Even my six-year-old daughter noticed—“Mommy, is that safe?” she asked when she saw this picture of the new Prince of Wales, Prince George Alexander Lewis.  I was shocked myself.  How could this baby, presented to the press and the world in his car seat for the first time, be improperly strapped into his car seat?  But yes, it’s true.  Prince William and Kate are new parents and apparently the hospital failed to teach how to correctly strap a newborn into an infant car seat.  I can’t really blame new parents for struggling to figure out how to get a baby safely in a car—somewhere between 75%-90% of U.S. car seats are improperly installed, depending on which study you look at.

There are two problems with the prince’s position in this picture— he’s swaddled in a blanket while in his car seat and the car seat shoulder straps don’t go over his shoulders.  

British infant seats use are different than those in the United States and do not have chest clips.  There are just the two shoulder straps and the buckle that goes between the legs.  But even with European car seats the shoulder straps need to be over the shoulders to be effective.

Infants should not be swaddled in blankets while riding in a car seat.  The blanket can prevent the car seat straps from staying in the correct position during an accident.  Swaddled babies can easily get their arm out from under the strap, as Prince George did in this picture.  Likewise, winter coats should be removed before strapping in a baby or toddler.  To keep a baby warm in a car seat, use a specially designed car seat blanket that goes over the straps yet won’t cause suffocation.  Some infant seats now come with blankets that attach to the seat, and there are many other types of car seat blankets available that work with any seat.  For toddlers and older kids, just slip their winter coat on backwards after they get strapped in.

Are you among the 75-90% of parents whose kids aren’t properly restrained in their car seats?  Check out the St. Louis Children’s  Hospital car seat safety guide, or schedule your FREE appointment at St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s Safety Stop.  Safety Stop provides free car seat inspections in your own vehicle, so you can be sure your car seat is correctly.  Safety Stop has several locations around St. Louis.  To schedule your appointment, call 314.454.KIDS (5437) or 800.678.KIDS (5437), then press 3.*