It can be scary to look in your rear-view mirror and see your tiny little baby’s head slumped forward. Especially when the nurses and doctors at the hospital have drilled into your head the importance of keeping her neck straight and head supported.
You may have read or heard of several tips and tricks from other parents who have devised their own little ways of keeping that head still, but you need to know what you should and shouldn’t do. Read on as I explain how to keep your baby’s head from falling forward in a car seat and how to ensure her safety.
The Problems With Letting Your Baby’s Head Fall Forward
If your baby is too small to control her head, it is on you to make sure that her head stays back so that her airways remain open. Her airways are as narrow as a drinking straw and can easily become constricted if her head flops forward or to the side.
Unfortunately there are a lot of factors that can play against your attempts to keep your baby’s head from falling forward in her car seat. The angle of the recline of your vehicle's back seat, as well as the recline of the car seat base can both go a long way in determining how your baby will sit or lie.
Furthermore, the recline adjustment setting on the car seat or the position that your baby is in can also determine whether or not her head falls forward.
How to Keep Your Baby’s Head from Falling Forward in the Car Seat
The best way to keep your baby’s head from falling forward in the car seat is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on what is the safest angle and position to secure the car seat to your seat. However, the following guidelines might help:
1. Make sure that the car seat is suitable for both your baby and your vehicle. Most stores will allow you to try a car seat out in your vehicle before purchasing it. If you choose to buy your car seat online, most companies will permit you to return the car seat if it does not fit safely.
2. Plan accordingly for trips that will be long or taken place during your baby's normal napping time, by adjust your vehicle's back seat recline or installing the car seat in its most reclined position (per the manufacturer's instructions).
3. You will need to ensure that your baby is properly restrained by her car seat harness. A properly fitted harness should be snug and allow you to easily insert a single finger under it. Make sure that the shoulder straps are as close to your baby's shoulders as possible.
4. If you have followed the above suggestions and your baby's head continues to fall forward or flop to the side, you may be able to use a folded towel or receiving blanket under the car seat to help it recline more (the car seat should not recline more than 45 degrees from the vertical position).
Avoid using straps, towels, or blankets to pin the baby’s head back as these can present definite dangers to your baby.
What is the Safe Way for Your Baby to Sit in a Car Seat?
You know your baby must be in a car seat in order to be safe inside your car. But, do you know how to ensure that she is safe and secure? Follow these basic guidelines to make sure she is safe in her car seat:
Make sure you buy the right car seat. Your baby will need to ride in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible, which is usually around 2-years-old. Once your baby outgrows her rear-facing car seat, you can purchase a front-facing car seat.
Whether you choose to use the back seat belt or the lower anchor hooks is entirely up to you, at least up until your baby is facing the front. However you can not use both at the same time. Once your baby is facing the front, you will need to use the tether or lower anchor hooks.
Ensure that your baby fits properly in her car seat. In rear-facing car seats, the shoulder strap should come through the car seat at or below your baby's shoulders. For front-facing car seats, the shoulder strap should be at or above your baby's shoulders.
Use a 5-point safety harness for your baby as long as she meets the weight and height limits of the car seat and your state's requirements. A 5-point harness will provide your baby with much more protection than just a seat belt would.
Things You Should Never Do to Your Baby or Car Seat
Now that you have reviewed the best tips for making sure your baby is safe in her car seat, be sure to follow the tips below to ensure that you are not making these common mistakes. These mistakes may seem simple or goofy to some parents, but they can have deadly consequences.
1. Buying or Accepting a Used Car Seat. Be careful with used car seats. The manufacturers could have recalled the model. Make sure that your research all car seats by looking at the label with the manufacture date and model number. Use this information to search online or call the manufacturer.
2. Do not Use a Car Seat with any Visible Damage or Missing Parts. Even with a car seat that appears to be in good shape on the outside could have some damage on the inside of the product. There is no way to know if the car seat has been in any automobile crashes if you purchase it from a thrift store or yard sale.
3. Placing the Car Seat in the Wrong Spot. A car seat should always be place in the back seats, far away from airbags. If you must place the car seat in the front of a truck, contact the vehicle manufacturer to find out how you can disable the airbag on the passenger side.
4. Letting Your Baby Sleep in the Car Seat Outside of the Car. A car seat should only be used during travel in a vehicle. Letting your baby sleep or sit in a car seat that is placed on the floor can pose great risks to her safety and health.
5. Incorrectly Installing the Car Seat or Incorrectly Buckling Your Baby in. Before you install a car seat or place your baby in it for the first time, read the manufacturer's instructions for both the car seat and the vehicle. If your vehicle has snaps or a tether, learn the correct way to use them.
6. Reclining Your Baby at the Wrong Angle. Follow the car seat manufacturer's instructions to determine the best recline angle to keep your baby safe. You may need to adjust this angle as your baby grows.
To Wrap Up…
You should now have a clearer picture of how to keep your precious baby’s head from falling forward in her car seat and of what not to do with the car seat and your baby. I hope this article fully answered any questions and concerns that you may have had.
Please drop a few lines and let me know if you have any thoughts, questions, or concerns in the comment section below.