Click, latch, click… “wait where does this buckle go? Am I doing this right?” Click, buckle… Sound familiar? Sure, once you’ve been at it for a while you’ll be able to safely buckle up your kids in the back seat with one arm, probably juggling a million things with the other but in the beginning it may feel like a truly daunting task. Don’t worry, more than ever manufacturers have been making car seats safer and easier to install. Here’s a few ideas on picking the right one for your family.

CDC Checklist

Start by familiarizing yourself with what is listed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website. A quick breakdown below:

  • Birth to 2: Use a rear facing car seat, make sure your babies weight does not exceed the suggested limit
  • 2 to 4: Forward-facing car seat, this is useful up until your child is about 40 pounds.
  • 4 to 8: Belt positioning booster seat, remember kids should still be sitting in the backseat until about 12!

What to Look For

As with most child safety measures, vehicle safety evolves as your child grows. When buying a car seat, make sure you are considering both the age and weight of your child. Weight is specifically important as not all children develop at the same rate and seats are designed more around size than age.

  • For infants the safest design is a five-point harness which will keep your baby more secure than a three point harness
    • When the crown of your toddlers head is only about an inch from the top of the car seat it’s time to upgrade
  • Forward facing safety seats have a few less bells and whistles because it’s likely you will be able to engage with your child to confirm they are secure in their seat.
    • These are usually three point harnesses that require the use of the cars seatbelt to secure the back of your safety seat.

How To Test Installation

A safety seat only works if it’s being used properly. As I mentioned before, most manufacturers make this process as easy for new parents as possible. Always make sure you read the manual from cover to cover, but there’s a few more ways you can test to make sure the seat is properly secured in place.

  • Once installed, car seat should not move more than 1 inch side to side or front to back. If your seat is moving more, tighten the belt in the car.
  • Straps should be lying flat against your child’s body.
  • Chest clip should be at child’s arm pit level.
  • Do a pinch test at the shoulder strapsthere should be no loose material. If there is, tighten them.
  • Pro-Tip: If you’re unsure whether you’ve installed the seat properly most local fire houses double as installation checkpoints. Check here to find one near you.

Safest Car Seats of 2018

Don’t get too hung up on what the salesperson at your local store tells you, consumer reports has a list of the safest car seats out on the market now. You can look through their website here and decide which seat works best for you and your family.