Car seat safety guidelines every mama needs to know

Safety tips we need to follow for every ride, every time.

Car seat safety guidelines every mama needs to know

The first car seat I remember riding in was more like a corduroy-covered roller coaster cart, complete with an upholstered bar to hold me back like on a ride at the amusement park. The contraption I recall looked very little like the one in the back of my car today—and not just because manufacturers realized corduroy and crumbs don’t go together.

Now, technology and parents are much more up to speed on how to keep kids safe while we’re cruising down the road. But that doesn’t mean we can’t all use a reminder on the best car seat safety guidelines.

Safety starts with the right seat

Car seats aren’t one-size-fits all, says Joseph Colella, Director of Child Passenger Safety for the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. Rather, it’s imperative to find a seat that fits your child and your car.

Especially for people new to this side of the car seat buckles, Colella recommends shopping at stores that allow you to test the models in your own car before the purchase is complete.

Don’t rush installation

Car seat installation can be intimidating and overwhelming to say the least. Of course, reading the directions is absolutely a must. And we should also cross reference that little book with our car’s owner’s manual.

Colella says the biggest car seat installation mistake parents make is not tightening the seat securely enough and, for older kids, not using the top tether strap when making the move to forward-facing car seats.

“You should not be able to move the seat more than one inch side to side or forward at the seat belt path,” Colella says—so if you can’t get it to that level of lock-down, seek out a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician near you. (Many fire stations can help. Just be sure to check ahead of time to see if there are certain hours when parents are welcome to get their car seats installed.)

Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible

Colella says most parents pick rear-facing infant-only seats as their children’s first rides, as those can be easily be moved on and off of bases and stroller travel systems. Those are great because they ensure the infant is rear-facing, but they’re not the only safe option.

“Convertible and all-in-one car seats typically have higher height and weight limits, so a child can stay rear-facing longer,” says Colella, who wants to see more parents keeping kids rear facing after they grow out of the easy-to-move infant-only seats. “Riding rear-facing provides support for the child’s head, neck and back throughout a crash event and cradles the head for less chance of an injury.”

Use the straps correctly

Loose straps are dangerous for little passengers, but parents can check to make sure they are tight enough with one simple move.

“You should not be able to pinch any of the webbing between your thumb and index finger,” Colella says. “If you can pinch webbing, the harness is too loose. The chest clip should be at the child's armpits.”

Remember that boosters matter, too

When kids eventually exceed the maximum weight limit for their car seat, it’s time for a booster—a step that some parents skip.

“Without a booster, a child in a crash is more likely to have abdominal and internal organ injuries since adult belts don’t fit correctly,” Colella says. “A booster positions vehicle seat belts on the strongest parts of the body and away from the vulnerable abdomen.”

Kids should also ride in the backseat until the age of 13.

Follow safety guidelines for every ride

With ride-sharing services on the rise, Colella worries parents are hailing Ubers and Lyfts without bringing the car seat along. He says no matter if you’re in your car, a ride share, a taxi, a carpool or grandma’s car, the kids need to be buckled appropriately.

“Physics doesn’t change when you’re in a different vehicle,” he says. “Use a car seat for every ride.”

The same also applies to trips “just around the block,” as studies have shown a large proportion of vehicle accidents happen less than one mile from home.

As pesky as those car seat straps can feel when you’re strapping your child in a dozen times a day, I think we can all agree that hassle is but a VERY small price to pay for the benefits of safety in the car.

A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.


I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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