As a pediatrician, when discussing car safety I remind parents that their child needs to be in a car seat from the time they leave the hospital until the child is at least 4 years old. I have written articles with updated guidelines for car seat safety, including the recommendations that a child remain in a rear facing car seat until at least 2 years of age. I have also done TV segments on how to install a car seat, but I had not installed a car seat in my own car.
So I recently found myself with my husband perusing the aisles of our local “baby store” for a car seat for our now toddler granddaughter. We arrived with lists of questions and Consumer Report rankings, trying to figure out the “best and safest” car seat. It was certainly a lesson in knowing that there is not a “one size fits all” when choosing a car seat. We left the store over an hour later, with a large box and several hundred dollars “poorer,” but confident that we had made a good choice.
Then it was time to put the car seat in the back seat of my car so that we could pick up our granddaughter for an event. We got out the instructions and I assured my husband that I had observed car seat installations numerous times. Key word: “observed.” We started reading page after page of instructions to try and begin the “easy” installation.
We did manage to get the car seat in the middle of the back seat of the car, and we even figured out the latching system (that took us about 30 minutes and two different trials). But that was just the first of the installment issues.
We had to thread the seat belt through the car seat over and over again with each of us on opposite sides insisting that the other was not threading the belt correctly or pulling it tight enough as we worked to make sure the seat was tight and stable. Once that was complete we realized that we should have figured out the car seat straps before we had latched the car seat. And did we really have to take it out again?
It seemed like you needed a degree in physics and engineering (not medicine and business) to safely install a car seat. We finally figure it out, but it was not always a “friendly” exchange between a long married couple who are now grandparents. How could our many years of parenting seem easy in comparison?
My advice, go to a car seat installation in your area, which is what we did with the rear facing car seat we had for our infant granddaughter. Somehow, they made it look like it was not that difficult. And it was certainly installed correctly and safely.
Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host.