The birth of a child is one of the most exciting, anticipated and memorable moments for a mother and family. The preparation beforehand, baby showers and packing for the hospital all add to the excitement and anticipation. It is not until the baby actually comes that you realize, I am completely responsible for this little being – it is up to me to feed him, keep him safe and raise him to be a kind and loving human being. As they grow, you realize that keeping them safe is one of the most important jobs you have as a parent, and it actually can start before the baby arrives.
I could write an entire post on home safety for infants and toddlers, but today I am just going to focus on car seats because starting on the day you bring your baby home, you want to keep him or her safe. In 2006, an average of 568 children were injured in motor vehicle crashes every day in the United States. Often, these children are improperly restrained or not in the correct car seat.
What do you need to know:
Every trip - Your baby should be properly restrained in a car seat every time they ride in a car, for the entire duration of the trip
Rear facing until 2 - Children need to be in a 5 point harness, rear facing car seat until 2 years or until they reach the manufacturer’s height and weigh limit for the seat
Infant car seats - are handy because you can install the base and just lift the carrier in and out as needed.If you are using an infant carrier, check the height and weight limits on the side of the carrier so that you can switch to a rear facing convertible car seat when you baby reaches the size limits.
Install correctly - 73% of car seats are not installed or used correctly
Inch test – once your car seat has been installed, try to move it side to side at the base, it should not move more than in inch
Make sure the harness straps are coming through the appropriate harness slots – in rear facing seats, the straps should come through at or below the baby’s shoulders
The harness clip should be at the level of the arm pits and tightly fastened
Pinch test – once your child is strapped in, try to pinch the harness straps above the harness clip – there should not be any extra webbing in the harness strap.If there is, the straps need to be tightened.
Skip the bulky clothing – anything between your baby’s body and the straps decreases the effectiveness of the child passenger safety seat.In cold weather, strap your baby in snuggly and then cover with a blanket to keep him warm.
Unfortunately, motor vehicle crashes are the 4th leading cause of injury death in children < 1 and the 2nd leading cause of injury death in children 1-4. Many of these deaths can be prevented with the correct choice of seat, correct installation and proper use of the harness.
Sarah Denny, MD, FAAP, works as an attending physician in the Section of Emergency Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and as an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
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