by Diane Litwin, BSN, RN, IBCLC, CPST
Many new parents can feel overwhelmed about car seats and having them fitted safely in their vehicles. Finding the right car seat can be daunting in itself but add to that trying to figure out how to use one when you are sleep deprived with a new baby and it leaves many new parents flustered! According to the NHTSA, “325 children under the age of 5 have been saved by car seats in one year,” so these concerns are valid because we all know – safety matters!
Finding the right car seat
- Find the right car seat that fits your vehicle type, and child’s current size and age. Note that this seat will change over time as your child continues to grow!
- Learn how to use your car seat correctly. If you don’t know how or need help, please contact a Child Passenger Seat Technician, also known as CPSTs.
- Keep your child safely secured in the car seat at all times.
Important information to know about your car seat
- Every car seat on the market has an expiration date – typically, 7 to 10 years after the date of manufacture. This is due to the plastic and Styrofoam under the cushions that are subject to wear and tear over time which may change in temperatures in your car.
- Do NOT buy a car seat secondhand; or if you do, you must absolutely ensure that it was not involved in any accidents or fender benders.
- Do NOT use expired car seats as they will no longer be effective in protecting your infant/child in the case of an accident. No, car seats left on the side of the road are generally not safe to use!
- Register your car seats with the manufacturer, as they sometimes get recalled due to malfunction or other issues.
Ensure your baby is protected by working with a Child Passenger Seat Technician
- Adjust the car seat angle to fit the seat properly and to ensure it is level, as per the car seat manufacturer’s instructions. This will allow the infant’s head to not fall forward while the car is in motion.
- Learn when the infant needs to be rear-facing in the car seat and where to place the straps and harness.
- Harness straps should be snug and placed properly per the car seat manufacturer’s instructions.
- If it is cold outside, place a blanket over the baby and over the straps. Remove any bulky coat or bunting before strapping the baby in. Otherwise, the baby could slide out in the event of a crash.
- For baby girls, remove any headbands that could potentially slip over the baby’s face.
- Do NOT add any extra accessories to the car seat that did NOT come with it; i.e. hanging toys, bundle me blankets, or head cushions. If they are aftermarket and not approved by the car seat manufacturer, they could impair the car seat’s function in a crash and become projectiles. Refer to your car seat manufacturer’s instructions or the car seat manufacturer’s instructions.
1. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
Car seat recommendations for children – how to choose the correct car seat for your infant or child
Car Seat & Booster Seats
2. Safe Kids Worldwide
3. American Academy of Pediatrics
Winter Car Seat Safety Tips
4. Great resources for new parents to have on hand
Car Seat for the Littles
The Car Seat Lady
5. Find your local car seat check event or local CPST to have your car seat checked
Find a local tech close to you through the National Child Passenger Safety/Safe Kids Worldwide website
6. Diane Litwin, BSN, RN, IBCLC, CPST
 Crash Stats: Lives Saved in 2017 by Restraint Use and Minimum-Drinking-Age Laws