Infant Car Seat Safety

Infant Car Seat Safety from Megan Matula Newborn Photography

This week I would like to discuss something that is near and dear to my heart.  Using and properly installing infant car seats. As an RN, NICU nurse and EMT I have seen the tragic result of infants and children not properly secured in a vehicle.

Your infant car seat will be the first major safety device that they use after leaving the hospital and will depend on whenever they are in a car with mom, dad or family.  So please ensure that it is installed correctly and used correctly every time.

To illustrate the importance of this it is unfortunate to know that car crashes are the leading cause of death in children ages 3-14 (saferide4kids.com).  During those crashes, children that were killed were not buckled up 35% of the time (cdc.gov)

So please ensure that your infant is properly secured.  If you are not sure refer to the NHTSA guide link included in this article or ask your hospital provider to have someone check it for you.

For this article I will only be discussing the use of infant car seats for newborn babies up to 30 pounds.  For older or larger children please use the included link to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for additional information.

Infant car seats (rear facing only)

Used from birth to 30 pounds

Having a rear facing car seat that is installed in the back seat is very important and provides the most protection for your newborn as frontal crashes are the most common.  All infants are still developing and their spine, neck and head are very fragile and easily injured. The use of a rear facing seat ensures proper support of their body. Placing a seat in the forward facing position increases the chance of spinal cord injury in a crash.  

Tips for properly installing and securing your child:

  • Do not install in the front seat area or in front of an airbag

  • Install the seat in the backseat of the vehicle, middle seat.  This provides extra protective room

  • When installed the base of the seat should not move more than one inch side to side or forward

  • Straps should lie flat without sagging or twisting

  • The harness should be snug and tight enough that material cannot be pinched or folded

  • Shoulder straps should be at or below shoulder level

  • The top of chest clip should be at armpit level

  • Do not place any blankets between the straps and your child

In addition keep the following guidelines in mind when using the car seat:

  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for install and use

  • Check that it is labeled “meets or exceeds federal vehicle safety standard 2013” or later

  • Use a rear facing seat in the back of the vehicle for as long as possible until height or weight restrictions require a different seat

  • Seat sizes are based on the child's size, not age

  • When the head of your child is within 2 inches from the top of the seat it may be time to replace

  • Never use a seat that is more than six years old or that has been in a crash

Additional Resources

NHTSA car seat guide

Video of how to install a rear facing car seat