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Car Seat Safety for Newborn Babies

Baby smiling in car seat
If you plan to transport your baby in any car, you must use a rear-facing infant seat until your baby is at least 1 year old and weighs 10 kg (22 lbs), depending on the brand of car seat. If your baby outgrows her rear-facing seat before the age of one, choose a convertible car seat that can be used up to a higher height and weight limit. The longer you use a rear-facing infant seat that fits correctly, the safer your child will be in a crash.

Babies have heavier, larger heads and smaller, weaker necks than older children and adults. A rear-facing car seat protects your baby’s head, neck, and spine. In a crash or sudden stop, the force of the crash is spread across the back, which is the strongest part of your baby’s body.

Here are a few tips for the safe use of your baby's car seat: 

  • All car seats made in Canada come with a round sticker with a maple leaf, which means that the seat meets Canadian safety standards. Look for this sticker on the plastic shell of the seat.
  • Make sure the car seat is properly installed according to the manufacturer's instructions before your baby is discharged from the hospital.
  • Car seat expiry dates are printed directly on the seat. If the car seat is expired, it is not safe to use. If you are not sure about your car seat's expiry date, contact Transport Canada.
  • The safest place to install a car seat is in the middle of the back seat. Never install a rear-facing car seat in the front seat if there is an active passenger air bag.
  • Never use a car seat that has been involved in a car crash, even if no damage is visible.
  • Make sure the harness straps are fit snugly on your baby. You should only be able to put one finger between your baby's chest and the harness. The chest clip should be positioned at the baby's armpit.
  • Do not leave your baby alone in a car seat.
  • Do not use a car seat in place of a crib at home. It is best for babies to sleep in a crib that meets Canadian safety standards.

Here are a few tips for the safe use of your baby’s car seat outside of the car: 

  • Always put the car seat on the floor. Do not place the car seat on top of furniture or counters. Babies can rock the car seat over the edge or the car seat could be knocked off.
  • Always stay close to your baby when she is in the car seat.
  • Make sure your child is buckled in with the harness straps at all times.

If your baby has special health concerns, you may need a special type of car seat to transport her. For example, a premature baby, or one who was born with breathing problems, may experience low heart rate, low oxygen levels, or breathing problems if she travels in a regular car seat. A special “car bed” may be provided for your baby in such cases. There are other, special types of car seats for babies with other health problems. Ask your paediatrician for more information.

Andrew James, MBChB, MBI, FRACP, FRCPC

 

10/18/2009




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