As an expectant parent, you’re likely a delightful mix of unbridled joy and complete exhaustion. We get it. Your baby’s car seat is just one of the many brightly patterned puzzles you will face. But, car seat installation is not something to do while tuning in to your favorite podcast. It’s one of many big tasks to tackle before your baby’s due date and arguably one of the most important.
So, to make baby prep a little bit easier, here are 5 common car seat installation mistakes you can avoid. You’ve got this!
Mistake #1: After-market products
Making car seats is a precise science. Any material or add-on product not made by the manufacturer can potentially interfere with its function. Even a blanket between your child and their car seat may inhibit its effectiveness. In the event of an accident, the car seat’s warranty or applicable guarantee may be void if after-market products are in use. So, those strap covers might be adorable but are not worth the risk. For more information about after-market products to avoid and suggested alternatives, check out this article from the experts at Car Seats for the Littles.
Mistake #2: Forgetting the car seat base
There’s a reason your child’s car seat came with a base; it keeps it in place! It takes a little extra time, but follow the manufacturer’s instructions to install the base. Even if you’ve installed a car seat before, don’t assume you know how to install a new one. Car seats are always changing. To make life a little easier, some manufacturers have YouTube channels with video tutorials on how to install your base.
If you have two vehicles, it may be a good idea to buy an extra base. Most manufacturers sell their car seat bases separately, so you can easily use your car seat in all your vehicles.
Some parents worry the base and car seat won’t fit in their vehicle. If you find yourself in this situation, search for car seats designed for smaller cars. You can also check the manufacturer’s website before buying your child’s car seat to see if it will fit in your vehicle.
Mistake #3: Passing up a free car seat safety check
Who doesn’t love freebies? Most communities offer free car seat safety inspections from trained technicians. Local hospitals or fire departments usually put these on. A technician will examine how you installed your car seat. Some may even help you practice buckling the harness. If you’re not sure your community has one, call your local hospital maternity ward, and they will likely be able to point you in the right direction.
Mistake #4: Ignoring your car seat’s expiration date
You may not be aware, but car seats have an expiration date. Check your car seat’s manufacturer manual to learn where the expiration date is printed on the seat.
Car seats are subjected to pretty harsh elements, including exposure to sun, heat, freezing temperatures, etc. These elements can cause the materials of your car seat to degrade over time, making it less effective. Most safety organizations advise against purchasing a used car seat and avoid buying a car seat in a car accident or missing an expiration date.
Mistake #5: Hastily buckling your kiddo in their car seat
Car seat harnesses are much more complex than a standard seatbelt. Make sure to review the manufacturer’s manual to learn the right way to secure the harness. There are several different harnessing systems, so make sure you know how yours works.
Make sure that the straps of the harness are flat against your child’s body and properly tightened. It’s also advised that you not buckle your child in if they’re wearing bulky clothing. Bulky clothing can cause slack in the harness restraints. Instead, buckle them in without their coat, then cover them with their coat or a blanket.
It may take some extra time to ensure your car seat is properly installed and your baby is properly buckled in, but taking extra care will help save their life. When in doubt, always refer to the manufacturer for support and answers.
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