Picking a car seat for your child can be a very scary thing. There are so many choices, in so many different price points, so which one is really the best? Let me start off by saying, just because it’s the most expensive does not mean it’s the best seat for you. There are a lot of things to consider when purchasing a car seat, so let’s start at the top.
Purchasing a seat for a newborn:
Being pregnant gives you 9 months to dwell on all the things you can buy for your baby. For some moms and dads they just know what they will end up buying, but other moms and dads can go batty trying to figure it out! I’m going to keep this somewhat simple, give mostly the basics as to not overwhelm new or returning parents. There are two types of seats that accommodate a newborn baby: an infant carrier and a convertible car seat.
An infant carrier seat can be purchased in a travel system (includes a stroller) or as just the car seat and comes with a base. You install the base of the car seat into one main vehicle. The infant carrier can be seat belted into any vehicle easily or an additional base can usually be purchased through a local retail store or online. Most infant seats start at 5 pounds and stop between 22 and 30 pounds. However, there are infant seats that can go as small as 4 pounds and as large as 35 pounds. My daughters seat, the Safety 1st Air Onboard Infant carrier happens to be these extended guidelines.
Things to consider when buying an infant carrier:
-Do you want this seat to have a stroller? If not, does a stroller accommodate this car seat should you want to purchase a stroller down the road?
-How heavy is this seat? How heavy will it be with a baby? Carry around a 10pound bag of flour or potatoes when you go car seat shopping. I was so excited about my daughter’s seat, it was a great seat and we got it for half off. I was NOT so excited about my daughter’s seat once she was in it, it is super super heavy!
-Keep in mind height and weight restrictions. My kiddos are short! So I never need to worry about the height my car seat will handle, but, if you and your spouse are taller, you might want to consider a seat with a higher height limit. Same thing with weight limits. Keep in mind though, that although my daughter’s car seat can go up to 35 pounds, I will NEVER have her in this seat at 35 pounds. Between the weight of the seat and her, I’d be lugging around nearly 60 pounds. On top of that, my two year old barely tops out at 24 pounds! So it’s great that the seat can handle that much weight, but I will never need it for that advantage and therefore would not have spent the extra money on it.
Things to consider when buying a convertible car seat:
-Am I using this for a lifetime seat? Am I planning to use this as a transitional seat before buying a booster seat?
-What are the height and weight restrictions on this seat?
-Do I plan to put more than one car seat in the back seat (is size an issue)?
-Do I want my child to be extended rear facing and can my car seat accommodate this?
-What are the expiration dates on my seat?
Booster seats come in a wide range. Car seats that have a 5 point harness but do not rear face are often called booster seats. They also can include high back boosters and no back boosters that do not have any sort of harness. Car seats with the harness can come in a range also. Most harnesses only can be used until 40 pounds, however it is becoming more and more common to see harnesses being rated up to 50-65 pounds. If you don’t feel like your child will be ready for the seat belt by 40 pounds, make sure your seat has options to go higher.
Some things to consider when buying a booster or toddler seat:
-Does my child seem to be developing in the higher percentiles, needing bigger seats?
-Do I plan to put more than one car seat in the car (is size a concern?)
-What are the safety ratings on my seat?
-What are the expiration dates on my seat?
Car Seat Installation:
Installing your baby’s car seat can often be scary and tricky even for parents who ‘know what their doing’. Your best bet is to read your car owners manual along with the car seat owners manual, no kidding! Using these two resources will ensure you get the best fit possible for your particular seat, because in fact, all seats ARE NOT created equal. Keep in mind that one seat will install one way and it can be completely different than another seat, even if they are the same company. Most local police stations and fire stations can either help check your installation to make sure it’s been done correctly or they can point you in the direction of your nearest place that has certified car seat installers. Most hospitals CAN NOT help you install your car seat due to liability so make sure it’s something you take care of prior to baby arriving!
If a car seat is not rated for rear facing, DO NOT put it rear facing. Before you put your children in a car seat that is meant to be used as a seatbelt booster make sure to check with your local laws. Every state has a different law on car seats and when children can transition into a higher level seat so always make sure to abide by local state laws. However there is ONE time that there can be exceptions to the local laws. You do not have to transition your child if you don’t feel they are ready and as long as they still meet the weight and height requirements for their seat to ensure the top level of safety. Keep in mind also, you can be ticketed for improper usage of car seats, so please don’t try to cheat the system. Not only are you risking being ticketed you are risking your child’s life. So parents feel that these car seat laws are unreasonable or inconvenient but they are mean to put your child in the safest seat as possible!