How to Install a Baby Car Seat – Step by Step Guide

Anyone that has kids or babies, or even just spends time around them, should know how to install a baby car seat. There are so many brands and models of baby car seats that choosing the right one for the newest member of your family or childcare facility can be mind boggling. Luckily, most popular baby car seats, when you look past the bells and whistles, are strikingly similar in terms of how they are installed.

One thing that sets the baby car seat apart from car seats for bigger children is that most of them come equipped with a base that is strapped into the seating area via the shoulder seatbelt or LATCH (lower anchors/tethers for children) attachments and the seat itself is clicked into place on the base with the touch of one or two buttons. However, even without using the stationary base, it is important to know how to install a baby car seat properly.

How to Install a Baby Car Seat – Let’s Get Started

(How to install a Baby Car Seat With Base)

Step 1: Look for the belt path holes/notches or lower anchor attachment points on the base.

Determine whether you will be using your vehicle’s seatbelt or its built-in LATCH anchors for base installation. Almost all modern cars are equipped with LATCH attachment points, but if you prefer the simplicity of the seatbelt installation or you drive an older vehicle with no LATCH attachment points, you can do that easily, as well. Make sure you consult the manual of your baby car seat to ensure that you are using the correct holes as a seatbelt path (or are attaching the LATCH anchors to the correct location on the base).

Step 2: Secure the base, then install seat and check positioning.

If using seatbelt: Slide the seatbelt through the belt path and click the seatbelt into place. Pull the shoulder strap out until it reaches its end, then guide the loose portion back into the seatbelt housing area. Press down firmly on the base and attempt to shift it in its place. It should not wiggle any more than 1 inch in any direction. If it does, tighten the seatbelt more and reposition the base until it is snug. Click the seat into place and check its position to ensure that the infant will be reclined when placed in the car seat.

If using LATCH system: Attach the lower anchors (and upper tethers, if applicable) to the base and tighten them so that the base is fully secure. Tuck away any loose tethers in accordance with the suggestions in your car seat manual, then check base position. The base should not move more than 1 inch in any direction. If it does, further tighten the anchors until the base is fully secure. Then, click the car seat into place and check its position, ensuring that the infant will be sufficiently reclined when riding in the car seat.

(How to install a Baby Car Seat Without Base)

Step 1: Look for belt path holes/notches on the infant seat.

For most infant carriers, the belt path for base-free installation consists of two large notches or guides on the top of the car seat, near where the carrying handle is. Note the location of the belt path for your car seat before putting it into place in your car.

Step 2: Carefully position the car seat.

Place the car seat in the middle of the rear seat, and adjust the amount of recline so that your passenger will be both securely in place and able to breathe freely (infants have trouble breathing when their position is too upright).

Step 3: Attach the car seat firmly in place using the shoulder belt.

Carefully run the seatbelt through the belt path in accordance with your car seat’s instruction manual.  many U.S. car seat models call for feeding only the lap portion of the belt through these path notches rather than using the shoulder and lap belt together as some convertible car seats for older children do. Click the seat belt into place and secure the car seat by pushing it firmly from behind while simultaneously feeding the shoulder strap back into the seatbelt housing. The car seat is sufficiently secure when the seat cannot be moved more than 1 inch in any direction when you attempt to shift it from its place.

Note: Most LATCH-equipped vehicles do not have anchors in center rear seats, just the side seats.

If you need help keeping your baby car seat properly reclined when installing without a base, try using rolled-up towels or cut a portion of a pool noodle to help with seat positioning.

To install a baby car seat with a lap belt only, see your vehicle manual and car seat manual for further help.

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