Baby Car Seats and Carriers: Must-Know Safety Tips Before Labor
The closer you get to your due date, the more research you’re likely doing on newborn products.
Two of the first products you’re probably wondering about are car seats and baby carriers. However, there are some safety tips you should know before purchasing and using both.
In this post, we’ll outline the safety hazards and precautions you should take when using infant car seats and baby carriers.
Check back next week to read our safety tips for baby strollers and changing tables.
Baby Car Seat Safety
After you give birth, you must have a baby car seat before leaving the hospital. Unlike some products, this is a non-negotiable you must research while you’re pregnant. Since it’s illegal not to have a car seat for a baby, some hospitals require you to show them you have purchased one before you’re discharged.
Below are some precautions you need to consider before purchasing and using a baby car seat.
Caution: If you don’t pay attention to the details, you may purchase a car seat not designed for a newborn.
Prevention: As your baby grows older, the way they sit in a car will change. Below is what you need to know about baby car seat types.
- The safest option for a newborn is a rear-facing car seat that has a harness. In the unfortunate event of a crash, it will cradle your baby and move with them to reduce injury to the neck and spinal cord.
- Typically, babies will outgrow a rear-facing infant seat in 8-9 months. When this happens, the best option is to purchase a convertible or all-in-one car seat that you can use rear-facing.
- Check this diagram to learn how your child’s car seat should change over the years.
- The National Highway Traffic Administrations (NHTSA) has created a tool where you can find suitable car seat options by inputting your child’s age, measurements and weight.
Caution: Not every car seat fits every vehicle.
Prevention: Check the instructions that come with the car seat to see if it will fit your vehicle. When you install it, make sure it can be buckled in tightly. If you try to install it and it doesn’t fit, return it for another one that does.
Caution: If the car seat isn’t properly installed, it won’t work properly.
Prevention: Read the specific instruction manual that comes with your car seat to learn how to install it correctly. Below are some general tips to follow.
- The car seat should be placed in the back seat of the vehicle.
- The car seat should be secured by either the lower anchors on the car seat or the seat belt (follow your instructions).
- Rear-facing car seats need to be installed at the right angle. Usually, car seats have built-in angle adjusters to help.
- After installation, the car seat should be tightly secured. It shouldn’t be able to move side-to-side or front-to-back more than one inch when the belt path is pulled.
- It will probably help to watch some how-to videos before installation. Start with this one or the one found on the NHTSA’s website.
Caution: It’s not enough to install the car seat correctly; the baby must also be positioned correctly.
Prevention: Follow the instructions that come with your specific car seat model. Below are some general tips.
- The car seat harness straps should not be twisted and should lie flat. For a rear-facing seat, the straps should also be placed through the slots that are below or at the baby’s shoulders.
- When you buckle the harness and chest clip, you’ll know it’s tight enough when extra material can’t be pinched at the shoulder.
- The chest clip should be at armpit level on the baby.
Cautions: Unfortunately, sometimes car seats get recalled because of safety issues.
Prevention: After you purchase a car seat, register it on the manufacturer’s website or by visiting www.nhtsa.gov/carseat. This makes it easy for the company to contact you if the seat gets recalled for any reason.
Cautions: If you have questions or are not sure if the car seat is installed correctly, do not guess and take the chance.
Prevention: Check to see if your local fire and police stations offer free seat checks. If you live in the U.S., you can find the nearest trained inspector by visiting www.nhtsa.gov/carseatinspection or by calling the Department of Transportation Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236. If you live in Canada, you can contact your local public health unit or call Transport Canada at 1-800-333-0371 to learn more.
