Transporting your child is something that new parents will become very familiar with. From school car pools, to dance lessons, to soccer practices, to teaching them how to drive for the first time — parents spend a lot of time with their children in a car. But the first step in all of this is transporting their newborn home from the hospital. Before parents even get to the hospital, they will have to have a car seat, because car seat requirements to leave hospitals are simple: have one properly installed before you go home, so your baby can leave safely.
While it may seem like common sense to have a car seat installed, there is a whole new world of things for new parents to learn and remember. And car seats are an entirely new concept for most new parents to get used to, which they will have to use for more several years after their baby is born.
State laws vary — find yours here — but every state requires that all babies to be in a car seat when they leave the hospital and kids should be in a car seat or booster seat until they are around 11 years old, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. As for newborns, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that all infants should ride in a rear-facing car seat or rear-facing convertible car seat only from the moment they leave the hospital until they're 2 years old.
As What To Expect notes, there are also two types of harnesses you can choose from, but "you'll want to opt for the 5-point harness since it ensures baby stays the most secure."
But, here's what you'll need to research further beforehand since all hospitals have slightly different requirements. According to the blog, The Car Crash Detective, some hospitals might tell you that you need to leave the hospital with your baby in an infant car seat, which is designed for rear-facing installment. Other hospitals might have problems with parents bringing home their children in a convertible car seat, according to blog, Car Seats For The Littles, since they can be little less snug than infant car seats.
Therefore, parents will want to call the hospital they're planning on having their baby at to make sure they meet all of its specific requirements. This way, parents won't have problems exiting the hospital and starting life with their newborn at home.
But guidelines from the AAP suggest that the hospital can help out, too. Before a newborn is discharged from the hospital, according to the AAP, parents should be trained on positioning and use of the car seat. And perhaps the most important thing is the installation of the car seat and that the car seat isn't expired, which typically happens after six years from the date it was manufactured. Indeed, picking the right car seat is a very important step.
When it comes to taking newborns home from the hospital, safety is absolutely crucial. New parents will want to check that their car seat is properly installed, according to The Car Crash Detective, and it might even be a good idea to have seasoned parents (whether that be a friend or a family member) to triple check it just to be sure.
If parents are still nervous about taking their newborn home for the first time, they can ask someone to help them. Many hospitals, fire departments, and police departments offer car seat inspections and car seat installations so parents can guarantee that their kid is safe. This helpful tool, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can help parents locate the nearest place that will install your car seat and teach you how to use it, free of charge. This could be a lifesaver — for both parents and their newborn baby.
There are also many helpful videos on YouTube that will teach you how to install a car seat before your newborn arrives, such as this one below:
While proper installation is key, the position of the baby in their car seat is important as well. Parents notes that, according to a study conducted by the AAP, 93 percent of parents make one major error when installing their car seat and securing their child before they even leave the hospital. These mistakes include the harness being too loose, the retainer clip being too low, or the car seat's harness being in the wrong slot. In 70 percent of cases, according to Parents, there were issues with both the installation and the way the child sat in the seat. These mistakes could understandably be attributed to the fact that many new parents are incredibly tired when they leave the hospital.
As most anxious new parents will find out, they can never be too sure by checking their infant's car seat before heading out to the hospital. And when in doubt, call your hospital ahead of time to make sure your rear-facing car seat meets its requirements and go a step further and have your installation triple-checked for absolute peace of mind for driving with your very precious cargo.
Watch Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Check out the entire Romper's Doula Diaries series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.