Your baby’s life may depend on you correctly installing and using her car seat one day if you are ever involved in a car accident while your baby is along for the ride. While car seat installation is notoriously tricky for beginners and is really difficult to get right the first time, there are a few tips and tricks you can follow to learn from past mistakes of others. Here are a few of the most common mistakes people make when installing a car seat.
Not consulting the manuals for both the vehicle and the car seat:
While your car seat will come with instructions on how to install the seat, your vehicle owner’s manual will also provide information that is specific to that car make and model in regard to installing a car seat in it. If you just consult one or the other you may miss an important requirement that was only mentioned in the one you skipped. Always consult both manuals to make sure you have as much information as possible.
Leaving the seat installed in a loose position:
To really get a tight seat installation, place your knee in the seat and put all of your weight into it, tightening the seat belt around the seat as much as possible and locking it in place. If you install the car seat and the seat moves more than 1 inch in any direction the seat may not be compatible with the car or you may have installed the seat incorrectly. By using a car seat that moves around even slightly more than 1 inch, you are putting your baby’s life in danger in the event of a car crash.
Not installing the seat at the correct angle:
The angle of your car seat is very important and is calculated to provide a baby with enough of a recline to keep his head back and prevent it from falling forward which can potentially obstruct breathing and airway flow, yet not too much of a recline to jeopardize the child in a crash. The typical recline angle is somewhere between 30-45 degrees back from an upright starting point, depending on the seat itself. Always refer to the car seat manufacturer’s instructions for information on exactly what this angle is for the specific chair you’re using. Some seats have a recline indicator on the seat itself. Periodically check the angle of your child’s seat to make sure that it doesn’t shift randomly.
Using the retainer clip incorrectly:
The retainer clip should be at armpit level and should rest across your child’s breastbone. This clip assures that the harness straps are in the right place around your child and won’t slip off his shoulders in the impact of a car crash. Parents often move this clip around as they pull their child out of the seat so make sure to check the position of the clip each and every time you buckle your child into the seat.