5 Considerations in Proper Use and Selection of a Car Seat for an Infant
During the introduction of most of my infant CPR & Safety classes, I admit to everyone that not one time in either of my children’s early lives were they properly fitted in their infant car seats. I also point out that not one time were their seats ever installed in the cars properly. Before passing judgment on my abilities as a father, please realize that I am not alone. It is believed that over 90% of all parents and caregivers have at least one of a list of major mistakes in using their child’s car seat. This is not because we do not care about our kids, nor is it because we do not think it is important. Most people are simply never told that there is a correct way and an incorrect way to use the seat. Let me state it now- there is a right way and there is a wrong way to use the car seat. Unfortunately, there is not a simple formula because all seats are different and all cars are different, but I can provide some best practices to help start the thinking on proper car seat use and installation. Here are 5 considerations in infant car seats use and selection:
1. All Infant Car Seats Are Equally Safe.
All car seats must pass random National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing to remain on the market. Just because a car seat is more expensive than another does not make it safer. It might make it easier to use or lighter or have nicer fabric, but it is not safer.
2. All Seat Belts or Lower Anchors Are Equally Safe.
The seatbelt or the lower anchors (metal clips found in all cars 2003 or newer) are equally as safe for installation, as long as they are used properly. If the lower anchors give a much better installation, use them. If the seatbelt is easier or uses a better seating position, please use it.
3. The Center Seat is typically The Safest Space for Your Child.
Most times, the center rear seat is going to be the safest position for the child. This is due to side impact. Although all seats are tested for side impact protection, the physics of distance from a point of impact makes the seat position important.
4. All Car Seats Expire.
All seats expire and if a seat is in an accident where the police have had to be called, it is time for a new seat. If a seat has been handed down for 10 years through a family, then it has probably started to break down.
5. Read the Entire Car Seat Manual.
There are so many variations of seats – even within the same model from production dates. Some allow for different installations and require different techniques. The best way to be sure to know your specific seat is to read the manual that comes with it. The car seat is not similar to the television that you can remove from the box and figure out how to use without the manual. There are many pieces and parts in the car and the seat, and not all seats work with all cars. Please read the manual to make sure the seat is used properly.
Understanding infant car seat safety is essential as you will be asked to have one installed to leave the maternity. The prospect of having a newborn is daunting in, and of, itself. Obstetricians, Midwives, Doulas, and Pediatricians all provide a list of classes to take and steps to get ready for your child. The worst time to learn how to use the car seat is when parents are trying to leave the hospital, and they are not well versed in the use of the car seat. I recommend knowing how to use the seat properly BEFORE your baby is born. Please do not overlook the importance of making sure your child is safe in every vehicle, every trip, from day one.
Geoff Gohacki is a co-owner of Common Sense CPR, a New York City-based CPR and Safety consultant business. He has been teaching infant and child CPR at various locations in CPR since 2011. He is also a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor through Safekids Worldwide. He is the beloved teacher of many boober CPR & safety classes.