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Car seat safety: know what’s best for your baby

If you’re new to parenthood, you probably have a lot to learn. You have to figure out how to baby-proof your home, get your baby on a regular sleep schedule—and all the while attempt to maintain your own life.

Driving with your new baby can be equally confusing. Which car seat should you get, and how should you configure it? Knowing the right answers to these questions can be life-saving for your baby.

Infant carrier

The first car seat you’ll use for your newborn is an infant carrier. Like all car seats, it should only be used in the back seat of the car—to provide your baby the most protection in case of an accident. Infant carriers should always face backwards.

The other key factor you need to be aware of is when to transition your baby out of an infant carrier and into a larger, convertible car seat. Safety guidelines indicate that your baby should not stay in an infant carrier past their first birthday. However, you may need to transition them sooner, if your baby outgrows the height limits of the infant carrier before then.

If your baby’s head comes up too high on the carrier, the seat shell no longer offers adequate head protection in the event of a collision. In crash tests with dummies representing one-year-old babies, 53 percent of dummies in an infant carrier sustained head injuries—compared to only 4 percent in convertible carriers.

Convertible car seat

Once your baby is ready to transition, you’ll move them into a convertible car seat. This seat should remain rear facing for as long as possible—as this orientation is the safest for your child.

The American Academy of Pediatrics previously advised parents to move their child to a forward-facing orientation at age two. However, the latest safety studies have found that it is best to keep your child facing backwards until they exceed the height or weight limits for that orientation.

This new guidance means that some children may switch to a forward-facing orientation at age two, while others may not make that transition until age four.

Being a new parent brings with it a lot of joys—and challenges. Understanding child safety do’s and don’ts can make your job as a parent much easier.

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