When you're getting ready to bring your baby home, the amount of details that surround car seats alone can be overwhelming for new parents. However, making sure you get the right kind of car seat for your child's age and weight group is super important when it comes to ensuring their safety, and you'll want to be sure that you're buckling your kids in correctly every time you get in the car. And yes, that includes the tiniest of details, too — so you'll want to know what car seat straps should look like when fitted correctly.
Fortunately, the American Academy of Pediatrics has outlined a few basic rules when it comes to strapping babies safely into their car seats. First of all, parents should ensure that they're using the right car seat for their child — whether that's rear-facing, forward-facing, or simply a booster seat — and that's something that will depend on their kids' age and weight. After that, parents will want to get familiar with manufacturer's directions on how to safely secure the car seat and strap their children in, since every car seat is different.
However, regardless of each car seat's specifics, here are some general AAP-outlined rules you'll want to follow:
The Straps Should Fit Snugly
The AAP recommends doing a "pinch test" on your child's car seat straps in order to make sure they don't have any slack to them. Essentially, you shouldn't be able to pinch any excess strap.
Worried about securing the straps too tightly? Make sure you can still fit a finger between the strap and your child's chest.
Chest Clips Should Line Up With Armpits
This is a common mistake parents make when clipping their kids in. In order to make sure car seat straps fit snugly on a child's shoulders, the chest clip needs to be placed at armpit level on the child, right at the center of their chest.
Harnesses Should Be Placed Correctly
In rear-facing car seats, you'll want to make sure harnesses are installed into slots that fall either at your baby's shoulders or below them. In forward-facing car seats, harnesses should be installed in slots that fall above a child's shoulders.
Straps Need To Lie Straight
If the car seat straps are twisted, they're not falling snugly against your child's chest and protecting them. Make sure you watch for any twisted straps each and every time you buckle up your child.
Don't Use Bulky Winter Gear Under Straps
While parents want to make sure their kids stay warm during winter months, buckling children into car seats while they're wearing big, bulky coats isn't the right approach. According to the AAP, fluffy padding in coats compresses immediately in a crash, which leaves room for children to slip through their car seat straps during a collision.
Accessories like hats, booties, and mittens will help keep your child warm without compromising the straps of their car seat. Coats or blankets can be laid over top of the straps, but make sure that nothing is covering their face.
It can seem like an overwhelming set of rules at first, but a car seat is only as effective as it should be if it's installed correctly and fitted properly every time it's used. In addition to following the AAP's guidelines, make sure you also take an in-depth look at any manufacturer's notes for your child's car seat. Once you know what to look for and get the hang of adjusting your child's car seat straps correctly, buckling them in will be a breeze — and you can rest assured that you've given your kids the safest car ride possible.
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