There’s so much to take in when you have a new baby that it’s easy to miss a few guidelines here and there. But with car seat safety, the rules may save your baby’s life in an accident. So we wanted to take a minute to remind you of a few simple things that are easy to forget when buckling up baby – the things we see a lot of parents miss. Check through this list to make sure that you’re doing all you can to keep your baby safe on the road.
1. Chest clip too low. Nurse Lauren says sometimes chest clips slip down so they are across baby’s tummy. The chest clip should be higher, across baby’s upper chest at his armpits. If it’s lower, baby’s internal organs can be damaged in an accident or baby may slip over the clip and be thrown out of the seat. If like many babies, yours is a chubby one, this may mean the top of the clip even touches his double (or triple!) chin. This can make the clip look too high, but if the clip is across his nipple line, then you’re in the right place.
2. Straps inserted into the car seat too high. Nurse Hannah says some babies snuggle down in their seat so that the straps enter into the back of the seat above baby’s shoulders. All car seats should have multiple openings behind baby so you can adjust where the strap goes through the back of the seat. Choose the opening at or just below baby’s shoulders when he’s sitting in the seat. If it’s too high this allows space between baby’s shoulders and the strap; in an accident baby wouldn’t be held in the seat firmly enough.
3. Straps too loose or twisted. Nurse Lauren also reminds us to make sure that straps are flat and tightened down. If you can pinch the strap up between your fingers, it’s too loose. Also make sure the strap didn’t become twisted. This can happen pretty easily if the chest clip flips over when you’re putting baby in the seat; so just run your finger over both straps once baby is buckled to make sure everything lies flat.
4. Thick clothing under the straps. Dr. Winter-Smith says she sometimes sees baby’s heading home all bundled up and buckled in to the car seat. Baby should be in regular clothes under the straps, no coats or snowsuits. To keep baby warm, put blankets on top of the straps. In an accident, fluffy clothing or blankets can compress so there’s too much space between baby and the straps. Then baby is not well protected or may even be able to slip out of the seat.
5. Not loosening the straps to get baby in and out of the car seat. This is less of a safety issue during accidents and more of a pro tip for making your life getting in and out of the seat easier. Nurse Hannah notices many parents struggle to get baby out of the seat, trying to gently maneuver little hands and fingers around the straps. She suggests fully loosening the straps so you can drape them over the side of the seat and just lift baby right out. Same with putting baby in. Loosen the straps all the way so you can just set baby in the seat without working around the straps, then pull the straps over baby, buckle and tighten. Most seats tighten and loosen the straps using a button and pull strap between baby’s feet. Check your manual or the website for your seat for specific instructions if needed.
While these are the things many parents easily overlook, it’s not a complete list of all car seat safety guidelines. For more on car seat safety, check out these great links: