Baby Health and Safety Article

Buckling Up for the First Ride Home










The car ride from the hospital to home is your first opportunity to demonstrate your forward thinking. Make sure the car seat is ready when you take your first steps from the safety of the hospital.

To avoid problems, get the infant seat installed ahead of time. Consider using a baby doll to practice adjusting the straps. Some car seats are tricky.

Ask your car dealer for help; many sponsor programs to help you learn about installing and using your baby's car seat safely. You can also ask the highway patrol or your fire department for help. It's worth the effort.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides specific recommendations about car-ride safety for your baby. They include:

  • Use a rear-facing convertible or infant-only seat the first year.
  • Tightly install child seat in rear seat, facing the rear (base should not move more than 1 inch).
  • Never use in a front seat where an air bag is present.
  • Child seat should recline at approximately a 45 degree angle.
  • Harness strap slots should be at or below shoulder level (use lower set of slots for most convertible child safety seats). Keep harness straps snug.
  • Place chest clip at infant's armpit level to keep harness straps in place.
  • If necessary, place rolled towel around baby's head and neck for support.

Because there are so many car-seat manufacturers and models, it's difficult to provide specific instructions about the safe installation of any one of them. In addition, it's nearly impossible to stay on top of which ones are safe to begin with. Luckily, there are a number of valuable resources at your disposal.

Visit the NHTSA website to obtain the following information:

  • Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Ratings (check before you buy)
  • Infant Child Seat Use and Installation Tips
  • Child Safety Seat Inspection Station Locator (have a certified technician show you how)

The Fit for a Kid website is loaded with information on car-seat safety, including instructional videos for free download.

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