36 Weeks: Car Seat Installed!


10 weeks ago I did a post on car seat safety after listening to a Pregtastic podcast. The podcast was excellent – everyone should listen to it. One of the things the expert in the podcast recommended was taking the car seat to your local police or fire department for a lesson on proper installation and use. I think something like 80% of people do something wrong the first time.


Here in Albemarle County, the fire department offers this service for free. I found this pamphlet online and emailed to schedule an appointment. It was easy to do and she said it would last about 20 minutes. We just needed to bring the seat – no need to try putting it in ourselves first.

We bought the Chicco KeyFit30 in Midori, which came with one base. The bases are expensive ($80) so for now we are just going to use my car for baby transport, but we might end up getting a second base in time if we feel we need one. This car seat got excellent reviews both online and from Consumer Reports. I also know a lot of friends who have it!


We brought a few loaves of bread to our firemen as a thank you – they were much appreciated : )


We had 3 firemen come out to show us the install and talk about how to put a baby in the seat. The first step was a very, very, VERY tight fitting of the base.


I couldn’t believe how hard he tugged on the seatbelt, and Matt said this was the #1 reason he was glad we did the lesson because he would not have thought it needed to be so very tight. I’m not sure if I could have done this myself… I thought the seatbelt would break, but the fireman reminded me they are designed to hold people in during very serious crashes, so they are very, very strong. [Note my car is a 1999 so too early for the LATCH system!]


We also learned that the seat cannot be touching the passengers seats at all (new info) and that the front of the seat will move and jiggle some – it’s the back part that must be totally secure.


After the base was installed, we talked about proper use – things like putting the shoulder straps in the proper place, not putting the baby in too much padding before going in, adjusting the straps both when he’s in and when he grows bigger.

I was given a mirror for my car as a hand-me-down – one that’s supposed to be used for looking at baby while driving. The expert on Pregtastic said she does not recommend them because they distract the mom from safe driving. I can see how it would be useful though (at a stop light when distraction isn’t as much a concern), so I asked the firemen their opinion and they said do not use it as well but for a different reason – that it has not been safety tested. Given the unpredictability of crashes, you never know what might happen if I mirror flies around your car. That’s 2 experts who say no, and since safety is the ultimate goal here, I will be giving it away. Matt says it’s not really a big deal because it really doesn’t matter if the baby is crying, asleep or awake and I don’t drive that much alone anyways.


Matt and I both practiced getting the seat in and out. The middle is the safest spot because it buys you more space from a side collision, but I found it really hard to reach in and get out – especially since this car is low to the ground and required a deep bend over. I asked the firemen what they thought about moving it to the passenger side and they said it would still be very safe, just not quite as safe, so I might consider that if I have back problems or if he just gets too heavy.


Last but not least, a Twitter friend offered to give us his car seat that his family was finishing used. A very generous hand-me-down, but unfortunately, it was 6 years old and I checked with Peg Perego and their seats expire at 6 years.

But the great news is that the fire dept. took the seat and will use it in their training sessions, so it went to a good cause!


I’m glad we went for the appointment and feel pretty comfortable with the seat. Hopefully its safety will never be tested.



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59 thoughts on “36 Weeks: Car Seat Installed!”

  1. Our DMV offers this service too – free of charge. And if we needed the base moved to another car, we can just call them and come back in. We actually had a rep from the DMV come to our labor/childbirth class to talk about their program and how to set up an appointment.

    It’s a great service to take advantage of – and I learned more about car seat safety than I thought was possible!

    Yeah – I didn’t know that car seats expire! I think ours should make it through the next baby too, but I’ll know not to hand it down to anyone. And I don’t know if anyone mentioned it to you – if you’re involved in a car accident, even a minor one, if the baby is in the car seat at the time, you should replace the car seat. It’s ok if the car seat is empty, but not if the baby is in it. The insurance company should replace it.

  2. Good idea to have them check it for you! Even with every instruction manual out there I don’t think I’d be confident in my installation skills.

  3. I found a lot of fire and police stations do it for free. Carseat.org provided a long list.

    We did the same thing and spent close to an hour with our firefighters, but they didn’t mention that the car seat shouldn’t touch the front seats. Did they explain why?

      1. I think it’s to do with how the seat is supposed to react in a crash….also relates to why you don’t want a mirror on the back seat, which I was glad to see you have declined to use. The front or head of the seat actually lifts up and hits the back seat in a larger crash hence don’t want it impeded from it’s intended movement by the front seat and don’t want a mirror where the seat may hit it on the back seat. I believe it was Transport Canada’s website this was from as they have dummy videos showing you how the see reacts in a crash…..kinda alarming to watch.

        1. Here is a link to some of the videos:

          I think what was scary is that these crashes were all in the 50-70km/hr range so kinda scary thinking about a faster crash on a highway. Also just an interesting note – it is illegal for Canadians to use/buy an American car seat supposedly because the car seat regulations aren’t as strict as they don’t have the “special” Canadian certified sticker. Car seats are WAY cheaper in the US so don’t know if that is just a way to create some Canadian jobs by putting stickers on our seats or a reason to charge more :S or if there is actually some merit to the testing differences.

