Baby Safety Month: How to Properly Install a Car Seat
Your car seat is one of the most important purchases you will make for your baby. Once you’ve chosen the right one for your vehicle and your child, the next step in to install it early enough before your baby is born so that you are familiar with how it works and how to get the carrier in and out of your car. If you’re wondering how to properly install a car seat, the answer is that it depends on the type of car seat you buy. Here you’ll learn how to install some of the most popular car seat types available.
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Rear-Facing Car Seats
For the first two years of your child’s life (or until he reaches the maximum height and weight for the seat), you’ll need to have a rear-facing car seat for safety purposes. To install a rear-facing infant car seat (this includes convertible car seats), follow these steps:
- Read the instruction manuals for your car seat and your vehicle thoroughly to familiarize yourself with the process before beginning installation.
- Take the base of the car seat and place it in the back seat of your car, facing the rear. Thread the seatbelt through the rear-facing belt path.
- Buckle and lock the seat belt.
- Push down on the car seat base and tighten if necessary. When properly installed, the base shouldn’t be able to move more than an inch in any direction.
- Check to see if your car seat base is installed at the correct recline angle. Babies should sit semi-reclined, but this changes as they grow older, so keep in mind that you may need to readjust the seat base in the coming months.
- Once you’re sure the base is completely secure and installed correctly, attach the infant carrier to the base.
Once you have the base installed it shouldn’t be too much of a problem to take the carrier in and out, but make sure you practice a few times to make sure you’ve got the hang of it before you have a baby to worry about.
Forward-Facing Car Seats
Once your child reaches the age of two, it’s safe to turn the car seat around so it’s facing the front. If you purchased a convertible car seat for your baby, you can keep the same seat and just reinstall it facing forward.
- As before, read the manual for both the car seat and your vehicle. With forward-facing car seats, you’ll need to use your car’s lower anchors and tethers (if available) rather than just the seatbelt to secure the car seat.
- If your car has just a tether, install the seat base as previously with the seatbelt, but this time facing forward. Once the base is secure, connect the car seat’s tether to your car’s tether anchor and tighten. This helps limit forward movement in a crash, which helps prevent injury.
- If your car has lower anchors and tethers, attach the car seat base to the lower anchors rather than the seatbelt, then proceed as above.
The most important take-away is to thoroughly read your car seat’s manual as well as your vehicle’s manual. All car seats are made slightly differently, even though they all do the same job. It’s imperative that you correctly install your seat base before you place the carrier and your baby into the car. A properly-installed car seat could be the difference between life and death for your baby in case of a collision.
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