Most Safe Baby Car Seats: NHTSA Recommended
- Amazon rating: 4/5 with about 215 reviews
- Easy installation
- Easy one-hand front adjust 5-point safety harness
- EPS energy-absorbing foam for impact head protection
- Flex-Loc latch system and standard 4-position push button height adjustment
- 4-position shoulder belt height adjustment
- 2-position “push and click” crotch position
- Patented side impact head control
- Patented no-rethread harness system to reduce misuse
- 5-point safety harness
- Contoured headrest is removable for correct installation
- Amazon rating: 4.4/5 with about 55 reviews
- Can be attached to Baby Jogger stroller
- Push button latch for quick base installation
- Belt lock-off makes for easier seat belt installation
- 6-position adjustable base
- TaxiSafe belt path makes it usable and safe to install without a base in taxis or rental vehicles
Baby Carrier Safety & Sling Safety
A baby carrier or sling allows you to keep your baby as close as possible while still being able to use your arms. You can use them when walking, working, traveling or simply doing chores around the house. While these products are safe, if used incorrectly, they may lead to injury or even suffocation.
Caution: Newborns’ muscles aren’t yet strong enough to support their head. If they don’t get proper support in a carrier or sling, it may cause injury.
Prevention: Some parents choose to wait until the baby is at least 4 or 5 months old if they choose to use a baby carrier. If you use a carrier before 5 months, it’s critical that you choose a carrier that has enough support for the baby’s head to rest. Babies under 4 months old also still have developing airways, so be extra careful during this time of sling or carrier suffocation hazards.
Caution: If you don’t buy a high-quality product, the sling or carrier may break.
Prevention: Before purchasing a sling or carrier, do your research and choose one that is high quality; your baby’s safety is not something you want to cheap out on. A safe carrier or sling will include detailed instructions that are easy-to-understand. Before buying, consider the quality of the hardware and ensure the fabric is breathable. Each time before you use your carrier or sling, check it for tears. Ripped seams, damaged hardware or torn straps are signs that it is unsafe to use.
Caution: If not positioned or fit correctly, a baby can fall out of the sling opening or leg opening.
Prevention: Buy a carrier or sling that fits both you and your baby’s size. Your baby’s head should fit above the product so that you can see their face. Different slings are made for different baby weights; make sure you select the right one. You should also hold your baby whenever you bend over to ensure he or she doesn’t fall out.
Caution: If a baby isn’t positioned correctly, it can cause suffocation or injury.
Prevention: You should keep checking your baby to make sure they are in a correct position. Below are some tips you should follow.
- Always have your baby’s face in view.
- Keep the baby upright.
- Ensure the baby’s face isn’t pressed up against anything such as the carrier fabric or your body.
- Ensure your baby’s chin isn’t pressed into their chest.
- Ensure your baby’s legs aren’t curled against their stomach (can restrict breathing).
- The sling or carrier should be tight enough to support their back.
- To prevent suffocation, don’t zip up your coat around your baby.
- To prevent hip injuries, view these diagrams to learn how to correctly position your baby in a carrier or sling.
Baby Carriers: Safe Options
- Amazon rating: 4.6/5 with about 150 reviews
- Supports baby from 3 months to 3 years
- Self-locking zippers
- 3-way lock buckle on shoulder strap for security
- Adjustable from front and back
- Ergonomic for baby and parent
- Easier on/off (not a confusing design)
- Amazon rating: 4.5/5 with about 1,090 reviews
- Suitable for newborns (7-45 lbs.)
- Six positions depending on size/age of baby
- Lumbar and head support with dual adjustments
- Air panel allows you to control your baby’s temperature
- Amazon rating: 4.5/5 with about 540 reviews
- Infant insert
- Free from potentially harmful materials and dyes
- Front carrier made for 7-25 lbs. and back carrier made for 25-45 lbs.
- Removable sleeping hood and foot strap
- Easily adjustable chest strap
- Amazon rating: 4.5/5 out of about 530 reviews
- Great support for baby’s head, neck and back
- Comes with informational DVD and storage bag
- Made from high-quality fabric
- Suitable for newborns and babies up to 35 lbs.
Have you started looking into newborn car seats and baby carriers yet? If you have, comment below the model you’re considering. If you have any pregnant friends, be sure to share this post to help keep their baby safe, too!
P.S. Take a break from the newborn research and reward yourself by listening to your baby’s heartbeat. Fetal dopplers are handheld devices that allow you to hear the heartbeat through earphones—similar to an ultrasound. Check them out here.