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I have to admit: car seats intimidate me. Or at least they used to. When my husband and I had our first baby I stressed about whether or not ours was installed properly, and if Zeplin fit in it the way he should (do newborns ever really look right in a car seat?).
They aren’t rocket science, however — you can do this! (Just me? Ha.) Read both your car seat manual and your vehicle owner’s manual for installation instructions and safety information for your specific seat and situation, and avoid these three common mistakes:
Forward-facing too soon
This mistake is so common there’s a growing movement around it called “TurnAfter2.” The issue: Switching children to a forward-facing car seat before they’re ready. The official recommendation is to leave them rear-facing until they’ve exceeded the maximum weight or height limits for their seat, or until they’re at least 2 years old. The reasoning: the car seat provides a good deal of head and neck support — turn your cutie around and that enormous noggin can now fly forward unchecked in a crash, often resulting in spinal injury.
Big coats under the harness
Who doesn’t put their kid in a big warm coat during cold winter weather? No one, that’s who. But as it turns out many times winter coats and car seats don’t mix. Why? The volume of the coat can interfere with how tight the straps fit, and therefore how safe and functional the car seat is. Test yours by tightening the straps over baby’s coat and then (without loosening them), take baby out, take the coat off, and put baby back in. Can you pinch any excess strap? If yes, then the coat is interfering with the car seat’s safety and instead you should put the coat on backwards over the harness (arms in the holes, coat on like a Snuggie) or simply use a big warm blanket instead and save the coat for outside.
Not registering your car seat
I admit, this is one I was guilty of until I started researching this article (but have since remedied!). Car seat registration is often overlooked but is immensely important for receiving timely product recall and warranty information. Should your car seat (God forbid) be deemed unsafe or flawed at some point in the future, you’re going to want them to notify you — and they can’t do that unless you’ve registered. All new car seats (never buy used) come with a free registration card in the box.
Interested in more tips? Get a car seat check for your specific vehicle’s make/model at Cars.com.