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How to Install a Rear-Facing Only Infant Car Seat

Learn how to install an infant car seat securely in your vehicle by watching the videos and following the tips below. The best guidance for installing the car seat in your vehicle can be found in the car seat manual, as well as your vehicle owner's manual. In general, remember:

  • Infant car seats can only be used rear-facing, and must never be placed forward-facing in a vehicle; and
  • Infant car seats should always be installed in the back seat.

Rear-Facing Infant Car Seat With Seat Belt

Video instruction on using a rear-facing infant car seat with a seat belt.

Installing the Car Seat Base With a Seat Belt
  1. Read your car seat's instruction manual and your vehicle's owner manual. Pay close attention to the information about your vehicle's seat belt system, and how to “lock” the seat belt. Every seat and vehicle is different, which affects the way you'll install your particular seat.
  2. Place the car seat base in the back seat of your vehicle.
  3. Carefully thread the seat belt through the rear-facing belt path. Check to make sure there are no twists in the seat belt.
  4. Buckle the seat belt.
  5. Lock the seat belt.
  6. Press down firmly on the car seat base and tighten. The base should not move side-to-side or front-to-back more than 1 inch.
  7. Make sure your car seat base is installed at the correct recline angle.
    • Babies must ride sitting semi-reclined to keep the airway open.
    • Most infant car seats have built-in angle indicators or adjustors to assist you.
    • As your child grows, the angle may need to be adjusted, so be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions.
  8. Attach the infant carrier to the base.

Fitting Your Child Correctly in the Car Seat
  1. Place your child in the car seat with the child's back flat against the car seat.
  2. Place harness straps over the child's shoulders. Harness straps should lie flat, not twisted, and be placed through the slots located at or below your child's shoulders.
  3. Buckle the harness and the chest clip, and tighten until snug. The harness is snug enough when you cannot pinch any extra material at the shoulder.
    • Bulky clothing or blankets can prevent a snug harness fit. Always buckle the baby in the seat first, and then place coats or blankets over the harness.
    • If your baby needs support, fill the empty spaces with small, rolled blankets on each side of the baby's shoulders and head.
    • If there is a gap between the buckle and your child's groin (common for young infants), try placing a rolled washcloth or diaper in the space for a more secure fit.
    • Never put thick padding under or behind the baby unless it is recommended for use by the car seat manufacturer.
  4. Place chest clip at armpit level. This holds the harness straps in place on the child's chest and shoulders.

Best Practice

When your child outgrows the infant car seat, switch to a convertible or all-in-one car seat and use it in the rear-facing position. These seats typically have weight and height limits for the rear-facing position that allow you to keep your child rear-facing longer. If a baby under 1 year old grows too tall or too heavy for an infant car seat, a car seat with a higher rear-facing size limit is strongly recommended.

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Rear-Facing Infant Car Seat With Lower Anchors

Video instruction on using a rear-facing infant car seat with lower anchors.

Installing the Car Seat Base With Lower Anchors
  1. Read your car seat's instruction manual and your vehicle's owner manual carefully. Pay close attention to the location of the lower anchors, and directions on how to use this vehicle hardware.
  2. Place the car seat base in the back seat of your vehicle. In a crash, the back seat is the safest place to be, and rear-facing car seats provide extra protection for your child's head, neck and spine.
  3. Locate the lower anchors in your vehicle.
  4. Connect the lower anchor attachments on the car seat base to the lower anchors, making sure the straps aren't twisted.
  5. Press down firmly on the car seat base and tighten the straps. You should not be able to move the car seat base side-to-side or front-to-back more than 1 inch.
  6. Make sure your base is installed at the correct recline angle.
    • Babies must ride sitting semi-reclined to keep the airway open.
    • Most infant car seats have built-in angle indicators or adjustors to assist you.
    • As your child grows the angle may need to be adjusted, so be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions.
  7. Attach the infant carrier to the base.

Fitting the Child Correctly in the Car Seat
  1. Place your child in the car seat with the child's back flat against the car seat.
  2. Place harness straps over the child's shoulders. Harness straps should lie flat, not twisted, and be placed through the slots located at or below your child's shoulders.
  3. Buckle the harness and the chest clip, and tighten until snug. The harness is snug enough when you cannot pinch any extra material at the shoulder.
    • Bulky clothing or blankets can prevent a snug harness fit. Always buckle the baby in the seat first, and then place coats or blankets over the harness.
    • If your baby needs support, fill the empty spaces with small, rolled blankets on each side of the baby's shoulders and head.
    • If there is a gap between the buckle and your child's groin (common for young infants), try placing a rolled washcloth or diaper in the space for a more secure fit.
    • Never put thick padding under or behind the baby unless it is recommended for use by the car seat manufacturer.
  4. Place chest clip at armpit level. This holds the harness straps in place on the child's chest and shoulders.

Best Practice

When your child outgrows the infant car seat, switch to a convertible or all-in-one car seat, and use it in the rear-facing position. These seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing longer. If a baby under 1 year old grows too tall or too heavy for an infant car seat, a car seat with a higher rear-facing height and weight limit is strongly recommended.

>> More