Car Seats 101 | Fit Pregnancy

Car Seats 101

Before your newborn even leaves the hospital, baby needs a car seat!

Positioning Baby in the Seat

We hate to break it to you, but shopping for the right car seat is only half the battle!

Once you have your car seat picked out, it’s just as important to make sure that you are strapping your baby in correctly.

Before you even place baby in the car seat, double-check that you have the harness straps in the correct slot for baby’s height.

Rear-facing seats should have harness straps that come out of the seat at the height of baby’s shoulders or slightly below.

Forward facing seats should have harness straps that come out at the height of your child’s shoulders or just above them.

After baby is buckled in, make sure to properly tighten the harness straps. They should be tight enough that you cannot pinch any extra material on the baby’s shoulders.

Remember: It is dangerous to have anything under the harness straps between the baby's body. This means there should be NO blankets or bulky clothing. The extra layers don’t allow baby to be fastened in as securely as possible.

Also, make sure to raise the chest clip all the way up to the baby's armpit level.

Finally, a rear-facing car seat should be installed at an angle that keeps your baby in a semi-reclined position; their head should not be able to flop forward. Place a rolled-up towel under the base of the seat to get the right angle, if needed.

Now, we’ve probably all seen it done (and perhaps even been tempted to do it), but those tantalizing toys hanging from your baby’s infant seat carrier handle might not be such a safe idea.

Some experts say that when the car seat handle is left in the upright carrying position during travel, they can break during a crash and possibly injure your baby.

As with all aspects of car seat installation, it is best to check the manual for your child's specific safety seat.

RELATED: Check out our guide to car seat installation

Is it Safe to Use a Secondhand Car Seat?

Many used car seats are still safe, but there are a few things to consider before you accept those hand-me-downs:

Make sure the car seat was NEVER in a crash. Even if the child was not in the seat at the time of the crash, the forces experienced during a crash could damage the seat.

Also, has the car seat been recalled? It is not uncommon for a car seat to be recalled. Most recalls can be addressed and you can typically continue to safely use the seat.

RELATED: Find out if your car seat has been recalled

Finally, make sure the seat is not expired. Yup—you read that right! Car seats have expiration dates. The plastic becomes brittle and weak as it ages.

Most car seats expire after 6 years from the date of manufacture. If you can’t find an expiration date printed on the seat, check the owner’s manual.

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