Okay, real talk: Driving away from the hospital with your newborn is super scary, right up there with actually giving birth.
All that new parent anxiety — plus massive sleep deprivation and crazy drivers (um, hello — stay one car length away, people!) — can make you feel like you’re jumping off a cliff instead of carefully navigating into normal traffic.
Thankfully, there are some things you can do ahead of time to make your car safer for your sweet little one. So read on and rest easy.
1. Choose a Good Car Seat
The No. 1 item on every new parent checklist is a rear-facing infant car seat. Indeed, this is one of those necessary, big-ticket items ($80 to $200-plus) on which to splurge, and you’ll have to consider a wide range of options before choosing the right one. For instance, ask yourself the following:
- Do you want an infant-only car seat or one that that also converts into a toddler seat?
- Do you want one that stays in the car or one that clicks into a stroller for easier mobility?
Regardless of the style you choose, if you’re buying used, make sure the car seat is less than six years old and has never been in an accident, as that could compromise its safety.
2. Install the Car Seat Correctly
Whichever car seat you end up with, make sure it’s installed correctly in the back seat (toward the middle is the safest) before your new bundle of joy arrives. This way, you’ll know how the system works with your car. If you need help with installation, remember some hospitals and police or fire stations offer car seat installation training. Likewise, you can also check out a local car seat checkup event to make sure your car seat is fitted and installed correctly.
3. Put Away All Loose Objects
Even your beloved smartphone could become a dangerous projectile object during a collision if left unrestrained. In fact, Americans suffered 13,000 injuries in one year as a result of objects inside their car that became projectiles, rather than the crash itself.
So keep sunglasses, cell phones, purses, coffee mugs, diaper bags, etc. safely tucked away inside the glove box, center console or trunk. Sorry, this means hard toys, too. If your little one needs some distraction during commutes, try soft stuffed animals instead. On the upside, at least your clean car will feel like a calm oasis after baby stuff explodes all over your house.
4. Protect Against Direct Sunlight
If you notice your arms or face baking in the sun during your commute, you’ll need to watch out for your baby’s sweet skin, too. All that extra time in the sun could cause a sunburn, which is even more critical for babies since sunscreen isn’t recommended for infants ages 0-6 months. To protect your baby’s delicate skin from damaging UV rays, use a removable sun shade for the windows or install UV window film.
5. Keep Up on Car Maintenance
Investing in regular car maintenance is huge as far as safety is concerned. But one top maintenance to-do that doesn’t take much time is to inspect and rotate your car’s tires approximately every 6,000 miles. This will help your tires’ treads to wear evenly, as well as help your car handle better and increase overall driving stability.
Moreover, evenly worn tires don’t need to be replaced as often, and regular rotations can help if you ever file a manufacturer’s warranty claim. The cost of a tire rotation varies, but it’s sometimes included with an oil change (something else you should keep up on regularly).
No matter your parental fears, you can take steps to ensure your car is as safe as possible before your new bundle of joy arrives. With a good car seat installed correctly, a decluttered interior, shaded windows and rotated tires, your car will be optimized to carry your baby home and back out again for all those much-needed diaper and coffee runs.