I think that most of the people who read my blog are the kind who research and learn all the time, so most of you know this stuff. So many things have changed since I was a baby. Yes, I survived without a car seat (including a crash with a bull on a mountain road in Mexico that totaled our truck. My mom was breastfeeding me at the time, and her bra was full of glass, but I didn't even get a scratch! Pretty miraculous.). Even so, when you know better, you do better. I am not an expert on car safety, but a few reminders:
*Always read the manual. And as your child grows, go back and read it again. Know your child's weight and height and make sure that they are within the guidelines for the seat you are using and the way it is installed.
*Rear-facing is safest. Don't turn your child around before you have to do so. 1 year and 20 lbs is the minimum. Joel will be three in a couple of weeks and is still happily rear-facing.
*Straps should be below the shoulders for rear-facing, and above the shoulders for forward-facing.
*Don't use any accessories that didn't come with your seat.
*Make sure straps are snug and that the chest clip is positioned at the armpits.
*Make sure that the seat doesn't move more than half an inch when you pull on it.
*Check the expiration date on the seat--some parts might degrade and not function correctly. Also, be aware of any recalls, etc.
*Children should not wear thick or bulky clothes such as coats while in the seat.
*Once your children outgrow a standard 5 point harness, keep them in a belt positioning booster until they are old enough and big enough for a regular seat belt--4'9" and 80-100 lbs, usually between 8-12 years old.
For more information, or to have your seat and installation checked by a professional, go to http://www.usa.safekids.org/skbu/cps/index.html