As a new mom-to-be I already worry. Will my son be healthy? Happy? Will we be able to adequately provide for him? Will I be able to keep him safe? Can I hold him without dropping him? Which end is up?
Besides eating healthy and taking care of myself, one of the first safety issues I will face with my son is his car seat. Our hospital won't let us take him home unless we bring in a car seat. The nurses will show us how to strap the little guy in properly. That's great, as I wouldn't want to strap him in upside-down or anything (his head goes where?).
But which car seat do I choose? Can I accept a hand-me-down? And should I? How do I strap this complicated thing into my car? Backward- or forward-facing? Front or back seat? I'm drowning in questions before I've even started.
Thankfully, there are a lot of great places to do research. Start with your doctor. He or she can point you to some local resources. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) has helpful links, such as car seat ease-of-use ratings and a state by state list of child safety seat inspection stations.
California Highway Patrol’s child safety site had little info, but linked to a site called Seat Belt Safe USA. They give you many great tips and have a comprehensive list of car seat recalls. Is your seat a hand-me-down? Check and see if it's been recalled. Get some great tips on how to check your car seat's age. Did you know that recent car seats actually have an expiration date? You shouldn't use them if they're more than 10 years old, preferably 5. I learned a lot about car seats on that site.
Check with the birthing center/ward of your local hospital for additional information and resources. My hospital recommends calling the traffic safety division of our local police department or the children’s hospital for safety seat inspections.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a list of info for parents. Wondering about the safest seat? They say:
No one seat is the "best" or "safest." The best seat is the one that fits your child's size, is correctly installed, and is used properly every time you drive. (more…)
The AAP also has links to car seat manufacturers’ sites, in case you have a used seat and need to request installation instructions.
To answer a couple of my questions above: Infants should always have a rear-facing seat, and the safest location is in the center back seat because it’s furthest away from any crash points. See? I already learned something.
Now that I have an idea of what to look for, I can move on to finding the right seat for my son. That's next on my list. As I go on my quest to find the safest car seat, I'll share my findings with you. And maybe even a misstep or two. You experienced mothers are welcome to share your most useful resources in the comments. Did you rely on friends and family? Your own research? Let us know what worked for you.
By Becky Scott