A Nurse’s Guide to Car Seat Safety

If you have a baby, then you will need a car seat to take your baby home from the hospital. Since life with a baby is hard enough as it is, here are some car seat safety tips that will save your sanity and potentially your bundle of joy’s life. These are car seat safety tips that every parent should read!

Car Seat Safety Tips (1)

Tip #1: Keep Your Baby Rear-Facing As Long As Possible

Many parents worry about their child’s legs being bent as they get older, but keeping your baby rear facing protects your child’s head and vital organs. A broken leg, though awful, is much easier to fix than a major head or spinal injury.

  • In Ontario, infants are required by law to stay rear facing until at least 20 lbs. Every state and province have a different law, so check out the laws where you live
  • According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children should stay in rear facing car seats at least until the age of two and preferably until the height and weight limit has been reached for the car seat. Most convertible car seats can remain rear facing until 40 lbs
  • According to an analysis of U.S. crash data, one year olds are five times less likely to be injured in a crash if they are rear-facing instead of forward-facing


Here is a great video comparing the effects of rear-facing and forward-facing for children in accidents.

Tip #2: Install Your Car Seat Correctly

While 96% of parents believe their car seats are installed correctly, in fact 7/10 car seats are not used properly.

  • Follow your car seats manual for instructions. If none exist or they are lost, try looking them up online or call the manufacturer
  • Set your car seat up ahead of time before baby is born so that you are not rushed and have time to familiarize yourself before there is a baby in it
  • Ask around for a car seat clinic, where someone will be willing to double check your car seat installation
  • Putting pressure with your knee or hand while pulling the strap up will help attach a convertible car seat or infant base tightly to your car


Tip #3: Stay Away From Puffy Coats

The extra material from blankets and coats between baby and the car seat can effect how snugly your baby is strapped into his car seat

  • Unzip toddler coats and pull away from their body so they won’t effect how tight the seat belt is
  • Never put a baby dressed in a snow suit in a car seat. Dress him lightly and then apply a blanket over top for warmth, or buy a car seat cover for your infant car seat to keep your baby toasty warm
  • Take the time to warm up the car in winter months before putting kids inside so they don’t need to wear winter attire
  • Don’t buy additional items to add to your car seat (head rests, liners) as they may change how your car seat performs during a crash


You have to take this video with a grain of salt since it appears that they excessively loosened the straps on purpose. However, the point that winter coats in car seats can put your child at risk is still very important.

Tip #4: Adjust Car Seat Straps

  • Tighten car seat straps until there is only a finger width of space between the harness and your baby’s collarbone
  • Always put the chest clip at your baby’s armpit level to avoid strangulation (too high) or injury to vital organs (too low)
  • Fix straps that become twisted
  • Generally straps should be just below shoulder level for rear facing, and just above for forward facing

car seat safety tips

Tip #5: Always Put Your Baby In The Back Seat

  • Children under the age of 13 are supposed to sit in the back seat at all times
  • The passenger seat is the most dangerous part of the car. If you have to drive with a small child in the passenger seat, make sure that the seat is as far back as possible, with the air bags turned off
  • Make a habit of always checking the back seat of your car before leaving to make sure your child isn’t accidentally left behind


Tip #6: Try To Avoid Giving Food in the Car

  • Giving your child food and drink in a car seat can put him at risk of choking. This could lead to a scary situation that you won’t be able to deal with in the middle of a busy intersection or traffic jam
  • Of course schedules can get short, kids get grumpy and there will be no other way to survive the day than to give your toddler a snack in the car. Always choose foods that are not easy to choke on


A mom that loses her baby in a fatal car crash urges other parents to use car seats properly.

