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Car Seat Safety

The Basics

  • Choose a car seat that is the right size and type for your baby's length, weight, and health. Not all car seats work on any infant.
  • Avoid a second-hand seat or bed unless it has all its parts and instructions, has any recalls repaired, has not been in a crash, and is not over 6 years old.
  • ALWAYS follow car seat instructions and car owner's manual.
  • NEVER install car seat in front seat that has an active air bag. The back seat is safer for all children.
  • Put the harness over baby's shoulders and between the legs. Make it snug.
  • Be sure the car seat faces the rear to protect the head, neck, and spine.
  • For best protection, keep your baby rear facing as long as possible -18 to 24 months (adjusted gestational age) is safest. At a minimum, keep your baby rear-facing until at least one year after baby's due date AND until baby weighs at least 20 pounds.

Checking harness fit

Look for a harness with low shoulder strap positions so it will fit close to your baby's body. Take a tape measure when you shop.

  • Shoulder harness positions: start with the lowest position. The lower the straps, the better the fit is for a baby. Some car seats have positions as low as 5 or 6 inches. The lowest position should be less than 8 inches.
  • Crotch strap distance: less than 5 1/2 inches if possible. Some seats have two crotch strap positions.

Correct car seat use

  • Only use the car seat in the car. Babies need to sleep lying flat on their backs.
  • They also need to lie on their tummies every day.
  • Dress your baby in clothes with legs so the harness straps fit between the legs.
  • Avoid a thick snowsuit or wrapping baby in a blanket. Put extra blankets over the straps.
  • Avoid thick padding under or behind your baby. It could make the harness too loose, so your baby could be thrown out in a crash.
  • Put shoulder straps in the lowest position, as close as possible to your baby's shoulders or just below. If the lowest position makes straps come out near baby's ears or higher, use a different seat.
  • Put your baby's bottom all the way back in the car seat.
  • For support, use small rolled baby blankets or diapers beside baby's body and head and between the legs.
  • A support pad that came with the car seat can be used if it does not push the baby's head forward. Avoid pads that you can buy separately. They can be dangerous.
  • Put the harness over both shoulders and between baby's legs. Make it snug, so you cannot pinch any slack in the shoulder straps.
  • The chest clip should be at armpit level. Do not put it close to the neck or too low.
  • Install the car seat tightly. It should not move more than an inch forward or side to side.
  • ALWAYS follow car seat instructions and car manual.
  • NOTE: If baby has a breathing monitor, oxygen, or other equipment, secure it so it will move as little as possible in a crash. Use a seat belt or wedge it on the floor of the car.

Further Questions:

If you have further questions about car seats, please ask to speak to a Child Passenger Safety Advocate or Technician.

Arkansas Children's Hospital
1 Children's Way
Little Rock, AR 72202-3591

Call: 501-364-1100

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