Knowing how to properly install our car seats always baffled me. To this day, I still do not completely know how to install one. My husband had always done it because I didn’t feel confident doing it myself.
The one time I did, my daughter ended up being snug in her seat for two days without “it” being seat belted to the car. I also never really knew when to change from the infant carrier to the toddler seat or booster.
Our pediatrician and local police department recommended keeping them in each stage until they just can’t fit anymore. They are safer and assured to be developed properly for the next seat.
Definitely ask your doctor and read the manual that comes with the car seat but this is a guide for you to follow. If you’d like to have the seat evaluated, call your local police station. They will teach you the proper technique and answer all your questions. Some stations even have specific days set aside for car seat installations.
Stage 1 - Use the infant carrier, (rear-facing- facing the back of the car), until your child is 20 pounds.
Stage 2 - The toddler seat, (forward facing), can be used until they are about 30 pounds or it is too tight to buckle, but keep this seat rear-facing if your child is under 12 months to assure proper development of the neck muscles.
Stage 3 - Use a booster seat, with the regular car seat belt until their weight is at least 80 pounds or they are 8 years old. Be sure that the seat belt is in the locked position and rests over their shoulder, not across their neck. (To ensure the seat belt is locked - after hooking, extend it all the way out and then release it over your child. It will lock automatically. This will keep them stationary while you are driving.)
Stage 4 - At 80 pounds plus, your child can sit without a booster and in the front seat although it is safer in the rear.