How to Choose an Infant Car Seat & Use it Properly to Protect Your Baby

I remember reviewing books like Baby Bargains, Consumer Reports and going to big box stores like BabiesRUs to test out car seats before Isabella was born. I had no idea that picking out a car seat and understanding how to use it was going to be like studying for a CPA exam! This is where I began my quest to pick the safest car seat and understand how to use it best to protect my little bean! Luckily, I was a research queen and didn’t mind the investigative work I had to immerse myself in. I also recently took the Child Passenger Seat Technician Certification course which allows me to install car seats correctly. I wanted to share how important it is to keep your baby well protected because motor vehicle crashes are one of the single greatest killers of Americans. For parents who want the quick and dirty low down on what to look for in a car seat (or infant carrier) and how to use it here’s what Itsabelly Baby Planners recommends. If you have any tips not mentioned here please share them with us!

  • Make sure to test the car seat in your car before purchase. You want to make sure it fits appropriately in your back seat with the seat belt mechanism or latch system
  • Check child seat ratings, recalls and Child Passenger Safety information on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) site:
  • Read product reviews for input from customers who have already used the car seat
  • Remember the most expensive car seat with all of the bells and whistles doesn’t always equal the safest car seat
  • Keep your baby in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat from birth to at least age 1 and 20 lbs or whatever the upper limits of the seat are from the manufacturer
  • Do not buy a used car seat as you don’t know if it’s still under warranty, been through a crash or has been recalled
  • Although we do not recommend using a second hand car seat if you are given a used car seat from a close relative you must make sure it’s not expired (find exp date on back of seat), not recalled and has not been in an accident
  • Use the appropriate car seat for your baby’s height and weight at all times
  • Use the car‘s safety belt or LATCH system to lock the car seat into the car. Your car seat should not move more than 1 inch side to side or front to back. Grab the car seat at the safety belt path to test it.
  • Make sure the car seat is not reclined more than a 45 degree angle, so that baby’s head stays in contact with the seat and the baby’s airway stays open
  • Find out where your airbags are. Never put a rear-facing car seat in front of an active airbag!
  • Have your car seat installation checked at a local Safe Kids coalition by a Child Passenger Seat Technician who’s been certified to install car seats correctly at



Published on: March 29, 2010
About the Author
Photo of Melissa Moog
Melissa is the founder of Wellness Warrior a resource for moms & dads to connect beyond babyhood, to tell the stories of the bumps they hit along the way and how we shake off the dust and go on to discover the new road before us.
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