Keeping Your Baby or Young Child Safe in a Car Seat

From infancy through the first 8-12 years of life, your child will be safest in a car safety seat when riding in a motor vehicle. Current American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for car safety seats advise parents to:

  • Keep children in rear-facing car seats until they turn 2 or until they grow too big for seat specifications. Newborns may need other features that allow them to be safely buckled and supported. While a car seat designed for both newborns and older babies is a good choice for many, babies born prematurely often need an infant-only car seat.
  • Once a child outgrows an infant car seat, use a forward-facing seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the car safety seats manufacturer. (Note that convertible car seats, which can be used either forward or rear facing, tend to have higher weight and height limits generally up to 35 pounds than do infant-only seats, which snap in and out of a base that stays in the car.)
  • After that, use a belt-positioning booster seat to keep your child safe. Unless your car has a child safety seat built into it, remember that seat belts are made for adults and will not fit or protect a child until she is 4' 9? tall, usually between 8 and 12 years of age. A booster seat is needed until then.
  • Whatever car seat you use, make sure it is installed correctly. Sometimes local police stations hold car seat and bicycle safety check days. Your local department may be happy to check the installation of your seat even if they don't hold such events.
  • Avoid attaching mobiles, mirrors and toys to your baby's car seat. They can become a hazard if you're involved in an accident.

The AAP's complete guidelines on car seat safety.

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide individual medical advice. Always personally seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you have related to your health or medical condition. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you read here.

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