Mommy confession time. Up until a year ago, I had never installed a car seat by myself. Basically for five years, I always had my car seats professionally installed or relied on one of the men in my life to make sure the car seat was secured properly. I avoided carpools where I had to remove my seats, I cringed at the thought of needing a rental car, and the thought of letting one of my kids go on a field trip in another parent's car terrified me. That was until the day I entrusted my car (and car seats) to an overzealous car wash attendant and was forced to face my fears and quickly learn how to install those seats.
The car wash attendant met me and my three kids at the check out counter with those dreaded words, "We have a little problem." As I looked over at my parked car, I noticed my car seats sitting off to the side. He went on to explain that he had wanted to clean under the seats, so he removed them, but then couldn't figure out how to get them back in.
I tried to play it cool, but how was I going to get my kids home safely? I had to learn fast. If you find yourself in a similar situation, take a breath, remind yourself that you are a super mom (or dad) and keep in mind the basics:
1. Read your car seat manual or visit your car seat manufacturer’s website.
The very first thing you should do is look for the little booklet that comes with your car seat. It is often attached under the fabric of the car seat. If you cannot find it or do not have it with you, you can visit the your car seat manufacturer’s website. They will give you accurate step-by-step instructions on how to install your specific car seat using either the seat belt or LATCH system (both of which are equally as safe if used correctly!).
2. Get familiar with the LATCH system in your car.
This stands for Lower Anchors and Tether for Children and makes the installation of car seats easier to get right. This system allows you to snap the car seat into hooks built into your vehicle. Note, most cars do not have LATCH in the middle seating position, so if you are installing your car seat in the middle, you will need to use the seat belt. Please keep in mind that LATCH has a weight limit of 65 pounds! This includes the weight of both the car seat and the kiddo. Nearly every car seat and vehicle manufactured after September 1, 2002 are required to have the LATCH system.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website (www.nhtsa.gov) has step-by-step instructions and video tutorials on how to install just about every type of car seat using either the LATCH system or the seat belt.
3. Go to a car seat inspection station to check your work.
If you want peace of mind, stop by Tot Squad or another car seat inspection center and have a certified child passenger safety technician check your work. This is very important to do as up to 90% of car seats are improperly installed.
These are the steps I took on that day and I was able to get all my precious cargo safely home that day in a sparkling clean car. Of course I wish I would have acquainted myself with how to safely install my car seats BEFORE I was faced with that stressful situation. A business like Tot Squad not only offers professional installation by trained specialists, but also education for parents and caregivers on how to install your car seat correctly. A car seat installation lesson now can help you be prepared if you ever find yourself in a situation like mine.
So now bring on those overzealous car wash attendants, carpools, rental cars and field trips...I am ready for it!!
Stephanie is the voice behind the blog “The Inspired Mommy” where she shares (sometimes too much) what life with four children under the age of seven is really like...the good, the bad and the ugly....and how she loves every second of it.