There was a time when we brought our newborn babies home from the hospital cradled in our arms. That first drive home was scary. Fortunately, safety measures have greatly improved. Our vehicles now have seat belts, airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, and the LATCH system. The LATCH system was designed to make child-seat installation easier and more secure.
Car Seat Safety Tips
By 1985, the first child passenger safety laws required children under a certain age to have a car seat when riding in a vehicle. You now aren’t allowed to leave the hospital without one. There are two standard options for a newborn: infant carriers and convertible car seats. The infant carriers are suitable for about the first year and provide an entire travel system. The base is latched in and remains in the car. This eliminates the need to unbuckle and buckle every time you transport the baby from car to home or daycare. For a family on-the-go, this can be a convenient feature. If you’ll be utilizing different cars, taking cabs, or using a stroller, make sure the carrier can also be installed without the base.
The convertible seats stay in the vehicle, as this type of carrier requires you to snap the baby in and out each time. There’s no separate base and no carrying option. However, convertible seats can be used for more than the first year.
A five-point harness is absolutely necessary. Check for straps that aren’t difficult to adjust and a buckle that’s easy to latch and unlatch. When setting up a rear-facing carrier, the shoulder harnesses should always be below the baby’s shoulder level. It’s the opposite for front-facing car seats. For a newborn, you want a seat with an insert to support the baby’s head. Stick with inserts manufactured by the same company as the car seat to ensure proper fit. You can add further support with rolled up receiving blankets placed around the baby’s head to keep it in place. Avoid neck pillows as they can prove dangerous in the event of an accident. Check the manufacturer’s website for side-impact protection.
Keep in mind that the lifespan for a car seat is around six years. If you are borrowing a carrier or accepting a hand-me-down from a friend or relative, verify the age and condition of the car seat. Look for the label with the date of manufacture and model number and take the time to register your car seat to get notifications of any recalls or product updates.
Additional Car Seat Safety Resources
Once you’ve installed the car seat, you can make sure everything is safe and secure by asking an expert. Our own Maryanne Hanley is a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician. If you would like Maryanne to check your car seat, simply ask the director to schedule a time at pick up or drop off. Alternatively, you can visit your local fire department or police station, where a car-seat-safety expert will verify that everything is properly in place. For more information about car seat safety, please visit safekids.org or give us a call at (716) 656-8050.