Baby Safety FAQ

Safety Tips from The Birth Place Nurse


Lisa Cavin-Wainscott, MSN, APRN, RNC, CPST, is a Clinical Nurse Specialist at OMC. She answers some of the most common safety questions from new parents at The Birth Place.



How do I know if my infant is strapped in the car seat properly?

The best car seat is one that fits in your vehicle and that you'll use correctly for every trip, which can reduce the baby's risk of death by 71 percent. See your vehicle manual for best placement of child safey seats.

  • Baby should ride in the back seat and face the rear of the car for at least two years.
  • Use only a seat belt or LATCH (Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children) system, not both.
  • Don't add accessories to the seat, like padding or harness strap covers.
  •  Make sure the harness straps are pulled snugly against the baby, so that you can't pinch the strap together over the collarbone. The harness strap should be clipped together and positioned even with the baby's armpits to hold the straps over the shoulders and keep baby in the seat.
  • Be sure the seat or seat base is buckled tightly into the car. You'll know it is tight enough if you can't move it more than an inch in any direction at the belt path (where the seatbelt or latch secures the baby seat to the vehicle seat). It's okay for the top of the seat to move.

Where can I get my car seat checked by a certified car seat technician?

Here is a full list of inspection stations or you can call toll-free 866-732-8243. Most stations require an appointment, so plan ahead. Visit the National Highway and Transportation Administration or call 1-800-DASH-DOT for additional resources including seat recall information.

How long should my child ride in a car seat or booster seat?

Check the guidelines of your specific car seat (usually printed on the side of the seat, in the manual that came with it or on the manufacturer's website). Your child is ready to move to the next step when he or she outgrows weight or height limits of the seat. Your child can stop booster seat use when the child is 80 lbs OR 4 ft. 9 in. OR eight years old, but many newer seats are made for larger kids. Some smaller children need the booster seat a bit longer so the vehicle seat belt will fit them appropriately. Kids should ride in the back until 13 years old to keep them safe from front-row air bags.

Should I worry about bulky winter clothes and my child's car seat?

Bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, can compromise the fit of the car seat straps. Ideally, dress your baby in thinner layers (no heavier than a sweatshirt) and tuck a coat or blanket around your baby over the buckled harness straps in colder weather. You can place a cover over the outside of the car seat to protect baby, but remember not to put anything between the baby and the seat that can interfere with a snug fit.

How can I keep my child safe during sleep?

SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is believed to happen from a combination of factors. Research proves we can do many things to reduce a baby's environmental risks, starting with ABCs (Alone, Back Crib):

  • Alone: The baby should sleep alone in his or her crib — co-sleeping with parents or with other kids may put baby at risk for suffocation or entrapment. Placing your baby's crib in the parents' room lets you hear baby and get in sync with his or her sleep/wake/feedings patterns.
  • Back: Always put baby to sleep on his or her back and teach caregivers to do the same. Once baby can roll from back to front and front to back, they can be left in the position they are found. The "back to sleep" practice is credited with more than a 50 percent decrease in the numbers of SIDS deaths worldwide, and it does not increase their risk of choking.
  • Crib: The baby needs a firm bed surface, such as an approved crib or pack & play, with a well-fitted sheet. Nothing should be in the crib with the baby, not even a blanket, bumper pads, pillow, stuffed animals or other toys. Do not have baby sleep on an adult bed, couch or chair, even if being held; it's best to put baby in crib if you are feeling sleepy.

Is it okay for me to swaddle my baby?

SIDS experts caution that swaddling could contirbute to overheating. So if you want to swaddle your baby, a swaddler-type of sleep sack/wearable blanket will contain the baby while still allowing some movement. And, of course, never put your baby on his tummy when he's swaddled.

How should I dress my baby for sleeping?

Overheating may increase a baby's risk of SIDS, so it's important to dress your infant in light, comfortable clothes for sleeping, and watch your thermostat to keep the room temprature comfortable but not too warm. In general, babies should wear no more than one layer more than an adult would to stay comfortable in the same environment. In the winter, you can dress your child in a fleece/flannel, footed sleeper. In spring or summer, a "onesie" or light pajamas with or without socks may be sufficient. Wearable blankets or sleep sacks come in a variety of fabrics and patterns and can be used instead of blankets. Regular blankets are no longer recommended for sleep because the baby could pull a blanket over his face or get tangled in it. A hat can cause overheatig or difficulty breathing if it slides down over the face.


Additional car seat and safe sleep information can be found at