I consider myself a fairly well-informed mother but even I was lagging in the most recent car seat recommendations, and I'm not the only one. In a 2005 study conducted for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 80% of infant and toddler car seats were used improperly. Yikes! It is so hard to keep up with all the changing laws and recommendations so I thought I would spread the word about some basic car seat guidelines.
1. It is very important to make sure you secure your child into the harness properly. The federal law states: "A snug strap should not allow any slack. It lies in a relatively straight line without sagging. It does not press on the child's flesh or push the child's body into an unnatural position." Most parents do not tighten enough for fear of hurting their child but think of how much it would hurt if the child were not properly restrained in a car accident. The chest clip should be at armpit level. In addition, the harness straps should be adjusted into slots that are at or below the child's shoulder height.
2. The most state laws require that all infants must remain rear-facing until they are at least 1 year old AND 20 pounds. This does NOT mean that you can turn your child forward-facing before their first birthday if they weigh more than 20 pounds. In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that the child remains rear-facing until they are at least 2 years old or have exceeded the weight/height limit for rear-facing (which varies depending on the car seat). This may seem extreme but the recommendation was made in light of a 2007 study published in the journal of Injury Prevention. The study found that the rear-facing position does a better job at supporting the child's head, neck, and spine during a crash because of the way it distributes the impact. Some organizations have recommended keeping your child rear-facing for even longer.
3. The safest place for your infant is the center of the back seat. It has long been recommended that child under the age of 12 sit in the back seat due to potential injury from airbags. The center is the safest because it protects the infant best from side-impact collisions. According to a study performed at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, "Children seated in the center rear had 43% lower risk of injury compared with children in the rear outboard position."
4. Be sure to read your car seat's owner manual thoroughly so you know the limitations of that particular car seat. Also make sure you check into your state laws, as each state has different requirements. More importantly, I am not a mom that is satisfied with minimum requirements. If you would like to find out more about the most recent recommendations and studies, find a nationally certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST). They should have the most current information. Here is a link: https://ssl13.cyzap.net/dzapps/dbzap.bin/apps/assess/webmembers/tool?pToolCode=TAB9&pCategory1=TAB9_CERTSEARCH&Webid=SAFEKIDSCERTSQL