Join AAA
Join AAA

Baby with children book

Advice for New Parents with Car Seat Anxiety


There’s no way around it: Being a new parent is overwhelming. You want to do everything right, but the stakes feel so high they can be paralyzing. And while many of the seemingly unending decisions you’re faced with after the arrival of your child may cause anxiety, the task of installing a car seat can be especially intimidating (if not downright terrifying). And that makes sense—this whole project is about putting the most important and vulnerable thing in the world in a 4,000-pound metal box on wheels. That’s scary!


We spoke with three parents who have faced down this fear and lived to tell the tale. Here’s their advice.

Installing car seats seems terrifying

Fear is a natural protective instinct, and it’s only exacerbated by the instruction manual that comes with your car seat. If you think the seatback safety instructions on an airplane are alarming, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Car seat installation manuals can be incredibly complicated and intricate, and sometimes even hard to understand—especially if you don’t generally spend your time unraveling technical language while also contending with the stressors of new parenthood, or preparing for your kid’s arrival. “It was kinda incomprehensible,” says one parent, Blake.* “So full of confusing jargon.”


“One thing I wish I had done is slow down. I should have taken time to read through the instruction manual a few times (instead of assuming I could refer back to it as needed).” You could think of this as studying: The day before you plan to install the car seat, familiarize yourself with the manual. Jargon is a lot less intimidating when it’s not the first time you’ve seen it.


Another parent we spoke with was so intimidated by the prospect of installing a car seat for his first kid that he opted out entirely and hired a professional. Yes, a professional car seat installer. It gave him peace of mind that the seat had been installed 100% correctly, but Jim* says he probably wouldn’t do it again. “I don’t know that I believe that he did anything different from what I would have done. He just had the confidence and practice,” he says.


On top of that, having made a financial investment in its installation, he and his wife were extra-worried about ruining it. “We were all nervous about touching the seat lest we mess up the professional installation. And that’s not really a practical place to be when you have a little kid.”

But you can do it


You obviously have to read the instruction manual—but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t understand it right away. Be patient with yourself, and don’t be afraid to look up other explanations if there are sections you just can’t quite decipher.


It’s also worth checking out YouTube. “I found it helpful to search for the exact model car seat and watch a few videos or have them ready to refer to,” suggests Blake. Gina concurs. “Watching another person physically do it in real time was so helpful.”


Your anxiety is more than understandable, but you can install your car seat. You just have to be prepared, and part of that preparation is giving yourself enough time. “Do not leave it till a time when you need a car seat ASAP,” says mom of two, Gina*. “If you don’t give yourself as much time as you need—including time for breaks when you get discouraged—you’ll kill yourself through frustration.”


Instead, remember that car seats have been around since the 1930s, and in addition to thankfully coming a long way in terms of design, they’ve also been installed by countless parents over the years. You’re just as capable as anyone else facing down the LATCH system (more on that here), and you have the benefit of being able to turn to an entire internet’s worth of fellow parents for help.


Almost everything about being a new parent can feel daunting. But there is help. Look to resources like online communities of parents with the same anxieties, such as the Safe in the Seat blog, which Blake recommends as having “solid recommendations without too much fearmongering,” and AAA’s tried and trusted traffic safety resources. And remember: you’ve got this.



*Names have been changed