      2. I’m not sure why either, but I remember when we installed our infant seat, the manual says the same thing. You also are supposed to keep the handle bar down, not up (in the carrying position) like many people do.

        1. This is entirely dependent on the particular seat – the “rules” on handle position vary from one to the next, and even from different versions of infant seats from the same manufacturer. So check the owner’s manual for your own seat, not what other people do! In fact, for some of the newer seats, you’re specifically told that it’s safest to keep the handle up.

          1. Yes – our Graco has four locking positions on the handle and one of the two safe positions is keeping the handle up. I was just at the fire station last week!

        2. See my manual that came with my car seat says when the car seat is in the car the handle should be in the up position or carrying position at all times? So maybe some carseats are different?

      3. In some cases, at least, it’s actually nothing to do with the infant seat, it has to do with the airbags for the front passenger. Many modern cars have sensors for the front passenger seat to detect whether or not someone is in that seat, which affects whether the airbag deploys in a crash, and having a car seat pressing on that seat from the back can interfere with those sensors working properly. So the easiest thing for people doing installations like this is to just tell everyone not to do it, but they could also have told you to read the owner’s manual for your car as well as your car seat. In some cases, you’re allowed to brace the car seat against the seat in front, but it depends on the particular car/car seat combo.

        (I’ve done a lot of research on car seats. 🙂 )

  4. Glad you got your seat all installed! We have a police officer friend that came over and checked ours for us and we didn’t have it tight enough either. He actually put his knee in the seat to get enough force to tighten it! We wouldn’t have realized it had to be that tight either so I’m glad we got it checked. The seats also have those little “level” indicators on the side so he showed us to just make sure the green part was all that was visible and that should mean it’s nice and level. It’s so weird to me everytime I drive to see a baby seat base in my car! haha

  5. Job well done. Such a big one to get checked off the list AND be able to re-install it at the drop of a hat if say, Grandma wants to take baby for a ride to her house. Or in your other car, etc. 5 year later, I am still really slow!! at installing car seats!

  6. So cool that y’all have bread to deliver on demand for thank you gifts! I’m sure the guys loved it!

  7. Just fyi, if you have an expired car seat or your child grows out of it places like babies r us usually have exchange programs to get a pretty hefty discount on a new seat.

  8. What was their reasoning behind center seat being safest? We had our Carseat installed by certified Carseat installation techs and they said behind the passenger seat is the best location. Wondering why the discrepancy.

    1. Because of crashes into the side of the car. If you have 2-3 extra feet on either side, you have 2-3 extra feet where a car can dent in without reaching your baby

      1. This makes perfectly good sense until you (the general you, of course) have a second kid! Fortunately, a good car seat properly installed on the side is pretty darn safe, too.

  9. That was the biggest tip we got out of having our seat inspected – that the tightness/movement of the seat is at the belt path, NOT the outer/top edge of the seat! We were always getting frustrated that our seat wasn’t tight enough or moved too much, but it can’t move more than an inch at the belt path. Once we learned that it was MUCH easier to install seats and we were able to turn it around front facing all by ourselves and feel prepared to get both seats installed before the next baby arrives!

  10. If you’ve determined that the mirror is unsafe for your car, why give it away to anyone else? Their safety should be as important as yours. Throw the mirror away.

    1. I will trash it. I just assumed that goodwill > landfill for those determined to buy and use one anyways since it’s not defective (unlike the expired carseat).

    2. I think this really depends on the situation. For example, I think that plastic toys are unsafe. I worry alot about the outgassing, the chemicals used in manufacturing, etc. I also think they’re unethical to produce and sell. As a result, we do not keep plastic toys that come into our home – but it seems equally unethical to chuck it if it’s something that someone else is going to buy anyway and might appreciate at a discounted price. I feel bad donating it, like I’m saying “here, this is too unhealthy for my family, but I don’t care as much about your family so have fun with it!”, but that’s not really how I feel. I just personally feel it’s not the right choice for our family to keep the toy and I know that other people will appreciate it and I don’t want it sitting in a landfill before it’s time, so I send it to Goodwill instead.

      I have a hard time imagining that it’s much different dealing with a car mirror. That family’s safety might matter just as much to Kath, but at the same time it’s hard to get on board with tossing something that someone else is probably hunting the aisles of Goodwill for right now.

      It’s a lose-lose situation if your family turns up with a popular product that you deem unsafe.

  11. As the daughter of a firefighter (a 38 year career!) I must say they LOVE food! And as hard as it is to believe, people tend to forget about them a lot, so I know the gesture was probably greatly appreciated.

  12. I can only get it tight enough if I put at least one knee into the seat or base. Needless to say, I couldn’t do it myself that last month, since my stomach was so huge, so thank goodness for firefighters, eh? (Mine was hot! Bonus!)

  13. My hubs and I are looking at car seats now since I am 22 weeks pregnant… the only problem is that I drive a compact ford focus so I am nervous about the car seats being too big and not fitting (especially now that you mention they can’t touch the back of the passenger or driver’s seats at all!)… how small is your car? It looks like this car seat fits perfectly!

