BHealthy Blog

How to Make Sure Your Car Seat Is Safe

Baby in a carseat

The day you bring your baby home from the hospital is one of the most wonderful and exciting days of your life.

But it can also be one of the most frustrating if you’re struggling to properly secure the infant seat. From figuring out how to anchor the base to choosing the right side or the middle seat, none of it is easy the first time you try it—especially if you’re having to contend with more than one child seat.

To keep you from panicking in the parking lot, the certified child passenger safety technicians at Baptist Health-Fort Smith have put together a quick video of tips to help you install your child’s seat before you come to the hospital. Technicians are always available to help parents with car seat installation upon discharge.

Choosing a Car Seat

The first step is choosing an infant safety seat. Children should be in a rear-facing seat from birth up to at least age 2, or until they reach the upper weight or height limit of that seat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are several types of seats, including rear-facing, forward-facing and booster seats. Some models will transition with the child as they grow. In Arkansas, children under the age of 6 or less than 60 pounds must be restrained in a child safety seat.

It’s very important to read the product specifications when choosing a car seat so that you can find one that will work for you and your family. Instructions are typically provided on the safety seat itself, but you can also refer to the car seat or booster seat owner’s manual to check installation guidelines and the height and weight limits. 

Never buy a used car seat. A used car seat is unsafe if it has been in a crash or if it is missing parts, labels, or instructions. A car seat is also unsafe if the manufacturer has issued a safety recall. By purchasing a new car seat, or re-using a sibling’s car seat (if it’s not been more than five years) or borrowing one from a trusted friend or family member, you’re ensuring your baby will be safe when traveling in a vehicle. 

Another thing to avoid is aftermarket accessories. Sure, those decorative strap covers may look cute, but they haven’t been crash tested with your baby’s seat and should not be used. If your infant needs extra head support, a small rolled blanket may be placed around the infant’s head.

Installing Your Car Seat

When installing your car seat, you should not be able to move the seat more than 1 inch at the belt path. Ensure the car seat is level. Most seats have a label on the side of the car seat that explains how to ensure your seat is level and what angle the seat should be at.

Getting the Right Fit

Once you’ve installed your child’s safety seat in the vehicle according to the instructions in the owner’s manual, you need to know how to correctly fit your baby in their seat. Your child should be dressed in one layer of clothing. No large coats or anything that would keep the safety seat’s straps from safely securing your child should be worn. A blanket can be placed over your baby’s legs later if it is cold out. 

The shoulder straps of the safety seat must be at or below the infant’s shoulders for a rear-facing car seat. The shoulder harness should be snug and you should not be able to pinch any slack on the strap. The chest clip should be at armpit level. If the chest clip is over the belly or too high, it could result in an injury if the vehicle was in an accident.


To learn more about caring for your infant and yourself postpartum, read more articles from our BHealthy Blog.