With Child

By Sharon Naylor

January 21, 2011 5 min read

When you have a little one on the way, getting your car baby-ready is one of the most important tasks on your to-do list. From choosing the best car seat to protecting your little one from the sun, your work begins here:

*Car Seat Smarts

When choosing a car seat for your baby, don't make your choice by price alone. Always review the most current test results from trusted sources, such as Consumer Reports, to find out which baby seat models performed well in crash tests, which models have the most supportive frames and harnesses, and which are best for preemies, special-needs children and babies who are growing quickly. Look also at http://www.recalls.gov to discover which car seats have been recalled for safety issues.

It's far wiser to invest in a new car seat that benefits from the latest innovations in car seat engineering rather than accept a hand-me-down car seat from a friend or relative -- even one that's less than 5 years old. Improvements always are being made to child car seats, and it's safest to buy the highest-quality car seat on the market today.

Here are the top tips in car seat smarts:

--Choose a car seat that's specially designed for infants, one that offers the best support and protection for babies less than 20 pounds.

--Choose a rear-facing child safety seat to best protect your baby's neck, back and head while you're traveling and in case of an accident. The experts at Safe Kids USA suggest using a rear-facing seat until your child is at least a year old and at least 20 pounds.

--Keep the car seat in your vehicle's back seat rather than in the front seat.

--When your child has grown to a weight allowing for a convertible seat, keep that seat rear-facing until he or she reaches the maximum height or weight allowed by the manufacturer.

--Read your car seat's instructions for specific information on recline levels. Safe Kids USA suggests a recline level of no more than 45 degrees, which allows the baby's head to stay in contact with the seat and the baby's airway to stay open.

--Ensure that harness straps fit your baby snugly, keeping him or her securely in place while in the car seat, with the shoulder straps positioned at or below your baby's shoulders and the chest clip located at armpit level.

--Test the car seat every week to be sure that it does not move more than one inch side to side or front to back when secured in the car. If it has vibrated loosely enough to move, tighten its adjustments.

--Have your car seat checked by a currently certified child passenger safety technician to make sure it is installed properly. Safe Kids Worldwide reports that 4 in 5 child car seats are installed improperly, so visit http://www.SafeKids.org or http://www.SeatCheck.org to arrange for a certified child seat safety technician to inspect your car seats and recommend any fixes needed.

*Window Shades

Babies need to be protected from high summer temperatures inside cars. "A child's body does not have the same internal temperature control as an adult's, and can warm three times to five times faster. Heatstroke occurs when the body core temperature reaches 104 degrees F, and a body core temperature of 107 degrees F is usually fatal," according to Safe Kids USA's website.

An enclosed car can heat up to 20 degrees higher than the outside temperature in just 10 minutes on a hot day, and after 30 minutes, the vehicle's internal temperature will be 34 degrees higher. That puts babies and small children at great risk for heat injury, dehydration and, in prolonged exposure to heat, even death. So take smart steps to keep your car's interior cool while the child is riding with you in the car, and never leave a child unattended in a car.

On your car's back passenger windows -- next to where the baby sits -- install window shades that reflect heat and ultraviolet rays. These cling-on or installed shades are semi-sheer to allow you to see through them, but they can drop the temperature of your car by a significant amount and also guard your baby from getting sunburned during a drive. And consider buying EPS energy-absorbing foam liners for the car seat to reduce the seat's temperature during hot days.

*Baby Mirror

As you drive, you can see your baby in his or her rear-facing car seat with the use of a mounted baby mirror in the back of your car. Just a glance in your rearview mirror shows you your happy, healthy baby in the car seat.

*Body and Head Support

Your car seat technician will advise you on the proper addition of support pillows for your baby's head, neck and body. As is the case with the car seat, you always want to use tested, physician-approved brand names and models of these baby-safe bolsters.

Visit http://www.SafeKids.org for more baby and child car safety tips.

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