Baby on Board: Equipping Your Car for Precious Cargo
With a child on the way, you’ll want to ensure your vehicle is ready before your baby arrives.
You’ve painted the nursery. Assembled the crib. Bought the high chair. Now you’re ready for the big day – or are you? Don’t forget the car! Here’s how to make sure it’s a safe and happy place for transporting your newest family member.
1. Start with the Right Type of Car Seat
Buying a quality car seat and installing it correctly is the most important part of keeping your baby safe in your vehicle. In one year alone, car seats save more than 240 children under 5 years old in the U.S.1
- Do your research. It’s strongly recommended that you buy a brand-new car seat so that you know it has the latest safety features. If you do buy or inherit a used one, check the expiration date, make sure it hasn’t been recalled, confirm there are no missing parts or visible damage, and verify from the previous owner that it was never in an accident.
- Anchor it. Most modern vehicles have anchor supports that can secure a car seat. Read your owners manual and follow the installation instructions. If you have an older car with no built-in anchors, you can use a seat belt to secure the seat – just be sure to install it correctly.
- Get it inspected. Three out of four car seats are not used or installed correctly.2 So get it inspected by a certified technician at your local police or fire station. The inspection is often free of charge.1 You can use your ZIP code to search the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s listing of child passenger safety seat inspection locations to find the one nearest you.
- Register it. If your car seat is ever recalled, the manufacturer will be able to contact you.
2. Install a Mirror
Your baby should be facing the rear of the car for at least the first two years. To avoid the urge to take your eyes off the road, place a mirror above the car seat so you can see his or her face in your rearview mirror.
3. Install Sunshades
Your baby’s skin is extra sensitive to the sun. Most auto supply stores carry inexpensive sunshades you can attach to windows.
4. Have Lots of Towels and Wipes on Hand
Babies are messy and your backseat is about to take the hit. So, use seat covers, have washable towels handy and keep some wipes within easy reach for unexpected spills.
5. Keep a Stash of Clean Clothes for You and Your Child
The inevitable spit-up or dirty diaper will clean up a lot easier if you have fresh clothes on hand. Keep them in a sealed plastic bag, along with other clean bags for trash disposal, in your trunk.
6. Stock Up on Soft Toys
Keep plenty of age-appropriate plush toys in the back seat. Remove all cleaning supplies, sharp items, dangerous liquids, stray paper, garbage or anything that could harm or injure your child.
7. Turn on the Childproof Locks
Sure, your baby can’t push buttons yet, but that day will come before you know it. Turn on childproof locks now so you won’t forget later.
8. Baby-Proof Friends’ and Relatives’ Cars, Too
If family or friends will be transporting your child, make sure their cars are as ready as yours – including car seats.
- Car Seats and Booster Seats, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2017.
- Car Seat Safety Tips, Safe Kids Worldwide, 2016.
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