Thursday, July 22, 2010

Car seat 101

One of the things I love most about my job is teaching new moms and dads how to install and use their car seat correctly.

Well, I see a lot of things that are called a “misuse” or error. So, I wanted to make a list of things that are “What Not To Do with Your Car Seat!”

1. Don’t use a pre-owned seat, unless you have to. I would encourage new parents not scrimp on the quality of a car seat for your precious baby. Driving is the riskiest thing you will do today and your helpless baby should be in a new and safe seat! If you use a pre-owned seat, be sure you know the owner can tell you that the seat has not been in a crash or stored in the heat. Also, most seats should not be used after about 5 to 6 years.
2. Don’t ignore the manual to the car seat and to your vehicle. I know these are not “page-turners” but they can be helpful and it is very important to follow what the manufacturer of both say.
3. Don’t forget to register your seat with the manufacturer. This is the method for notification of any recall or problem with your seat.
4. Don’t buy the seat based on the cuteness of the fabric or because you like the stroller it comes with. It is important to remember that a car seat, used properly, can save your baby’s life…so do your research and find the best car seat in your price range that will work well in your vehicle.
5. Don’t choose a car seat for an infant that has the harness strap adjustment on the back side of the car seat. These are difficult to use and when you are in a rush, you may not take the extra time to use correctly. Choose a seat that has the harness strap adjustor in the front of the seat –usually this is a strap that you pull to snug the straps.
6. Use the lowest slots for the straps for a newborn baby. These straps should be at or below the level of the baby’s shoulders.
7. Don’t be afraid to snug up the harness straps. The straps should be tight enough that it is difficult to pinch any slack. Keeping these snug will keep your baby in the seat correctly in the event of a car crash.
8. Don’t put your baby’s seat next to the car door. The center position in the back seat of the vehicle is always the first choice for safety.
9. Don’t look at your car seat for the first time while in the hospital. Make time to take care of the installation before the baby is born.
10. Don’t forget to ask for help. Texas Health has car seat technicians that will help you learn to install your seat. Before your baby arrives, call 1-877-THR-WELL to schedule your free appointment!

One other pearl of wisdom is to keep the car seat simple and clear of clutter, even cute add-on’s from the baby aisles. Your seat is crash tested just as it is and when you add a device to support the baby’s head it alters the safety of your seat, especially because it is placed behind the baby and usually goes around the harness straps. Also, don’t attach a toy, a cover for the seat or the straps, or other items to the car seat.

If you have any other questions or would like to schedule an appointment to check the safety of your seat, please call 1-877-THR-WELL for a free consultation.

Julie Smith, RN, MS
Perinatal Educator
Child Passenger Safety Technician
Texas Health HEB

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