How to Choose a Car Seat

Installation Tips

When installing your car seat, follow the instructions that come with it, and your car owner’s manual, Bull advises. The seat should rest at a 45-degree angle so your baby’s head doesn’t flop forward, which could compromise her airway. The base mustn’t budge more than an inch in any direction. If you’re in doubt, get free assistance from a certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) technician. CPS techs are trained to work with a variety of cars and car seats. To find one, visit or call (866) SEATCHECK. Police and fire departments or hospitals may provide a similar service.

It’s crucial to secure your baby tightly for every car ride. After buckling her in, pull up on the chest straps to remove slack before tugging on the tail to tighten the harness, suggests pediatrician Alisa Baer, M.D., aka “The Car Seat Lady,” an expert on car seat safety for 10 years. Just one finger should fit between the straps and baby’s collarbone.

Also remember: Even in sub-zero temperatures, don’t bundle your baby in bulky clothes in her car seat. Bulk could make the harness too loose in a crash, Baer cautions. Similarly, beware of products such as fleece liners. To keep baby warm, lay blankets over the buckled harness.

For more information, check out the American Academy of Pediatrics Car Seat Guide