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Are you unwittingly compromising your child’s safety in the car?

New parents have a lot to learn when they have a child. Household choking and suffocation hazards suddenly become a concern. Rescheduling the day around feeding and sleep schedules is suddenly the norm. And of course, there’s loads of new equipment to learn to use—from strollers to car seats.

Using a car seat isn’t always as straightforward as a new parent might expect. Sifting through the enormous variety of car seats on the market is an undertaking in and of itself. Figuring out how to use it properly is an entirely different challenge.

In today’s post, we break down the basics of using car seats—according to the latest safety recommendations.

Which car seat, and when?

If you have a newborn, you may be debating between buying an infant carrier—which allows for easy transport in and out of a vehicle—or a convertible car seat. To provide the most protection for young babies, an infant carrier is the best option. However, older babies should transition into a convertible car seat. As a baby grows, they require the longer protective shell of a convertible car seat to shield their head from injury.

Consumer Reports recently conducted a series of crash tests involving both types of car seats—each containing 22-pound dummies, designed to represent one-year-old babies. In 53 percent of crashes involving infant carriers, the dummy’s head collided with the front seat back. However, only 4 percent of crashes with convertible car seats led to this result. Therefore, it’s important to keep your baby in an infant carrier only until they reach its height limit, and to transition them to a convertible car seat by the time they are one year old.

Which direction should the car seat face?

Newborn babies should always be in rear-facing car seats. This is the correct orientation anytime you use an infant carrier. However, a convertible car seat can be used in both a rear-facing and forward-facing orientation. Previously, the recommendation has been to move your child into a forward-facing position at age two.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recently removed this age guideline. In studies, it found that rear-facing is the safest position for small children. Therefore, as long as your child has not exceeded the height and weight limits for the car seat’s rear-facing orientation, they should remain in this position. This change means that some children may not move to a forward-facing orientation until they are as old as four.

Spinal cord and brain trauma is a leading cause of death for young children involved in a car crash. The above guidelines can help keep your little one safe and protected.

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