Making sure your convertible car seat is installed correctly

With all the literature surrounding car seats, it’s easy to become confused about whether or not Baby is traveling safely. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants ride rear-facing, and remain rear-facing until at least age 2, but ideally until they reach the rear-facing height or weight limit for their seat. When you make the switch from the infant to convertible car seat, you’ll want to ensure you have a proper installation. Here are some tips for installing a rear-facing convertible car seat.

When installing a rear-facing convertible seat, remember to

  • Check the height and weight limits: Be sure the car seat you’re using is the right one for your child’s height and weight. These limits vary by manufacturer, so if you’re unsure, read the manual. If the manual isn’t anywhere handy, most companies post their manuals online.
  • Choose the correct spot in the vehicle: Car seats should be placed in the back of the car. For vehicles with three rows of seating, place the convertible car seat in the middle row, facing the rear of the vehicle. Ideally, you will want the car seat in the middle of the row, but the best location is the seat that offers a tight installation.
  • Pick just one method to install: When installing the car seat, you may use the lap belt, which is typically found in the middle seat. Another option is to use the lap belt and shoulder belt, or the LATCH system. LATCH stands for “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children” and are built into the vehicle, though top tethers are not meant to be used with most rear-facing convertible seats. If you’re unsure, check your car instruction manual, which will advise you on whether you can safely use the tether.

Getting the right installation

You will want to have some room to work, so start by moving the front seat forward to start the installation. Now that you’re behind the seat, you’ll want to tighten the seat belt or latch belt. Push the car seat toward the back of the vehicle, lean over the seat, and move from side to side as you pull the belt tight. You may also stand or kneel next to the side, placing your hand where the child’s bottom would go, and sway the seat as you pull the latch strap with your other hand. Repeat until it is completely tight; you’ll want less than one inch of movement in any direction at the belt path when you firmly shake the seat.

Buckling Baby in:

  • Harness straps should be at or below shoulder level for rear-facing children.
  • Place plastic clip at armpit level.
  • Tighten straps until they are flat and snug on the child’s shoulders.

  • “Car Seats: Information for Families.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, February 7 2017. Retrieved June 2 2017.
  • “Installation Checklist 2: Rear-facing Convertible Car Seat.” Car Seats Made Simple. Minnesota Safety Council. Retrieved June 2 2017.

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