    1. We have a Honda Accord. I haven’t ever heard of a car seat not fitting in a car, but I suppose it could happen – maybe with a 2 door

      1. It just makes it very uncomfortable! We had to initially put the car seat behind the passenger seat as it was just to ridiculous to have my husband drive other wise …….then we called the passenger seat the suicide seat as it was so close to the dash!! We had a Chev Cavalier and an Ford Escort so both small vehicles……we bought a new car within a year because it just felt like we were taking too much of a chance with the “suicide passenger seat” !

    2. If you go to Babies R Us, they will let you take the car seats out to your car to see how they fit. I’ve seen more than one set of soon-to-be parents doing this!

  14. Ooh, that’s useful, thanks. As an English girl, I don’t know if our firemen offer the same service. I don’t think so, which is a shame, as I wouldn’t mind a few nicely-muscled firemen in my car!

    I find reading your blog a little weird, as even though our pregnancies are obviously progressing at the same rate, yours seems to be going much faster than mine!

  15. We have the same seat. I have three chief dislikes: a) the seat is fraking heavy b) it’s SUPER HOT. Nice padding, but my baby is always sweating in it, probably wouldn’t be an issue with a non summer baby and c) the sunshade is too short.

    I debated just starting with a convertible carseat, but we recieved this one as a safe hand-me-down, so obviously the price was right.
    I think having an infant seat is helpful when babies are super tiny. Anderson stopped tolerating being in his outside of the car at about six weeks, so I have to carry or wear him anyway.

    If we have a second baby, I will probably purchase a less expensive infant seat for those early weeks, and the move to a convertible. I am thinking we will get Anderson a convertible in the next two months. He is such a big boy!

  16. I thought you were going to say it was hard to get to the seat when it was in the middle because you’re actually wearing the baby on your front right now! That’s gotta make the bending and reaching pretty awkward, so maybe it’ll be easier than you think later when he’s, um, external. 🙂

  17. This must be surreal experience number 78,346 😉 ….WOW, I just can’t believe it! ….We need to do that next week for sure- especially since the Dr. told me yesterday there was an 85% chance I’d be going into labor before the 22nd (my due date) …..Soooooo much to do!

  18. This has nothing to do with the car seat(which I love BTW) but have you seen the Uni: Gap Seed Co. baby clothing line at Gap? As soon as I saw it I thought of you. You should totally check it out. It’ll make you go, awwwwwww!!

    I love your blog! I’ve been following since the beginning but I’m now 9 weeks pregnant and it’s fun to go back and look at your old posts for the week I’m in. 🙂

  19. I too have a small car and wanted to put the car seat (we also have the keyfit30) behind the passenger seat for ease of use. We started there but quickly realized the passenger seat needed to be moved all the way forwards. So it could no longer be used for anyone to sit in.
    We’ve had the car seat in the middle since Sloane arrived and have found it fairly easy to get her in and out. I just need to remember to use my legs to lift as she gets heavier! 😉

  20. We have your same car seat, in a different pattern, and LOVE it. So user friendly!! You will probably be glad you did not purchase a second base just yet. We did, for my husbands truck, and we hardly use it as we typically take my car anytime we are driving as a family.

  21. So much great information in your post and in the comments!!! We just got our car seat and it’s actually the same one that you have. We did buy an extra base even though it was pretty expensive, because my husband and I are splitting daycare-dropping-off-duty and we decided that it’s just easier than reinstalling the base and being sure that it’s 100% safe every time. Thanks for the great info! We’re going to get ours installed in a few weeks by our local police department! Love this service!

  22. You don’t really need to buy a second base at all. You can use the infant seat without the base. Check your manual on the proper guidelines, but we did this a lot with our daughter. It’s just as safe without the base when done properly.

    1. This is a great suggestion. We only had one car until shortly before my daughter outgrew the infant seat anyway, so a second base was a moot point for us, but we did use the car seat without the base on a trip once – easier to have one less thing to lug around, since we were going to be doing very little riding in cars on the other end.

  23. We’re getting the same car seat. I can’t believe how expensive extra bases are! We put an extra one on our registry, but doubt anyone will get it because it isn’t a fun baby present, haha. But at least we can get the 10% registration completion discount.

  24. I resisted having a baby mirror for the first 4 or 5 months, but literally the day I installed it was the first day that Tabitha didn’t scream blue murder the entire car trip (which usually made me upset or distracted anyway!). These days, while I do glance at her occasionally in it, its more for her entertainment. Ours is also a plastic mirror in a stuffed toy surround (http://www.pittapatta.co.nz), so no glass or sharp edges. What with all the toys, sippy cups, lunch boxes, and random shoes that seem to end up in my car these days, I think the baby mirror is the least of my projectile concerns – its at least fastened to the seat! 🙂

  25. Hey lady! We have that car seat exactly….mossy green color and everything. We still have our base if you need an extra anytime and we have the huge stroller that it snaps into. We have all Drake’s baby stuff if you want to try anything out.

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