For first time parents or caregivers the task of choosing and installing an infant car seat can be daunting. Rules and guidelines change over time, so it’s important to stay up to date on the latest facts and laws surrounding infant car seats. Here are some important tips to get you started, but it’s always crucial to do your own research when it comes to children’s safety. There are four stages of child car seat use – this article will focus on stage one – rear-facing infant seats.
Do your research before the baby arrives
Once the baby arrives you will be busy with a million other things so it’s important to figure out car seats beforehand. Consider taking a car seat clinic to become informed. These helpful clinics will teach you how to correctly install a car seat and how your baby should be positioned. For a list of car seat clinics visit Transport Canada and select your province. You can also ask your local police station for information on car seat clinics in your hometown.
Car seats expire
The range is from six to 10 years and a car seat should never be used passed its expiry date. If you cannot purchase a new car seat for financial reasons use extreme caution if purchasing or borrowing a used car seat. Parts or important instructions may be missing or the car seat could have been in an accident. Any car seat that is in a vehicle that has been in a car accident needs to be replaced.
Purchase a new rear-facing infant car seat
Rear facing seats can be used until 22 – 50 lbs. All babies that weigh less than 22 lbs. should be riding in a rear-facing car seat specifically designed for infants. The majority of these infant seats are designed to accommodate babies that are even four or five lbs. and you can purchase specific removable padding to help support them. Some infant car seats work better in certain cars than others so you can check with the make and model of your car to see what works best.
Infant carrier car seats
Some infant car seats can also be used as carriers or part of a stroller travel system, and a sleeping baby can be carried in and out of the car without being disturbed. However, keep in mind that babies get heavier and these carriers may weigh more than you think. As well, babies should not be left to sleep too long in their car seat outside the car as it can place strain on the baby’s developing spine in a crunched up position.
Convertible car seats
Some convertible car seats can be used as either forward or rear-facing and adjusted as your baby grows. These seats stay installed in the car and cannot be removed like the infant seat carrier and they cannot be transferred to a stroller. Keep in mind, not all convertible car seats will adjust to a small enough size to safely and properly fit a newborn baby. If you are going to use a convertible car seat it’s also crucial to ensure it fits properly in both directions in the back seat of your car.
Register your car seat
Always register your new car seat with the manufacturer after purchase to ensure you will receive any possible safety recalls that affect your seat.
The ideal spot for your infant car seat is the middle back seat
Depending on your vehicle this is not always possible, however it is recommended as long as it can be safely installed there.
The angle of the car seat is important
Infant car seats are angled backwards because babies have weaker necks and larger heads and need additional support in the car. The angle is approximately 45 degrees but always check the manufacturers instructions for the approved positioning in your vehicle. The car seat should also have built in angle adjustments and if not sometimes a towel rolled up tightly can help recline the angle of the seat.
There are multiple ways to install your infant car seat
If your car has a universal anchorage system (UAS) the owners manual in your car will show you where to find it and how to use it. It should direct you to the connectors and how to attach them properly. Two additional options for infant car seat installation are seat belt only and seat belt and locking clip. Refer to Transport Canada for more information on rear-facing car seat installation.
Car Seat Accessories and Winter Clothing
Those pretty pink and blue accessories such as comfort straps and trays may not be safe so check with the car seat manufacturer before use. It is recommended that children NOT wear bulky winter jackets, snowsuits, or bunting bags in car seats as these interfere with the harness system that needs a snug fit to keep your baby safe. According to several articles published over the years, these heavy winter items are not banned by Transport Canada, but not recommended. A recent article in The Huffington Post mentions advice from Allstate Insurance Company, includes using a blanket over the baby in the winter and dressing them in thin warm layers that can include a hat and mittens.
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Stay tuned for the second part of this car seat series as kids grow and move into forward-facing car seats.