How to Prep Your Car for a Baby
You’ve furnished the nursery, shopped for clothes and found the perfect stroller, but is your car ready to welcome a new member of the family? Your baby will experience his or her first car ride on the way home from the hospital and will need a safe, comfortable environment for riding throughout early life. From choosing the right car seat to making sure you have all the necessary accessories, these guidelines will help make for a baby-friendly vehicle.
Choosing the Best Baby Seat: Points to Consider
Start shopping for a car seat far enough in advance of your baby’s arrival that you can exchange it if need be. Read your owner’s manual carefully and consider the following points to help you find just the right seat:
1) Understanding Baby Seat Types
There are two basic types of baby car seats for infants and toddlers. A baby seat is exclusively for rear-facing use and holds children weighing between 22 and 35 pounds. Convertible seats support up to 40 pounds rear-facing and 70 pounds front-facing so that you can use the same seat as your child grows. The seat you choose should fit snugly with no more than one inch of movement in any direction. If your car was built after 2002, it should include a Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system to help the seat stay in place.
2) Used Baby Car Seat: Yes or No?
No matter how good of a bargain you might get, you should never buy a used baby car seat. There’s no way to know if it suffered damage, or if it was properly cleaned before being sold. Older models may be near their expiration dates or lack important safety features.
3) Aftermarket “Upgrades” for a Baby Car Seat: Are They Safe?
Some parents feel better when they can see their child’s face as they drive, so they attach little mirrors to the baby seat. Others like the idea of added cushions or decorative accessories. These aftermarket accessories and add-ons aren’t tested with a baby car seat and may compromise safety.
4) How to Adjust a Baby Car Seat
Knowing how to install a car seat at the correct angle is essential to make sure the baby is safe in case of an accident. Aligning the seat properly also provides the necessary support for his or her developing body by minimizing the risk of slouching or slumping during travel. The best way to adjust the baby seat is to read the manual that came with the seat to make sure that you got the angle right for that particular model.
5) Comfort and Safety for Baby
A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition showed that 69 percent of parents strapped their children into a car seat too loosely.
Harnesses and clips were in the wrong positions 52 percent of the time, and around 15 percent of parents had no idea how to adjust the straps.
The right way to adjust baby seat harnesses is to place them at armpit level. They should lie flat against your baby’s chest for maximum safety.
It’s also crucial to ensure that the seat has a clear buffer between the doors and the front seats of the car. This “cushion area” prevents the seat from slamming into anything in the event of an accident. The Mayo Clinic suggests rear center placement to create the biggest possible cushion.
6) Why You Should Visit a Child Car Seat Inspection Station
It’s a good idea to search online for a car seat inspection station and have your seat checked out before baby’s first ride. Trained technicians will determine whether the seat has been installed correctly and give you pointers on proper use.
Essentials That You Shouldn’t Overlook
As a new parent, it’s natural to want to be sure that your baby has everything he or she needs to be happy, safe and healthy at all times. Although you can’t bring your entire stash of baby accessories with you everywhere you go, there are a few important items that you should have alongside the car seat, and that will make car rides a little easier to manage.
1) Carpet Stain Guards
Babies can be messy and unpredictable. You never know when diapers might need immediate change or your little one will get carsick. Stain guard treatments prevent stains to your vehicle’s carpets and make cleanup less of a hassle after mishaps.
2) Sippy Cups
Before you know it, your baby will be old enough to need a cup of something to drink during car rides. Sippy cups have handles that are easy for little fingers to grasp, and they’re designed not to leak or spill should your child decide to fling them around the car.
3) Seat Protectors
A baby car seat has solid edges that can damage the upholstery in your vehicle. A seat protector provides a layer of padding that keeps the seats in top condition.
4) Cleaning Wipes
Basic baby wipes are handy for cleaning messes off hard surfaces inside the car and for wiping the car seat down. As with carpet stain guards, this helps prevent permanent staining from food and other substances.
5) Window Shades or Tint
Continual exposure to bright sunlight can damage your baby’s delicate skin and eyes. Window tint films are a cost-effective way to reduce glare and keep your little one safely protected in their car seat. Tinting the windows also helps to keep the temperature in the car cool on summer days without the need to blast the air conditioning, which isn’t that good for the baby either.
6) Rubberized Rear Floor/Trunk Mat
Rubberized mats cover the carpeting in the rear part of your vehicle so that you can stow strollers and other potentially dirty items without damaging the fabric. To clean the mat, all you have to do is rinse it off and wipe it as opposed to paying to have stains removed from the carpet.
With the right baby car seat for safety, and accessories to handle the messier side of life as a parent, your car has everything necessary to make car rides with your baby safe and simple.
Do you have any tips for choosing a car seat from your own experiences? What are your “must have” baby items that you rely upon during car rides?