As a parent, nothing is more important to us than the safety of our children. One of the most critical aspects of ensuring their safety on the road is correctly installing their car seat. If you’re a new parent, it can be a daunting task to figure out where exactly to put your infant car seat in your car. However, with a little bit of knowledge and guidance, you’ll become an expert in no time. In this article, we’ll help answer one of the most commonly asked questions: ‘Where does infant car seat go?’
Which seat should you choose?
The first thing to determine when installing your infant car seat is which seat in your car you should use. There are three main options for placing your car seat:
Rear-facing only seats
Rear-facing seats are specifically designed for infants, and they’re required for the safest travel. These seats should be placed in the back seat of your car, and the baby should be facing backward.
While rear-facing only seats are a great option for newborns, they are often quickly outgrown. Consider purchasing a convertible seat that can be used rear-facing for infants and forward-facing for toddlers. As with rear-facing-only seats, these seats should always be placed in the back seat of your car.
3-in-1 seats offer the most extended lifespan of seats, accommodating infants and toddlers, as well as offering a booster option. They can be used rear-facing, forward-facing, and as a high-back or backless booster seat. Just like with convertible seats, the 3-in-1 seats should always be placed in the back seat of your car.
Once you’ve determined which seat to use, it’s crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and the guidelines laid out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to install the car seat properly. Here are a few key tips to consider:
Read the Instructions Carefully
Each car seat is different, so it’s important to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Make sure you understand how to install the seat using your car’s seat belts or LATCH system.
Position the Car Seat Correctly
Make sure that the car seat is located in the correct position for your child’s age and weight. Rear-facing seats should never be installed in the front seat of a car with an active airbag. If you’re using a forward-facing seat, make sure it is in the upright position, and the seat belt or lower anchors are routed through the correct slots.
Use the Correct Angles
A rear-facing car seat should be angled appropriately. There are angle indicators on the base of the car seat to help you confirm that it’s at the correct angle for your child’s age and weight.
Ensure that the Seat is Secure
Once the car seat is in place, make sure it is secure. If you’re using the seat belt to secure the seat, make sure it’s locked into place. If you’re using the LATCH system, ensure that you’ve attached it correctly and that the straps are tight enough for little shake. If the seat isn’t secure, it may not protect your child properly in the event of an accident.
Check the Harness
Always check the harness on the car seat. The harness should be snug, with no slack, and lying flat against your baby’s chest. You should not be able to pinch any excess webbing in the shoulder area.
Other Points to Consider
Here are some additional things to keep in mind when installing an infant car seat:
Make Sure the Seat is Rear-Facing
Infants should always face the rear of the car, even if they’ve outgrown the height or weight limits of a rear-facing only seat. This is because rear-facing seats provide the most protection for an infant’s head, neck, and spine in a crash.
Watch Your Car’s Weight Limit
Make sure you’re not exceeding your car’s weight limit when adding a car seat to your car. Given that many car seats weigh between 20 and 30 pounds, the weight of more oversized models could be a concern, particularly for smaller cars.
Use Body Support Properly
Newborns and particularly premature infants may have difficulty sitting up on their own, or their heads may appear too small and less stable in the car seat. Many of these car seats come with infant inserts, which can help keep your baby’s head and neck stable.
Avoid Loose Items in the Car
During car trips, ensure that any objects are secured rather than free-flowing in the vehicle, particularly when an infant is in the car. If you brake abruptly, objects may collect in the region of your baby.
Installing an infant car seat is an essential step in protecting your child’s safety during car trips. When selecting the appropriate seat, ensure that you read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and follow the NHTSA’s guidelines. Remember to position the seat correctly, use the correct angles, and ensure that it’s secure. Follow our tips, and you’ll be a pro in no time.
Here are the most frequently asked questions and answers related to infant car seat installation:
- Where should I install my car seat?
- What if my car doesn’t have a LATCH system?
- How tight should the straps be?
- When should I switch to a forward-facing car seat?
- When can my baby sit in a regular car seat?
The car seat should always be installed in the back seat of your car, away from active airbags.
If your car doesn’t have a LATCH system, you can install the seat using the seat belt. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions and the car owner’s manual carefully.
The straps should be snug, lying flat against your baby’s chest. You should not be able to pinch any excess webbing in the shoulder area.
It’s recommended that your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
Your child can switch from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing one once they’ve outgrown the height or weight limit of their rear-facing car seat. However, it’s recommended that children remain in a backseat as long as possible for proper safety precautions.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "Car Seat Use After a Crash." 2020.
Healthy Children. “Car Seat Safety: Tips to Keep Your Child Safe.” April 2016.
Safe Kids Worldwide. “Car Seat Safety for Every Age.” 2020.