How should I use a car safety seat for my infant?

Here are guidelines for using car safety seats for infants (20 pounds or less and less than 1 year old):

Child safety seat:
  • Always read the child safety seat instructions! Follow the manufacturer's guidelines. - "Infant only" child safety seats are usually designated for infants weighing up to 22 pounds.
  • Most "convertible" seats can be used for rear facing up to 30-35 pounds.
  • Make sure you read the car seat instructions for proper placement of infant seat handle when used in the vehicle.
  • "Infant only" seats can be used with or without the base.
  • Infant must be rear facing until child is at least one year and 20 pounds.
  • It is recommended that infants stay rear facing up to 30-35 pounds if the car seat permits.
  • Never put infants in the front passenger seat of vehicles with air bags.
Child safety seat straps:
  • Do not wrap the infant in blankets or extra clothing. Fasten harness straps on the infant first. Cover the infant with a blanket last.
  • On the back of the child safety seat, harness straps should be placed in the slots that position them to come up and over the baby's shoulders.
  • Fasten the harness snugly -- you should not be able to "pinch" any harness webbing between your fingers at the collarbone.
  • Always use the chest retainer clip to hold the shoulder straps in place. Position the retainer clip at armpit level.
Car safety belts:
  • When installed properly, the child safety seat should not move more than one inch side to side and front to back when shaken at the anchor points (where the seat belt goes through).
  • A locking clip must be used with some cars' lap/shoulder belt systems. Always read your vehicle and your child safety seat manufacturer's instruction manual. When needed, the locking clip is placed on both lap and shoulder belts 1/2" to 1" from the latch plate.
Special considerations:
  • Rolled diapers or blankets may be placed on both sides of the infant's body and between the legs to prevent slouching or sliding.
  • Do not put padding behind infants' backs or under their bottoms or use child safety seat inserts that do not come with the child safety seat.
  • In an emergency situation, it is suggested that parents remove the entire seat with the child in it by releasing the seat belt because it takes less time.
  • Infant seat should be reclined to a 30-45 degree angle to avoid stress to the neck and back and to keep the infant's head from falling forward, possibly cutting off the airway.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.