Tip #7: Keep An Eye On Your Car Seat’s Condition

  • Check your car seats expiration date and write it out in a place that you can keep check from time to time. Car seats have varying expiration dates ranging from 5 – 10 years. If it’s expired, throw it out!
  • Throw out car seats that have been in accidents, even if it was empty at the time. Use caution when buying used car seats for this reason
  • Fix or throw out car seats that have any rips or tears in the belts. You can always check to see if it’s under warranty
  • Watch for any recalls


Tip #8: Use Your Car Seat Only For Travel

  • Car seats are only meant to be used for travel, and are not to be used for sleeping, eating or any other reason
  • If you are going for a visit at someone’s house, bring along a travel crib so you can lie baby down if needed
  • If you choose to leave your baby in the car seat while he’s sleeping (which I don’t judge you for as I know never to wake a sleeping baby!), always keep an eye on them
  • Never place a baby in a car seat on a high surface. They should always be placed on the floor to prevent falls
  • Never leave a baby unattended in a car seat, especially with other young children or animals around
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
A Bit Of Everything





Do you have any other car seat safety tips to keep kids safe? Please share in the comment section below to help other mamas!

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Hi! I am a Registered Nurse on a unit that encompasses labour and delivery, postpartum, medical, surgical and palliative care in a rural hospital in Ontario, Canada. I am a mom of two and am passionate about women's rights, mom and infant care, parenting and nursing. I hope to create an educational, entertaining and highly relatable resource for women around the world. Thanks for stopping by! Xo, The Mama Nurse

30 thoughts on “A Nurse’s Guide to Car Seat Safety

  • February 29, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Absolutely wonderful and important tips. In Texas babies must rear face at least until age 2, and I plan on going longer. Hubby’s truck was able to fit a mammoth seat that goes up to 50 lbs rear facing. Mine goes up to 40 lbs. He’s gonna rear face forever haha.
    Julie S. recently posted…Babywearing for BeginnersMy Profile

    • March 1, 2016 at 5:47 pm

      That’s great Julie! It doesn’t make sense to me that there are varying laws. It’s seems like something that should be universal. Sounds like you have a great plan 🙂

  • February 29, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your
    blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your
    website to come back later on. Many thanks
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  • March 1, 2016 at 8:09 am

    I love these tips! We just upgraded our infant carriers to convertibles for the twins, and I made sure that we installed them rear-facing. Hubs might think I’m a little crazy, but I tend to obsess over the details for car seat safety. And thank you for mentioning the chest clip. I hate seeing pictures of babies in their seats with the chest clip down in front of their stomach.
    Samantha recently posted…Momma & Me SmoothiesMy Profile

    • March 1, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      Good for you Erin! Peer pressure is hard to tackle, especially when its coming from friends and family. I switched my daughter over around her first birthday when I didn’t know any better. Now she is almost four but only 33lbs and we have been receiving a lot of questions of whether we should be switching her to a booster. Definitely not until 40 lbs! I will keep my son rear-facing as long as possible! 😀

  • March 1, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    These are great tips. I think a lot of pressure comes from older generations, when car seat safety wasn’t a concern, and they simply don’t understand. This would be a great post to share with a grandma or grandpa who thinks its okay to put baby forward facing!
    Jenn recently posted…Mean Green Style: Build This LookMy Profile

  • March 2, 2016 at 8:04 am

    You know what’s also tricky, when can you finally give up on the booster seat? My son is 10 now, and I thought it was safe, but an officer gave me a warning that he might still need one!
    lana recently posted…Awesome Artists : Tim MillerMy Profile

  • March 2, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Excellent tips. We bought a seat that Bear can stay rear facing until he’s about 4. It’s the same as his mummy and daddy’s so we all do the same. We really researched everything first and agree with everything you have said. The only thing I didn’t know was that seats had an expiration date! I have no idea when or if ours expires. #abitofeverything
    Bear and Cardigan recently posted…World Book DayMy Profile

  • March 2, 2016 at 11:17 am

    Great tips! We plan to keep #BabyGoodwin RF as long as possible, but I think we might have to switch him to a bigger seat soon because he’s so big (tall)! Will tweet your link!
    Jessica recently posted…Shop Shout-OutsMy Profile

    • March 15, 2016 at 10:31 pm

      Thanks for the RT Jess! Yes, the height makes a difference as well! I just bought a new car seat for my preschooler but she looks too tall for it already. She’s only 33lbs and is not ready for a booster (40 lbs). I hate having to buy 3 different car seats for one kid!

  • March 3, 2016 at 8:28 am

    These are great tips and all very important. After watching that video I seriously regret not keep my boy rear facing for longer. As soon as he turned 1 he’s been forward facing, I didn’t realise there was such a difference.

