Car seat safety for infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers
Car seat safety is the first that comes to mind when it is time to take your newborn home from the hospital.
By law you need a car seat when you take the baby home by car. Many hospitals have a policy for safe transportation of newborns when they are discharged.
They may even check the car seat and may not let you leave if you do not have the appropriate child restraint systems installed.
Buying a car seat. Where to start ?
Choosing the safest infant car seat depends on the age of the child and the type of vehicle. It is best to buy a car seat one month before your baby is due.
Do not use car seats with an unknown history. Used car seats may have expired. Car seats expire after 6 years. Labels may be missing and it may have been in an accident.
A CPST (Child Passenger Safety Technician) can give you advise if you are not sure about a car seat. They will check and install the car seat for you for free. Click here to find a CPST in your area.
Car seat safety rulesThe right car seat depends on the age and weight of your child.
- Car seats for infants should be rear facing until the age of 1 year old or children should weigh at least 20 lb. For infants there are infants only and convertible seats. Infant seats can be used for infants upto 22-30 pounds. They have carrying handles and usually come with a base you can leave in the car.
- Convertible seats can be used rear facing for infants and when children get older forward facing.
- Car seats for toddlers and pre-schoolers. Wait until children are at least 20 lb and one year old to ride forward facing. Recommended type of seat is a convertible seat.
- Seats for school aged children. Children should sit in a booster seat till they are 8 years old.
Older children can use a shoulder belt and sit in the back of the car. The back of the car is the safest place for children under 13 to sit. Always use a lap and shoulder belt. High back booster seats are recommended for a child's head support.
The purpose of a car seat is to protect your baby in case of an accident, but you also need to make sure that your baby is comfortable in that car seat.
Car seat safety concerns about babies sleeping in car seats
Many parents that are desperate to calm their crying (or colick) baby, take them for a ride in the car.
Understandable they don't want to wake up their baby once they come home, and therefore, they leave him sleeping in the car seat. Undoubtedly a car seat is very important to protect a baby from accidents, but parents should realize that there are serious risks involved with babies sleeping in a car seats.
Young babies have poor head control and their head can fall forward and block the airways. To help prevent this, a car seat should be installed at a 45-degree angle.
Recent studies show that infants left for prolonged periods in a car seat have slightly lower blood oxygen levels. Parents are advised not to leave young babies sleeping in their car seat.
When your baby falls asleep in his car seat, keep a close eye on him until you are able to put him safely on his back in a crib or cradle.
Car seat safety tips
- As a parent always give a good example and ware your seat belt.
- Never leave your child alone in the car or around the car.
- Careful read manuals and instructions on how to use car safety seats and check the labels.
How to choose the best infant car seat
There is an unlimmited choice of baby car seats on the market, each with different features and designs.
If you are overwhelmed by the choices of car seats on the market , visit the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) website with infant car seat ratings. They help you to evaluate car seats and car seat safety on four basic categories. Instructions, installation features, evaluating labels and securing the child.
Buying a car seat and installing it in your car is not enough, if you do not use it every time you take your child for a ride. One in four parents fail to buckle up their child in the car seat when they are in a rush or go only for a very short ride, was revealed by a study from from Safekids.org.