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Health Information For Parents
Using a car seat, also called a child safety seat, is the best way to protect your kids when they’re in a car. Car crashes are one of the leading causes of death and injury for children. Because car seats save lives, using a car seat is the law in every U.S. state.
But keeping your child safe depends on choosing the right safety seat and using it correctly. The best car seat is the one that fits your child’s weight, size, and age, as well as your vehicle.
Here are some things to know so you can pick a seat that’s right for your child:
Babies start out in infant-only (rear-facing) seats or convertible seats. As they grow, kids switch to forward-facing seats before moving to a booster seat. Here’s a rundown of which seat to use when.
Infant-only seats fit newborns and smaller infants best. You’ll need to buy another seat when your baby outgrows it. Infant-only seats are designed to protect babies from birth until they reach up to 35 pounds (about 16 kilograms), depending on the model.
Infant car seats should always be installed to face the rear of the car. A small child is much less likely to die or be seriously injured when in a rear-facing seat. That’s because the back of the safety seat will cradle the baby’s head, neck, and torso in a crash. At this age, a child’s neck usually isn’t strong enough to support the head in a crash.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants and toddlers ride in a rear-facing seat until they reach the highest weight and height limits recommended by the seat’s manufacturer. Safety experts say to do this based on a child’s size, not age. Small children can stay rear-facing until age 3 or 4.
Infant-only safety seats are convenient because they’re designed to double as carriers, chairs, or rockers when not used in the car. Many models detach right from the base, letting you leave the base installed in the car. Some can be clicked into strollers to be wheeled around. If your baby is in the infant safety seat outside of the car, never put the seat on a high surface like a kitchen counter, a dresser, or changing.
Infant-seats are easy to use, but don’t let your baby spend too much time in one at home or at daycare. Too much time in a car seat can limit a baby’s movement and opportunities for stimulation, which are important for developing sensory and motor skills.
Convertible seats are designed to protect kids:
Convertible seats are placed in different positions depending on a child’s age and size:
Some car seats are known as “all-in-one” or “3-in-one” because they convert from rear-facing to front-facing to booster with the harness removed.
If you use a convertible seat:
Forward-facing car seats are designed to protect children from 20 to 80 pounds (about 10 to 36 kilograms) or more, depending on the model.
All kids who have outgrown the rear-facing height or weight limit for their car seat should use a forward-facing car seat with a full harness for as long as possible. They should only switch to a booster seat that relies on the car’s adult seat belts when they pass the height and weight limit for their forward-facing car seat.
Some cars have built-in or integrated car seats. As with other forward-facing car safety seats, built-in seats are for kids who have outgrown their rear-facing car seat. Some convert to belt-positioning booster seats. Weight and height limits will vary, so check your owner’s manual.
When combined with safety belts, air bags protect adults and teens from serious injury during a collision. They have saved lives and prevented many serious injuries. But young children can be injured or even killed if they are riding in the front passenger seat when an air bag opens.
Air bags were designed with adults in mind. They must open with great force (up to 200 miles per hour) to protect an average-sized, 165-pound (75-kilogram) male from injury. While this force is OK for adults and bigger kids, it can be dangerous for small kids, possibly leading to head and neck injuries.
Protect your baby or toddler from air bag injury by following these rules:
You can find more information about keeping kids safe in cars online at:
More kids are injured in auto collisions than in any other type of accident, but you can protect them by learning the proper use of car seats and booster seats.
Regular infant seats simply allow young babies to sit up. Never substitute any type of infant seat for a child safety seat (car seat).
Your tot’s not a baby anymore! It’s time for a big-kid booster seat. But how can you ensure that your child is still safe and secure in the car? Find out here.
Use these tips to teach your kids how to stay safe when riding in a car or on a school bus.
Find out what the experts have to say.
Whether your baby comes home from the hospital right away, arrives later, or comes through an adoption agency, homecoming is a major event.
If you’re a first-time parent, put your fears aside and get the basics in this guide about burping, bathing, bonding, and other baby-care concerns.
Safely securing kids in cars can be tricky. This video makes it easy to figure out which seat your child needs, and when.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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