Installing a Baby Car Seat

In the United States, it is illegal to transport any child under a certain height in a car without a special safety seat, sometimes called “child seats” or “baby seats.” In this video, Stephanie Tombrello, who is executive director at Safety Belt Safe U, is here to explain how you can install the smallest of all the child safety seats, the one designed specifically for your baby.

Make sure it’s the right one

Safety seats are very far from one-size-fits-all! If you have a baby or an infant, it’s critical that you use a safety seat designed specifically for infants and babies. The one that Tombrello is demonstrating is designed and certified for a child who weighs up to 30 pounds. She cautions, however, that most such seats are in fact certified for only up to a child weighing 22 pounds, so it’s important to make sure that the seat you choose fits your child’s current (not anticipated) weight.

Make the connections

Many seats have a detachable base, which is extremely popular item. Let’s face it, there’s nothing smooth or easy and getting babies in and out of car seats, and you want to make your life as easy as possible! If you have a detachable base, you can leave it in the car, and just slide the seat in when you’re ready to go someplace.

This base can be installed in one of three ways: with the shoulder/lap belt, the lap belt alone, or the latch connections. In this video, she’s going to demonstrate installing it with the latch connections. Just click it in to where the belt usually clicks in.

Next you want to test it.

Do this by placing your hands where the belts of latch attachments would go; you can even tug on it a little. What you want to do is see if it moves more than an inch to the sides or toward the front of the seat.

There’s an indicator at the front of the safety seat that shows whether or not it’s at the proper angle for a baby. This is critical; children require different angles. Especially when you’re dealing with a newborn, it’s essential that baby be at a 45 degree angle.

Next you want to attach the shell to the base. If you don’t hear a decisive click, then you have to do it over: that click is what tells you that it has attached safely. Always read your seat’s instructions, both before you install it and during the installation process itself because you need to know where the handle should be; different seats call for different positions, which include up, back or down low for riding in the car.


After you’ve verified that the shell is clicked in to the base, make sure that the harness system is ready. The one that she’s demonstrating has three levels, and she wants to make sure that it is at or below the infant’s shoulder level. This is another important safety feature that often gets glossed over.

If the infant being transported were now in the seat, she would already have inserted the shell into the base and attached the harness. Once the baby is in, make sure the harness is at the appropriate level and that it, too, clicks in with a decisive sound. If you look in the back you’ll note that the harness is coming through at the same level on both sides. Don’t be in a hurry when you’re doing this: the life of the child you’re transporting depends on it!