How do you install and adjust a car seat in your car?

Lots of mums and dads write to me to ask if it's normal for baby's head to always tilt forward in the car, or to find out how to install and adjust their swivel (or classic) car seat.

It's crazy, isn't it? We buy everything we need to protect our child and try to manage as best we can, without instructions, with the illusion of safety.

As far as I'm concerned, despite all the online tutorials like "how to buckle your child in" or "360 car seat guide" that I'd seen and read, when I left the maternity hospital, I'd got it all wrong. Thank you to the carer who accompanied us to the car and to my experienced colleagues...

I'd like to share with you their advice on how to drive more serenely with your children and newborns.


Securing your car seat


Always remove your coat or down jacket first

Even in the snow, it's essential to undress your baby properly before strapping him in. Big, cosy jumpers and long coats are very comfortable, but they separate your child from the grip of the seatbelt and the straps don't tighten them at all! On the other hand, without a coat, your child will not move at all from the seat in the event of an impact or sudden braking.

You can always put warm clothes back on your child once he or she has been properly strapped in, or bring along a little blanket for chilly journeys.

Where to secure the baby car seat?

The baby car seat should be placed in the rear seat of the car, where the Isofix attachment system is located (for cars from 2011 onwards) and where your child will be best protected in the event of an accident.

The baby car seat should be placed on the back seat of the car, where the Isofix fixing system is located (for cars from 2011) and where your child will be best protected in the event of an accident.

If your old car is not fitted with an Isofix system, each manual for a cot, bucket seat or convertible child seat will tell you step by step how to secure the car seat to the car.
Generally speaking, the safety belt on the rear seat should be slid flat against the lower back of the child seat and then held in place using a system of lateral fasteners, sometimes discreetly hidden between the cushions on the sides of the seat.

Special case: If the rear bench seat is full or the seats are unusable, the road safety authorities will allow you to place the car seat in the front under 3 conditions:

  • - Fasten the child securely in the child restraint system
  • - Move the passenger seat as far back as possible
  • - Deactivate the airbag, whose cushion could seriously injure the child in the event of an accident

Back to the road, really?

As far as the direction of the swivel or conventional car seat is concerned, remember this:

When children are still infants, they always travel with their backs to the road. It is preferable to keep him facing away from the road for as long as possible (up to a minimum of 15 months for the I-size standard, 9 kg for the ECER44 standard).

At around 15-16 months, they can be strapped in facing forward to make it easier to swap seats, and because their little legs tend to grow very quickly and stick out of the isofix car seat!

How do I install the car seat in the car?

Get in the car, Simone! When it comes to securing a baby in the car without getting lumbago, the ideal solution is to opt for a swivelling isofix car seat, also known as a 360 car seat, so that you can turn the seat towards you while you put your little treasure down.

Adjusting the car seat


Adjusting the car seat is essential for your child's comfort and safety.

1st item to check: the headrest

The headrest is the highest part of the car seat. In the event of an impact, it prevents whiplash and acts as a headrest for your child on long car journeys.

It is usually adjusted using a handle at the top of the seat. Its ideal height is when your little angel's head is right in the centre of the headrest.

2nd important element: the harness

The harness should always be taut and flat against your child's body. It should be adjusted for each journey, depending on the thickness of your little one's clothes.

Here's an easy test: can you fit 3 fingers between your toddler's shoulder and the harness? If so, tighten it!

As your child grows, the seatbelt should always be over the arm, not under it. This also applies to a toddler restrained by a 3-point belt, if your car is not fitted with an isofix car seat system.

3rd element: seat angle

Is the child reclined enough in the seat to have a good ride?

Ideally, infants should be in a reclined position to prevent their head from leaning over their chest. The Group 0/1 seat can also be an interesting compromise, as it allows a semi-recumbent position with the child's back to the road.

4th element: the strut 

The support leg is not supplied with all baby car seats, but when it is, it provides additional stability to the child seat by preventing it from tipping forward.

When installing the car seat, it is essential that the support leg rests on a solid floor. It should not be placed on a floor box, as this could destabilise the system. Depending on the car, you may be able to position it next to the hatch. Otherwise, you should opt for an isofix car seat without a support strut, for example with a top tether, i.e. a strap to be attached to the front seat or the boot of the vehicle.


And that's it, you now know everything you need to know about installing and adjusting a car seat in your car!

Any final tips for the road? If you're not yet a parent, do a few car seat installation and adjustment tests before you leave the maternity ward. It's good practice for making sure everything is clear to you, and it takes some of the pressure off those emotional first few journeys...

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