You’re Putting Your Child in His Car Seat Wrong and It’s Okay

Being a mom has been the biggest and most lasting lesson of my life. I learn something new about parenting, myself, or my children every day. We know more today than we did yesterday and are always becoming better at what we do. When I was a first time mom, I started with the bare minimum of knowledge but I always gave it my best. One thing I was royally screwing up was my daughter’s car seat safety. I know that many people have said to me that it’s common sense but it really never crossed my mind that I was doing it wrong. I buckled her into a car seat and off we went. One day when my second daughter was an infant, one of my friends commented on a picture of her in a car seat and pointed out that her straps were too lose. I reacted poorly, feeling like my ability as a mother was being attacked. After this, though, I started to look into it and realize that I was making all kinds of mistakes with how I buckled my girls.

The chest clip should be placed on the chest. At the time, I didn’t even know it was called a chest clip or that may have registered in my mind. (And after market products that did not come with your seat like these head positioners, are no-nos. They are not tested with your car seat.)


The straps should never be twisted or too loose.

Heavy coats should not be worn in the car seat.


You shouldn’t forward face until age 1 AND 20 lbs but really, it’s best to extend it for as long as possible because it’s just safer.

Also, you should never put a car seat on top of a shopping cart. I know that sometimes it clicks and sounds like it’s locking into place but that can harm your seat and it’s not actually attached and can fall. We found this out when one of our seats almost fell once, after clicking in.

(There really are so many more tips and tidbits, and some car seat specific. I like The Car Seat Lady and Car Seats For The Littles, or even my good buddy Darci over at Everything Mommyhood, for the details I’m not certain on!)

The above pictures are of my own mistakes before I knew better. I share an album that includes these pictures and several more, to show people by example how not to put a child in their car seat and also to show them they aren’t alone in their errors. I see so much car seat controversy where people argue instead of choose to do better for their children. I even asked to write an informative guest post on someone’s blog and was told to be careful with my information because they didn’t want to start trouble.  In the past, I often chose not to correct people because of this. One day, this decision didn’t make sense to me anymore…

I had a new friend at the beginning of last year. She was sweet and her son was the most adorable baby I’d ever seen. His straps were loose and often twisted but I wasn’t sure if I knew her well-enough to correct her so I kept my mouth shut. As we got closer, we went on a little trip together. I decided that I could help her strap her son into my car while talking out loud about the safety rules and then it wouldn’t really be directed at her. She listened and watched closely to what I was doing.

A few months later when we were even closer and in the car together, she told me she’d recently learned that you couldn’t put kids in the car seats with their coats on. I came clean and told her that I knew that but I never wanted to confront her and create an argument. I didn’t want her to think I was judging. She said “Oh my gosh, no! I’m a first time mom and I’m still learning! If you know I’m doing something wrong, especially if it concerns his safety, PLEASE tell me!” She was right. I was more worried about stepping on toes than I was about her son’s safety.

So what if she got upset. So what if she stopped talking to me. I would miss her but more importantly, it would hopefully stick in her mind and she would eventually begin buckling him in the proper way. He would be safer.

From now on, I’m going to inform people. If I know something about safety that you might not know, I’m going to tell you. If you choose to ignore it, get angry, or defensive, that’s your prerogative. But I have to tell you. I would never have learned if someone didn’t tell me and I owe it to you to do the same, as a fellow parent.

And to my friend, who is now one of my closest friends, I’m sorry. Society insists that offering information is sanctimonious and I allowed that to control whether or not I knowingly put your son at risk by not helping you.

Speak up, parents!

(Stay tuned for my post about projectiles in the car, another one I learned through word-of-mouth. I was just in an accident this week that shows why this one’s important!)

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