each on their seat at the back with some space between them.
- How should a baby be strapped in a car seat? The straps on the shoulder should be below or at the baby’s shoulders. Child safety seats have adjustable harness slots to decrease or increase depending on your child’s body size. For correct harnessing tips, consider:
- Tightening the harness so that there is no room for pinching a fold on the material after buckling your little one.
- Straight line strapping with no sagging or twists on the line.
- Clipping the chest clip at the armpit level of your child.
- Coats off, please.Do not clad your baby in heavy clothing or put a blanket between your child and the straps. Your kid will be heated up in the tight position not to mention the heavy wear will be interfering with the harness tightness. In case of cold weather, place a warm blanket over the child and tighten the belts.
- You know that your baby is growing when their head nears the rear-facing seat top. For a safe newborn in car seat head support, there should be at least an inch between the top of the seat and your toddler’s head.
Do You Have a LATCH System? Use It.
LATCH is an acronym for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children which is made to ease the safety seat installation process. It has been there since 2002, and it is used to directly attach the safety seat to the vehicle without depending on the seat belts. When used correctly, the LATCH does not allow the seat to move for more than an inch side to side or back and forth. Since not all autos will have it, you can use the system even if it pushes you to use one of the sides. It is also recommendable to use top tether which limits the car seat’s motion and your child’s head when a crash happens.
Before You Consider Switching to A Booster Seat,
Test the limits first and don’t be in a hurry. Switching to a booster means doing away with the three or five-point harness seat which is better in diffusing the force of a crash. Booster seats help you lift the child higher to fit in the car’s seat belts as opposed to the safety seat straps. You can get two styles here: a high back booster and a backless booster. The prior provides head support when the need arises especially is your car seat is low. Killing two birds with one stone is also possible if you purchase the combinational seats that work as forward-facing and boosters, or rear-facing, forward-facing and booster.
Never Leave Your Child Alone in the Car.
It is disqualified if the day is hot. Do not even think about it, even for the shortest period unless you are rushing for something and then back. We all know how a car gets heated when the temperature is high, and this can skyrocket to dangerous levels. Children are not like adults so the rate of dehydration on them is higher not forgetting other heat-related complications that might develop on your kid. You risk the child having a heat stroke and a potential loss of life. In some places, you will find that it is illegal to leave your child in the car unattended at any amount of time and the charges come with a hefty penalty.
Child Car Safety Laws
They are varied depending on your location. Some places have regulations that protect children until they attain the age of 16. For safety reasons, you should only transit your child to the next category if they outgrow the current restraint and you are sure they can handle the next.
The regulations are different depending on where you reside, but here is the general view for the various age brackets:
- Under six months: Properly fasten the toddler with an approved infant seat.
- Six months to seven years: You can use the rear or forward facing safety seat that is adjustable and fastened.
- Four years to seven years: Use a forward-facing seat or a booster.
- If you have a space at the back, do not place your kid in the front passenger seat.
- If you have children under seven years seated at the back, you can put the younger one at the front in an approved seat.
- Check the child safety laws governing in our area of residence. For precaution purposes, use the safety seat at all times if you are taking a taxi or car hire.
Children With Additional Needs
If your child has special needs, it can be challenging to travel with them. In such a situation, you can work together with a therapist or someone experienced and certified to make recommendations on what you need. In the course of availing the travel strategies for you, various issues might pop up such as:
- Modifying the safety seat to suit the child
- Recommendation of another restraint
- Prescription of an exceptional child restraint if the kid is disabled
In the case of modification, do it with the help of a certified and informed health staff. Seek advice from professionals dealing with disability in children or the road authority in your territory, state or country.
Travelling With Kids in the Car
Having a child safety seat is one thing. Making sure that the baby is comfortable and not disturbing is another, and the child will be getting in your way wanting some attention with some ‘I want mama’ cry. Here are some of the tips to make it easy for everyone.
- Challenge them by rewarding good behavior.
- Tell them you are going nowhere unless the seatbelts are tied up.
- Play some fun games to keep them occupied.
- If the traveling takes long, have a booster seat with you
- If you have two kids, an older one, and a toddler, take the elder out first before the younger one.
- Take a break after two hours of driving to relieve stress and fatigue from the kids.
- Make sure that loose objects which are bound to fly in case of a crash are properly secured. It is also important to restrain pets.
Points to Remember When Installing the Safety Seat
For the best car seat installation advice, you can watch some child car seat installation videos apart from reading the instruction manual from the manufacturer. At one point or another, you may encounter some errors which calls for help during installation or going through some guides. If something is still not clear, seek further advice from a friend or professional.
Otherwise, ensure the following:
- Tight seat installation: Ensure that your seat does not move beyond an inch in any direction.
- Make sure the shoulder straps are well positioned, at or below baby shoulders for the rear-facing and at or above for the forward-facing.
- After buckling, do the pinching test. Try to pinch the straps at the top of your baby’s shoulders to get the close-fitness level. If you can carve out some extra material, then that means it is still loose. Tighten and check again.
- Check the belt path especially when you have the front and rear-facing combo seat so that the seat belt can have the right route based on the manual.
- If your seat has the top tether strap at the top, use it. If you do not know how to go about it, the manual will show you how to strap it to the correct anchor point.
Buying Child Car Safety Seat Checklist
Use this to verify the car seat you are purchasing
- Is the seat rear faced? If you are looking further, does it have the front-facing feature or the booster or both?
- Does it meet the federal motor vehicle safety standards? Check the sticker on the side of the seat.
- Does the child fit in the seat? Check the height and weight limits and compare with your kid.
- Is harnessing easy for you to adjust when placing and removing the baby out of the safety seat?
- Is it easy to install in your car?
- If you have more than one car, would you consider buying a base for each when purchasing an infant carrier?
It is never advisable to buy a second-hand child safety seat but if you have to, check the following:
- History of the seat
- Has it been recalled? Check with the highway authority near you for recall information
- Is it too old? The expiration of most seats is six years so make sure to check.
Your child should be safe when traveling which is an obligation you have to meet and also emphasized by the law governing our roads. You have an infant to protect so, make sure that you have the right seat with you and proper installation procedures are adhered to. If you need more information, seek advice from the hospital, child centers and relevant authorities who will be there to help you out.