Safe Car Seat Travels

Christine Sweeney, LICSW Program Manager, Parent Connection, BIDMC

AUGUST 07, 2016

It’s that time of year, and families will be taking to the air or roads to spend holidays with loved ones near and far. Whether you will be driving for an extended road trip, or just tooling around your neighborhood running errands, as a parent of a newborn, there’s a new set of skills to learn, and one of the most important is knowing how to use your car seat correctly.

Parents are often most focused on ensuring that the seat they are buying is safe with no recalls and that once purchased, it is correctly placed in the car. There is a wealth of information and resources available to address both these concerns and many local police stations even offer inspection/installation support to make sure the seat is installed correctly.

Massachusetts state law requires that a car seat is used every time baby travels in a car. Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat until they are two years of age and placed in the back seat of the car. Parents should never use a seat of that been in a moderate or severe accident, or a seat with any broken or missing parts. Seats that are older than six years past the manufacture date (should be imprinted on the seat, or on a sticker) should also not be used. 

For general information about seat positioning, and safety recall, please visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website.

The area that parents seem less informed about is how to safely position baby in the seat, and this is a particular issue during the colder months when baby may be bundled in bulky blankets or coats. 

The following Common Questions are taken directly from the American Academy of Pediatrics website which offers great information about how to safely position and secure baby in the seat itself.

Common Questions About Rear-Facing Car Seats

What if my baby's feet touch the back of the vehicle?

Your child can bend his legs easily and will be comfortable in a rear-facing seat. Injuries to the legs are rare for children facing the rear.

What do I do if my baby slouches down or to the side in his car seat?

Blanket rolls may be placed on both sides of the infant and a small diaper or blanket between the crotch strap and the infant. Do not place padding under or behind the infant or use any sort of car seat insert unless it came with the seat or was made by the manufacturer of the seat. Infant can be placed in seat with a small cloth between crotch strap and infant, harness clip positioned at the center of the chest and at the level of the infant's armpits, and blanket rolls on both sides of the infant.

Why should I dress my baby in thinner layers of clothing before strapping her into a car seat?

Bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, can compress in a crash and lead to increased risk of injury. Ideally, dress your baby in thinner layers and tuck a coat or a blanket around your baby over the buckled harness straps if needed.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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