I'm sure most people finds this stuff bizarre and sometimes over the top, but since preparing to be a mom, i've kind of become a car seat safety snob.... not too severe, but just enough to make it one of my bigger priorities.
Just some tips and information on our new babies and preparing for them.
• You shouldn't buy a used car seat as you don't know the history of it.
• You shouldn't borrow a car seat from anyone unless you truly trust them with your child's life, know that the seat is not expired, that the straps haven't been submersed in water and that it has not been in an accident.
• Car seats expire. It depends on the brand it is, but they expire anywhere from 5 to 9 years. They are not safe to use beyond their expiration and need to be replaced. Check your manual. Your car seat should have a sticker on it.
• Car seat straps should not be submersed in any liquid. It can loosen up the fibers and the car seat may not function properly in the event of an accident. Read your manual for what your car seat allows. Usually a damp cloth, some do allow a mild detergent (and some don't), etc. Some people have smell success putting them in a ziploc with some baking soda for a couple of days.
• If a car seat has been in a car accident (occupied or not), it should not be used again and replaced.
• For rear facing children, the straps need to be at or below babe's shoulders. So if the opening for the straps are over their shoulders, they need to be moved down a slot.
• Rear facing in an infant bucket seat or a convertible, the seat is outgrown when there is an inch of shell above baby's head, or they have reached the weight limit of the seat.
• It is recommended to keep your baby rear facing until the limits of the seat. The AAP is recommending a minimum age of 2 now. Convertibles will last until that point. There are seats that exist that allow most children to rear face to about 4 now.
• If you have other children other than this newbie, and they are front facing and still harnessed, the straps should be at or above their shoulders. Front facing, they are outgrown (most seats) when child's ears reach the top of the shell.
• Most state laws require you to keep your child in an appropriate seat until a minimum of 4 years old (and sometimes 40 pounds too) before changing to a booster.
• It is not bothering the child for their feet to be touching the car's seats.
• Most convertible car seats will not fit your new baby properly. The straps will be above their shoulders.
• Coats should not be worn in a car seat. A thin fleece outfit is safe for the car seat. Coats and some jackets can compress in an accident, and can allow your child to fly out of the seat.
• The chest clip belongs at their arm pit/nipple level.
• The straps should be tightened to the point that if you can pinch the seatbelt in a horizontal way, the straps aren't tight enough.
• Straps shouldn't be twisted or folded.
• Extra items such as head supports should not be used, unless they came with the seat. They are a product that has not been tested with the seat and therefore are unsafe. And also voids the warranty of your seat.
• Strap covers that did not come with the seat should not be used.
• Those beautiful pocket style winter items that go in the bottom of the car seat, insert baby, and the top part zips up to protect your baby from the cold should not be used. It requires the straps to be loosened for this to work and can compress in a crash, being unsafe. Shower cap covers are fine, as they attach outside of the car seat.
• Check your manual for your infant seat to see where the handle is supposed to be while driving. Some brands require it to be in one place, other brands forbid it to be in certain places.
• Only Britax and Sunshine Kids brands allow rear facing tethering. So if you don't have either of these brands, you cannot tether your rear facing convertible.
• LATCH and the seatbelt should never be used together.
• When installing the seat, you should use your non-dominant hand and push on the seat at the belt-path, and it should not move more than inch.
That's all that comes to mind at the moment without looking up some info.
I'm not a pro by any means, nor am I a CPST - just car seat conscious.... but I'd be happy to try and answer anyone's questions if they have any.