This article was written by guest contributor Jen Saxton of Tot Squad.

Car seats and boosters are designed to protect infants and children in case of an accident. Despite that added safety, car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13.

That’s why it’s so important to ensure that your child is properly restrained every time they are in the car. Follow these important steps for car seat safety before heading out!

Harness Height

In a rear-facing seat (infant or convertible), the harness straps should be at orjust below a child’s shoulders. In a forward-facing convertible seat, the harness straps should be at orjust abovea child’s shoulders.


Once your child is buckled in, you should not be able to pinch any excess webbing. You may need to adjust the straps around the hips and shoulder area to remove any "hidden" slack.

Chest Clip

The chest clip should always be positioned at the child’s armpit level.

Height Of Headrest

In rear-facing seats, one rule of thumb is to allow at least an inch from the top of the car seat to the top of a child’s head. In a forward-facing convertible seat, the tops of the ears should not be above the top of the car seat shell or head restraint. In all cases, check with your manual as every seat has different requirements.

Crotch Buckle

Many car seats have multiple slots for the crotch buckle to accommodate your growing child. Make sure you refer to your manual to use the proper slot position for your seat, and to determine if you are able to use a small rolled blanket to get a more snug fit of the harness for a very small newborn. Many seats also include infant insert pillows that can be used to achieve a better harness fit per the manufacturer's instructions (be sure to check the manual as many seats require the use of these inserts be discontinued at a certain weight limit). As the child grows, the buckle may be moved to an outer slot (as the manufacturer permits) in order to achieve a comfortable fit and ensure the child is not sitting on the buckle.

Extended Rear-Facing

Many seats are being manufactured today with higher weight and height limits to allow children to rear-face longer. We recommend keeping your child rear-facing until the rear-facing limits of the seat have been met. In all cases, check with applicable state and local laws for when it is appropriate to turn a child forward-facing.

If you still have concerns about whether your child is properly restrained, you can get more info from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSA) or Tot Squad.

About Tot Squad & Jen Saxton

Tot Squad provides care, safety and installation of baby gear in retail settings, at home, or virtually. Jen Saxton and every member of Tot Squadwho installs car seats have undergone rigorous training and certification to become a Child Passenger Safety Technician through the Safe Kids organization to ensure your child’s car seat will be installed correctly and safely.


Please always refer to your car seat and car user manuals for the most accurate information before installing a car seat.

Article revised on 9/17/19

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.