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

Here are guidelines for using car safety seats for toddlers 20 to 40 pounds and at least 1 year old.

Car seat:
  • Always read the instructions! Follow the child safety seat manufacturer's guidelines.
  • Use the harness in your car seat for as long as the manufacturer's instructions allow.
  • Face the child safety seat toward the front of the car for a child over 20 pounds and at least 1 year of age. It is best to keep children rear facing to 30-35 pounds if the child safety seat permits.
  • Generally, the center back seat is the safest place for a child safety seat.
Child safety seat straps:
  • Use the harness straps at all times for children up to 40 lbs. On the back of the child safety seat, adjust the harness straps to the reinforced slots at or above shoulder level.
  • Fasten the harness snugly -- you should not be able to "pinch" any excess webbing between your fingers at the collarbone.
  • Almost every seat has a chest retainer clip. Always use it to hold the shoulder straps in place. Position the retainer clip at armpit level.
Car safety belts:
  • A locking clip must be used with some cars' lap/shoulder belt systems. Always read your vehicle and your car seat manufacturer's instruction manual. The locking clip is placed on the seat belt just before it locks into the buckle.
  • Newer cars and child safety seats may use the LATCH system. Please read vehicle's and child safety seat's instructions. Never use both the seat belt and LATCH at the same time.
Special considerations:
  • Your child may be placed in a booster seat if he has reached the upper weight limit of the harness, or if his ears are above the top of the safety seat back.
  • Built-in seats can be used instead of forward-facing convertible seats when available. There are no installation problems with these seats. Each device has its own instructions, and weight limits for children will vary.

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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.