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Most car seats for infants have a lower weight limit starting at five pounds. If you think you may have a preterm birth, you may want to consider buying a seat that has a weight limit lower than five pounds or no weight limit.
Infants born less than 37 weeks will also be tested in their car seats to make sure they can maintain their airways in a seated position before going home. Your doctors or nurses can give you more information on testing if it is needed.
Car seat safety
Choose the right car seat
There are many different car seats from which to choose. None is safer than another, but some may be easier to use or may come with more user-friendly options.
The most important things to consider when shopping for a car seat are:
- Choose the car seat that fits your baby properly.
- Choose the car seat that fits your car correctly. Not all car seats fit well in every car or with other child restraints. Check your vehicle's owner’s manual for the manufacturer's recommendations for installing child car seats.
- Choose the car seat that you will use correctly every time you use it.
Install the car seat and have it checked
Make sure the seat is properly installed according to the manufacturer's instructions. A properly installed car seat should not move more than one inch in any direction.
It is a good idea to have the installation of your car seat checked by a certified child passenger safety technician or practitioner.
It is your responsibility to know how to use your car seat. There are many resources available, including classes and car seat checkup clinics, including the following:
All children must be in a five-point harness that consists of two shoulder straps, a lap belt and a crotch strap. A padded tray shield or T-shield is not recommended for newborns and small babies.
Children should be in a five-point harness car seat until they are able to move to a booster seat, which is typically not until they are at least 4 years old and 42 inches tall.
Tips on car seat use
- Place the rear-facing car seat in the back seat. Riding in a rear-facing car seat is the safest position for your baby.
- Keep your baby rear-facing in the back seat until she is 2 years old, or until she reaches the maximum height 54 and weight for the car seat.
- Use car seats that are less than 6 years old.
- Never use a car seat after it has been in an accident.
- Never put your baby's car seat in the front seat, especially if your car has an air bag.
- Make sure all straps and buckles are securely and properly adjusted. The harness straps should be snug and should lie flat against your baby's shoulders.
- After your baby is buckled, position the chest clip between the nipples and collarbone as part of securing your baby into the car seat.
- Cover the car seat with a towel or blanket in hot or cold weather.
- If the seat has any metal parts that may touch your baby, cover them in hot weather so they don't burn your baby.
- Never leave your child alone in a car.
How to keep your child in the car seat
Do not let your child get out of his car seat while in a moving vehicle.
To avoid boredom on a long trip, take along games, activities, books and story tapes. Have snacks and water handy, and make lots of stops along the way. Praise your child for sitting so well in the car seat.
Don't let your child give in to pressure. If he is with a friend or relative who does not use seat belts, stress how important seat belts are to your child.
Be sure to fill out and mail the car seat warranty card. The company will notify you in case of a recall or other safety notices.
Check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Web site (www.nhtsa.gov) for car seat recall notices.
And remember, all adults and all children riding in a car, truck, van, mini-van or SUV should be buckled at all times. Buckling up is a habit you want to pass on to your children.
Older child reminders
- Booster seats with the vehicle's shoulder belt are recommended for children until they reach 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years old.
- If the shoulder strap runs across the child's neck, a booster seat is needed.
- Never let any child put the shoulder strap under her arms.
- Never let any child younger than age 12 sit in front of an air bag.