7 Most Important Car Seat Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe


baby in car seatCar seat safety is one of my passions. Fueled not only by my mother, a nurse who has seen car accident trauma in a hospital, but by experiencing my own accidents as a teen (none of which were my fault). I still have injuries and scars that will be with me forever. Now that it's Child Passenger Safety Week, I felt it only right that I write something to help moms and dads out there to make sure their own babies are as safe as can be.

Not all hospitals help with car seats. So here is a quick checklist of the most important car seat tips, so you can keep your kid the safest.


Too loose!1. Tighten the harness until you can't pinch any slack across the collarbone. A loose harness is the most common mistake and can result in too much forward movement, head injuries, and even partial or total ejection -- meaning your child goes flying out of their seat. You want the straps as tight as you can get them without hurting the baby. Don't put bulky clothes on under the harness that make it seem like it's tight enough when it's not, either. Blankets go over baby AFTER baby is buckled in.

2. Place the chest clip between the nipples and sternum. This holds the straps (aka the harness) where they need to be to catch your child's body, and it is designed to break on impact. However, it's only designed to break on the hard, strong sternum. Too low, and it doesn't position the harness correctly and can even damage internal organs in the soft belly.

3. Make sure the harness is flat and in the right slots. No twists allowed on the belt! Take the time to straighten the belt if it became twisted. This can create weak points in the harness and also pressure points on your baby's body that can hurt them. Make sure the top of the harness goes into the back of the car seat level with or BELOW your baby's shoulders, never above (until they're forward facing).

4. Make sure the seat is reclined enough. A baby's car seat needs to be reclined at a 45-degree angle. This helps protect their body from stress on the weak neck holding up the big head, or the weak spine in an accident. Also, too upright can make their head fall to their chest and restrict their breathing. Never put the car seat on a cart or floor unless it maintains this angle.

5. Make sure the seat is tight enough. When you push on the seat, it shouldn't move more than 1 inch at the place where the seat belt or LATCH strap goes through it. Movement at the top of a rear-facing seat is normal. Use the top-tether for rear-facing, but only if you have a Radian, Britax, or Coccoro seat (others don't allow it).

6. Don't add anything to your seat that didn't come with it or from the manufacturer FOR your specific seat. Headrests may look nice, but most infant seats come with them. For those that don't, the only safe and approved addition is rolled receiving blankets next to the baby, outside of the harness, like pictured above.

7. Get help, even if you think you've got it right. While you can always call 1-866-SEATCHECK and find a local check-up station, take advantage of this special week and go to one of the many nationwide check-up events. If you have everything right, you'll have that peace of mind. If you don't, then you know your baby will leave there safer!


Images via Melane Hanzlik; Defrost/; Chelsea Jackson; Christie Haskell; Melanie Hanzlik

baby health, car seat safety, natural parenting, newborns


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sgr123 sgr123

Even before all of this stuff had cropped up on CM, I was doing it right.  I don't know how it is that common sense doesn't take over on some of it.  Like the straps or the movement of the seat.  I did take mine to a check point to have it double checked.  The tech couldn't get the seat in as tight as my husband does, so we redid it.  I haven't been back to or recommended the tech here because of it.

ms_mo... ms_morgan

Great tips...and the pics you used have some ADORABLE babies :)

lizzeh lizzeh

Number 8.

No coats in the carseat!

PhiLL... PhiLLy-StyLe

The only thing I ever worry about is the angel my daughter car seat sits at.  Our jeep has a fairly sloped back seat, or bucket seats, and I find myself having to constantly adjusting the thing so it sits on the right angle according to the level on the side of the base. =/

Thanks for the tips though!


RanaA... RanaAurora

lizzeh, no worries! Now that it's getting colder, I have a whole new post for this year planned about just that. :)

Karen Kal Johnson

@Philly Style
you child is RF I presume? Do you have rolled towels, or even better, pool noodles under her seat? They can help maintain the angle for restraints in cars that have really angled seats. No more than 3 noodles or rolled towels under there though. And check with your local PD or FD for seat techs in your area to help you. :) Good luck!
Karen--Car Seat Tech.

Audrey Kesler

I'm reposting to facebook now, I have friends that could use this information!

Saras... Sarasahmof3

My Local DMV has a station where they not only install car seats they also inspect them, and send in the registration cards for you(after you fill them out). Car seats can be a royal pain in the butt to put in correctly but they will save the life of you child.

nonmember avatar Margo

Do not use a rolled towel your car seat. The car seat tech who spoke with my MOPs group said the only safe stabilizer is a pool noodle.

emily4.5 emily4.5

RanaAurora , I'm anxious to see your post on this as we're having a baby in November.  I've always followed the above car seat rules, which one can find right in the instruction booklet or user guide that comes with the seat. But, no coat in the seat... in the dead of winter... I have some questions about that. I would think coats can be worn safely if you pull the straps tight enough. We have a brand new snowsuit that we plan to use and it seems like a huge unneccesary pain in the a** to have to unbundle once in a preheated vehicle and rebundle in said vehicle upon arrival.(-If you don't have one of those zip cover bunting things that goes over the seat, which we don't.) Looking forward to your post!

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