Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Using an Infant Car Safety Seat
Car travel can and should be a safe and pleasant time for
you and your baby. This is an excellent time for you to
talk to your baby and to teach your baby how enjoyable car
travel can be.
- If both parents are traveling in the car, one adult and
the baby should ride in the back seat. Until the age
of 9 to 12 months, a baby should be in an infant safety
seat buckled to the car with the auto seat belt and
positioned so that the baby rides facing backwards.
- If one parent is traveling alone with the baby, the baby
and safety seat should be placed in the front seat
unless your car has an airbag on the passenger side.
The safety seat should be buckled to the car with the
auto seat belt and positioned so that the baby rides
If your vehicle has an airbag on the passenger side of
the front seat, DO NOT place your baby in the front
seat. Instead, put your baby in the infant safety
seat in the back seat of the car. The airbag can
actually hurt your baby. Bear in mind, though, that the
vast majority of infants or toddlers hurt by air bags
were NOT properly restrained in a car seat.
- Any time your baby is asleep while you are traveling,
don't disturb him; leave him alone. An infant safety
seat is the most comfortable place for your baby to
sleep and you don't have to worry about his safety.
- Any time that your baby is awake and behaving nicely
(quiet, jabbering, looking around, etc.), make sure that
you interact with your baby. In this way, your baby
will learn to enjoy automobile travel because you are
fun to ride with. You can try singing or humming songs,
talking about what you are doing or where you are going.
If your baby has a favorite blanket, place it next to or
in the safety seat within her reach.
- Carry one or two soft, stuffed toys that your baby will
learn to associate with quiet travel. It may help to
have special quiet riding toys that are played with only
in the car. This helps decrease boredom. Remember your
baby's attention span is very short. Don't expect him
to stay occupied for more than a couple of minutes at
most, particularly early in life.
- Ignore yelling, screaming, and begging. The instant
your baby is quiet, begin talking or singing to her
again. You should not yell, scream, or nag. Do not
take your baby out of the safety seat because she is
crying. Doing so will only teach her to keep crying
until you take her out.
- Older brothers and sisters should also be expected to
behave in the car and to ride with their seat belts
fastened correctly. If your baby grows up always riding
with a seat belt on, he will not mind having it on.
- With your frequent praise and pleasant conversation,
your child will remain interested and busy and will not
spend her time crying for your attention.
- Many parents like to rest their elbow near the front of
the infant safety seat so that they can hold their
baby's hand or play with the baby. Babies like this
kind of attention and will ride better in the car if you
do this some of the time. If your car has a passenger-
side airbag, then place your infant in the back seat and
devise ways of interacting with him from the front seat.
- If you are on a long trip, periodic rest stops will be
necessary to feed your baby, change her diapers, etc.
Do not start the habit of taking your child out of the
safety seat when she is crying. Instead, when you know
your child needs your attention (feeding or diaper
change), try to stop before she starts to fuss.
- If your baby is going to travel in an automobile with
other drivers (grandparent, aunt, uncle, baby sitter,
etc.), insist that they use the infant safety seat
correctly fastened with the auto seat belt.
- If you are pleasant and talk and interact with your baby
during car rides, he will learn to enjoy both the safety
seat and the rides in the car. If you allow your child
to get accustomed to riding in the car without a safety
seat, it will be harder to get him to use one correctly
when he gets older.
- Sometime around 9 to 12 months of age, you will need to
either switch to a toddler safety seat or change the
riding position of the infant safety seat if it is the
convertible type. Read the directions that came with
the seat or ask your pediatrician or the nurse when to
switch to a toddler safety seat. Your child should
continue to use a safety seat until she is about 8 to
10 years old, when she can comfortably see out of the
car with just a seat belt on. Booster seats are
available for children above about 4 years of age.
- In all states it is illegal for a child to ride in the
front seat of a car without being securely buckled into
a safety seat. It is illegal because to do otherwise is
very, very dangerous. Please do what is best for your
baby--use a safety seat during every car ride.
Written by E. Christophersen, Ph.D., author of "Pediatric
Compliance: A Guide for the Primary Care Physician."
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems