Having a new baby on the way is both exciting and scary. What will it be like? What will my baby need? But before you begin planning the nursery colors, you should begin shopping for the most important item your baby will need – a safe car seat.
Always purchase a new car seat, since used car seats may have recalls or could be missing parts. Follow the instructions that come with your car seat for safe installation. The seat should fit your baby’s weight, length and health. The shoulder straps should be as close as possible to the baby’s shoulders, or just under the shoulders. If the straps are at the level of your baby’s ears, the car seat is not safe for your infant. You should not be able to pinch any extra strap in the shoulder area – if you can, the straps are too loose.
Before you use the car seat, read your car’s manual on proper car seat installation. Some cars require locking clips, while others have seat belts that must be completely extended to activate a special car seat locking feature. Every vehicle is different, so be sure to know the proper installation procedure for all of your cars. Your baby is safest in the back seat, and should be facing the rear of the car until he or she is at least 20 pounds.
Some car seats come with an adjustable base that will enable a snug fit in your car. If yours does not and the car seat rocks a bit, place a rolled towel in between your car’s seat back and the infant car seat. This will enable you to tighten the belt enough to keep the car seat from rocking. Another trick is to place your knee into the empty car seat and push down with all your weight as you tighten the belt.
Your baby should be wearing clothes such as pants or a dress that enable a harness to be secured between the legs. Once your infant is secured, you can place blankets over him or her for warmth. If your baby is slouching you can use rolled up diapers or baby blankets next to his head or her body. The chest clip should be at your baby’s armpits. Too high may choke your baby, while too low will not protect your infant in a crash. Your baby should be reclined rather than laying down or too upright.
Most local fire stations have at least one or two firefighters who are certified in car seat installation. They are usually more than happy to come out to your car to inspect the installation and make any changes necessary for your infant’s safety.
If you cannot afford a car seat, ask your hospital or social services department if they have one available for you. Most cities have car seats available to those who cannot afford one. Never take your infant in the car without a safe and correctly installed car seat, and NEVER place your baby’s car seat in a seat with an airbag.