When to Install a Car Seat During Pregnancy

February 17, 2024

Nine months may seem like a long time to expectant moms, but there's so much to do: decorate the nursery, find a pediatrician, take a childbirth class, and get ready for baby's arrival. One task that should always be near the top of the list is getting your infant car seat sorted out before labor. It's not safe to have an unrestrained baby in a vehicle, so it's best to have the seat figured out and ready to go as soon as you can.

The ideal time to install a car seat during pregnancy is when you are 32 weeks along or earlier. That's when the seat should be ordered so it arrives well before your expected delivery date. It's also a good idea to have the car seat inspected for proper installation by a certified technician. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides a tool to find the nearest child safety seat inspection station.

Whether you plan to use the car seat with your vehicle's seat belt or the lower anchors and tether (known as LATCH), read the instructions for your specific model carefully. You can often find these online or in the car seat manual. Make sure the belts or tether are snug and don't have twists in them that could compromise their effectiveness in a crash.

Another important check is that the crotch buckle is positioned correctly. It should be close to your kiddo's body, but not so high it will cause them to slouch or so low that it puts pressure on the belly button. Your car seat manual should tell you how to check the crotch buckle position based on weight and direction (rear-facing or forward-facing).

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