Car Seats & Travel Safety

Infant Car Seat Installation Tips

An infant car seat is often the seat you’ll use to take your newborn home from the hospital, but installing a seat can be daunting to a new parent. Following these tips can help make sure you’re using the car seat correctly.

Installing an infant car seat
  • Never use an infant-only seat in a forward-facing position.
  • The recommended placement for a car seat is in the middle of the rear seat, or the center seat in a van or station wagon, assuming LATCH attachments and/or a shoulder belt are available there, and the center seat provides as good of a fit as the other positions. Never install a rear-facing car seat in a front seat equipped with a passenger-side air bag.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should remain rear facing until the age of two, or until they reach the maximum height and weight requirements allowed by their car seat.
  • Read the owner’s manual for your car to find out how to use your car’s seat belts or LATCH system with an infant car seat. Read the entire infant car seat manual.
  • Use your knee to push down on the seat as you tighten the car’s seat belt or LATCH attachments belt. The car seat should not move more than 1 inch from side to side or forward and backward at the belt path.
  • Be sure to check the tightness of the car seat before each use.
Harnessing your infant
  • Your baby’s head should be at least 2 inches (6 centimeters) below the top of the car seat.
  • Infant-only seats are designed with a 5-point harness. The harness straps should always be placed in the slots at or below your baby’s shoulders. Most models have a chest clip that holds the harness straps together. Move the clip so the top of it is level with your baby’s armpits.
  • Straps should always lie flat, never twisted – you should not be able to pinch the webbing.
  • Dress babies in clothes that keep their legs free. This will allow you to buckle the latch crotch strap properly between their legs.
  • If your baby slouches to one side or the other in the seat (common among newborns), carefully place rolled-up cloth diapers or rolled hand towels on each side of the shoulders.
  • If your baby’s head flops forward (also common among newborns), check the angle of the seat. You can wedge a towel, blanket or other firm support under the front of the seat to tilt the seat back slightly (a 30- to 45-degree angle is best – never more than a 45-degree angle). Follow the instructions for your car seat regarding proper adjustment of the angle of your car seat and use of any angle indicator line.