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Car seat safety can be a sensitive subject! We see statements on the internet loaded with judgment. We know that parents are doing their best to stay informed and keep their babies safe, but no parent can know everything! We never check a carseat that doesn’t have at least ONE thing that can be improved for safety, so know that you are not alone if you find a change to make.

Here are 5 simple things you can check and do to make your car seat safer today:

1. Be sure it is EITHER buckled in with the seat belt OR the LATCH system–never both. (It won’t move enough in the event of a crash if you use both, but I can totally see how it seems safer to have a backup plan!)

2. If your seat is forward-facing, ensure that the tether strap is fed under your headrest and hooked into the loop on the back of the seat (in the trunk for the bench seat). The tether keeps the carseat from having too much whiplash-y forward motion in the event of a crash (hey, I’m always in favor of making up a term that makes sense!). If your headrest doesn’t adjust, feed, the strap over the headrest, not around. Tighten the strap down. 

3. If you are using an infant carrier (also known as a bucket seat, the kind that snap on the bases), be sure not to attach it to the tops of carts when shopping. There are lots of sad stories of top-heavy carts tipping over in parking lots and babies getting very badly hurt or worse. You can stick the carrier inside the basket of a cart, use a cart that has a baby seat built in (they’re tested this way!), or use a baby carrier such as the Moby wrap. Or take advantage of the new online ordering and delivery / curbside pickup options, which are amazing!!!

4. Ensure that the chest clip is at armpit height and straps are properly tightened; see this link for great photo illustrations! The chest clip is meant to absorb some of the impact in the event of a crash and then slide down. Placed on the sternum, the crash forces are spread out against this very strong bone. If it is too high it can cause damage to the neck and windpipe, and if it is too low the baby can be ejected through the straps. 

5. Remove any accessories that did not come with the carseat (or that are not manufactured specifically by the maker of your carseat). Carseats are not crash tested with third party accessories such as seat protector mats, strap covers, or bundles that go under and around your baby and the safety of those products in a crash is unknown.

BONUS: Call or email Heartland Doulas today to schedule a private car seat safety check with our certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians for $75!

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About kherzel

Kate Herzel is the co-owner of Heartland Doulas alongside Stacy Ash, and together with their combined 20 years of experience and 7 doulas, they help people have really amazing birth and postpartum experiences. In her spare time, Kate enjoys cooking with her kids, brewing beer with her husband, and entertaining for her friends.