    Thank you so much for linking this up to #KCACOLS. Hope to see you again next Sunday x
    wendy recently posted…Treat your skin with Hope’s ReliefMy Profile

    • March 15, 2016 at 10:28 pm

      Oh, I definitely am not intending to instil any mommy guilt! We all do what we think is best for our babies at the time. I switched my daughter early too because, well, it’s so much easier and the kids like it better!

  • March 4, 2016 at 6:48 am

    This is such an important and informative post! I never knew that car seats had expiration dates! I didn’t even know about using jackets when belted in car seats until recently. We often take things for granted like we have installed the car seats properly and not bothering to double check. Such an important message. Sharing it now. Thanks for sharing with #abitofeverything
    Agent Spitback recently posted…How do you put the sex back into your marriage?My Profile

    • March 15, 2016 at 10:25 pm

      I’m glad that I was able to give you some new, potentially useful info! Isn’t that what we as bloggers always aim to achieve? 😀

  • March 4, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    Great tips. We have kept ours in extended rear facing seats that can rear face until about 4 yrs, having read all the information about safety. We were annoyed at how much harder & more expensive it is to get those seats in the UK – not many brands have ones that rear face that long. Though my buggy is a travel system, I never used the car seat on it, and never kept the girls in a car seat when not traveling, even if it meant waking them. I didn’t feel it was worth the risk. #KCACOLS
    Silly Mummy recently posted…The Pig Must Go Off (‘The Show Must Go On’ Parody)My Profile

    • March 15, 2016 at 10:23 pm

      Argh, that’s really awful that the extended rear facing car seats are expensive in the UK! Since it has become the standard in recent years, hopefully that will change soon for you all!

  • March 5, 2016 at 5:26 am

    Great tips and very interesting post. I have been reading a lot about rear facing lately although my little girl is now almost 19 months she is now forward facing. Now I’m debating if I should change it back to rear facing. But I don’t think she would like it anymore. I also tried to get her coat off and put a blanket to warm her instead. Thanks so much for sharing this at #KCACOLS. I’m very happy to see you back for this week, 🙂 x
    A Moment with Franca recently posted…Mother’s Day Must Have HamperMy Profile

    • March 15, 2016 at 10:21 pm

      I know, driving with young ones is hard enough. Sometimes it seems like someone has instituted all these car safety rules just to punish the parents! Watching the first video in my post really changed my views. It really helps to visually see the different effects of rear and forward facing.

  • March 9, 2016 at 9:28 am

    I’m very guilty of feeding my children in the car, I really need to stop because it isn’t safe. I think this is a great and very informative post, I learn something new every year about car seat safety. Thank you for posting this.
    Healing Mama recently posted…Where’s The Pause Button On Life?My Profile

  • April 29, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    I just want to say I am just very new to blogs and certainly savored you’re web page. Very likely I’m going to bookmark your website . You amazingly come with amazing well written articles. Thanks a lot for sharing with us your web-site.

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  • August 29, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    Nice tips to learn and apply for real cases in life. I just wonder what is the best car seat to go for?

    • September 2, 2016 at 10:35 am

      Thanks Tyler I’m so glad you found this information helpful. What to look for in a car seat would also be a helpful post you’re right!

  • September 8, 2016 at 5:04 am

    I’ve had a really hard time installing seats rear facing with this kind of seatbelt. Mainly a cosco scenera next in a 2016 outback. Even with all slack removed I couldn’t keep the child seat from tipping right over.

  • September 12, 2016 at 7:06 am

    Lovely post.Some really useful tips suggested from your end. I agree you completely that putting your baby in the back seat is the ideal thing to do. Passenger seat is not a safe place at all for a small child. Adjusting the car seat straps is a great idea.
    The car seat straps should be tightened to avoid any movement of baby. Also, Car Seat is definitely suited for travelling only and not for sleeping eating or with any reason…. 🙂
    Cortney G

  • January 30, 2017 at 2:25 am

    Wow! It’s an awesome post. I am very glad to see your post. Definitely car seat safety is more essential to secure our baby. All the tips which you discuss in this article are very helpful. Thanks for sharing some valuable tips for car seat safety.


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