How to Tell if Your Baby’s Head is Properly Positioned in the Car Seat

It is hard to not feel a little nervous when taking care of a new baby for the first time. Many first time parents are surprised by just how delicate their little babies really are. One important part of newborn care is keeping their head properly supported when holding them and placing them in the car seat. Newborns actually lack the neck muscles to hold their own heads up and if their head gets into an unsafe position, they could even have some difficulty breathing. This article will offer some useful information to help parents ensure that their baby’s head is safely positioned when riding in the car seat. 

How to Safely Position Your Baby in their Car Seat

There are four important steps to follow to ensure that your baby’s head is properly positioned when they are riding in the car. By paying attention to the position of your baby’s head, the tightness of the straps, and the recline of the carseat, you can ensure that your child is as safe as can be when riding in the car. Below, we’ve listed four easy steps to help keep your baby safe: 

  1. Pay attention to the position of your baby’s head. Having the head turned to the side is the safest, natural position.
  2. Ensure that the crotch buckle is tightened to fit snugly, this helps to prevent slouching. 
  3. Make sure the shoulder straps are not too loose. Snug straps help to ensure a safe body position.
  4. Recline the car seat as much as possible. 

Head Position

When your baby is strapped into their car seat, one of the most important aspects of their positioning that you should focus on is the position of their head. If their head is naturally turned to the side, then you know that they can breathe easily. You’ll definitely want to avoid positioning your baby in a way that causes them to slouch or sit with their chin pressing down on their chest, as these are unsafe positions. If your baby’s head isn’t turned to the side, this doesn’t mean they are in an unsafe position, you just want to make sure that they aren’t in a “chin to chest” position. 

Crotch Buckle

The crotch buckle is the central part of the car seat where the straps click in. You’ll want to make sure that this area fits snugly for your baby because it can prevent your baby from sliding down and slouching in their car seat. If this strap is too loose, then your baby can slide down in the car seat and they may slouch down into a chin to chest position. If your car seat's buckle is too loose and there is no way to tighten it, you may need to place a folded washcloth in between your baby and the strap, in order to ensure a snug fit. 

Shoulder Straps

The shoulder straps are another vital safety feature of your baby’s car seat. Make sure that your baby’s shoulder straps are nice and snug but not too tight and constricting. Always check to ensure that nothing is pressing on your baby’s neck. You don’t want the straps to be too loose because these will help your baby remain in a safe position. Straps that are too loose will cause your baby to slouch down in their car seat. 

Ensure a Reclined Position

Another safety step that will help ensure a safe head position for your baby is to make sure their car seat is reclined as much as possible. If the car seat is too upright, then this can cause your baby’s head to fall into an unsafe position. Babies who aren’t yet sitting up on their own should never be positioned in an upright position. Typically, car seats offer a variety of positioning options and allow you to adjust how reclined the seat is. Check your car seats manufacturing instructions and ensure that the seat is reclined back as far as necessary to keep your baby in a safe position. 

Additional Car Seat Safety Tips

Between doctors visits, long car rides, and just daily errand runs, your baby will likely spend a large portion of their early days strapped into their car seat. It is incredibly important that the car seat is a safe area for your baby. In addition to positioning their head properly, there are many other steps you can take to help keep your baby safe when riding in the car. Here are a few of our top recommendations:

  • Install a car seat mirror so you can easily check on your baby without taking your eyes off the road. 
  • Never leave your baby unattended in their car seat or in the car, even if the engine is running. 
  • Always secure loose items within your car because they can pose a safety risk in the event of an accident. 
  • Drive defensively and always follow traffic laws when on the road. 
  • Ensure that your baby’s car seat is correctly installed, as per the manufacturing instructions. If you need help installing your baby’s car seat, consult a local car seat specialist to help you. 
  • Check the weight requirements of our baby’s car seat to ensure that your baby fits properly. Keep track of these requirements and be sure to upgrade your baby’s car seat once they outgrow it. 
  • Avoid placing any blankets, pillows, or other items in your baby’s car seat with them, as these can pose a safety risk. 
  • Don’t prop your baby up with a bottle while riding in the car seat. 
  • Keep your baby in a rear facing car seat until they are at least two years old, or meet the weight requirements for front facing. 

Car seat safety is an important consideration when taking care of a young baby. There are plenty of important steps that parents can take to keep their baby safe in the car. Ultimately, safety should be your first priority and your child’s safety is almost always in your hands. 

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