Fitting your Child's Infant Car Seat Fitting your Child's Infant Car Seat

Tanya Davis

Using a rear-facing car seat seems simple, until the first time that you try to install it. At most Child Passenger Safety Checkpoints, it is found that as many as 98% of seats are not being used correctly. Since the purpose of the seat is to protect your child from harm, it does not make sense to use the seat incorrectly. This article discusses the best ways to install and use the car seat.

Before you Begin

It is probably best to install the seat without the infant around, so that you can make sure you know what you are doing without being distracted. Gather your vehicle owner’s manual and your car seat installation guide –you’ll need both. The first thing you will need to know is what kind of seat belts are in your car. Some seat belts require a locking clip, which will be supplied with any new car safety seat. If your vehicle is fairly new it will not need locking clips.

Choose the safest place to put the car seat. Rear-facing child safety seats should never be positioned in the front seat of a vehicle with front passenger air bags. If the air bag were to inflate, it would slam into the back of your child’s head, possibly causing serious injury or death. Instead, put the car seat in one of the back seats.

Installing the seat in the vehicle

Rear-facing seats must be installed so tightly that they cannot move forward, nor should they move more than one inch from side to side when you tug on the seat. Fastening the seat this tightly may require that you press onto the seat with your own weight, even putting your knee into the seat for pressure, while pulling the belt as tight as you can.

The seat belt must be routed through the correct belt path. You will find that convertible seats offer more than one path, so to install it in the rear-facing position, check the installation manual that came with the seat to be sure you are using the correct one.

Vehicles that were manufactured after 2002 may offer the LATCH system, which was designed to be an easier way to ensure that a seat is fitted correctly. Please visit our article on LATCH if your vehicle offers this system.

Putting the Child into the Seat

Getting the seat itself installed correctly is only half the battle. After you’ve done that, you must make sure that your child is also fitted correctly. The seat probably offers several slots for the harness straps; choose the ones directly at or just below the baby’s shoulders. If your child wears a heavy coat, be sure to loosen the straps to make room for the extra clothing – then tighten them again the next time the coat is off!

Next, place your child in the seat and strap him in securely. Look carefully at the angle of his head. Infants cannot support their own heads, so it is vital that his or her head not be allowed to flop forward. Your seat may have an angle adjuster to help you get this right. If it does not have an adjuster, or if you cannot get the angle of the seat to the correct position, use tightly rolled towels to support the base of the seat (where the back of the vehicle’s seat meets the car seat).

For Further Support

Fitting a child into a safety seat the right way is not easy. Vehicles, their seat shapes, car seats, and children are all different. If you have concerns about your child’s seat, consider visiting a Child Passenger Safety Checkpoint to let a technician view your car seat installation. He or she will give you helpful tips on fitting the seat correctly – and may even help you save your child’s life.

Tanya Davis is a freelance writer living in Tennesee.

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