Select and Install a Car Seat

Excerpted from The Experts' Guide to the Baby Years: 100 Things Every Parent Should Know

Basic Guidelines
Be sure to keep your infant in a rear-facing seat until age one and at least 20 pounds, when he will be ready for a forward-facing seat. An infant has a very fragile head, neck, and spine. Rear-facing seats are designed to absorb the crash forces along the seat's shell, cradling your infant in an accident.

Rear Facing

  • Ensure that the seat is at the proper angle and it is snug; you should not be able to move the seat more than an inch in any direction when testing at the belt path (where the seat belt routes through the car seat).
  • The harnesses should be adjusted to slots at or below your child's shoulders, without twists, and should be snug so you cannot pinch any slack. The harness retainer clip should be placed at armpit level.
  • Additional padding is discouraged as it may interfere with the way your seat is designed to perform in a crash. Accessories also may become potential missiles in your vehicle during a crash or sudden stop. These include mobiles, toys, attachable mirrors, roller shades that attach via suction cup, tissue boxes, books, purses, umbrellas, and anything in the vehicle that is not secured. Keep such items in your trunk.


Forward Facing

  • Your forward-facing seat should be installed in an upright position, according to manufacturer's instructions. As with a rear-facing seat, you should not be able to move the seat more than an inch in any direction when testing at the belt path.
  • The harnesses should be adjusted just as with a rear-facing seat (see the previous page).
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