How to buy an infant car seat
An infant car seat buying guide
Infant car seats play a key role in ensuring your child's safety in a vehicle. When considering how to buy an infant car seat for your new born baby, you have a variety of design and style options to choose from. Understanding the age and weight specifications of each car seat model will allow you to choose the best infant car seat available.
>> Consider the infant's weight
Before you can perform an infant car seat comparison, you will need to know the weight of your infant. When you shop infant car seats, you will see weight restrictions for rear-facing and forward-facing seats. If your infant was born premature, you will need to make sure you purchase a car seat that has the appropriate minimum weight requirements for your baby.
>> Consider the infant car seat type
When deciding how to buy an infant car seat, you will see that there are two main types of infant car seats. The first type of infant car seat is considered a stage one, or bucket seat. These types of infant car seats are rear-facing only, and are designed for infants that weigh less than 22 pounds or are shorter than 30 inches. They come with a base that the seat can click into, and many are compatible with strollers. The other type of infant car seat is known as a convertible booster seat. These types of seats are able to face both back and front, when your baby is ready to transition to the next stage. Convertible booster seats tend to be larger and often bulkier than stage one seats.
It is recommended that you start with the stage one car seat because it is able to surround and protect the infant better. Stage one seats also offer proper infant head support to safeguard a baby's delicate head and neck. Note that there are also head support inserts that can be installed in stage two seats. Current recommendations by the American Association of Pediatrics advise leaving your child rear-facing until at least age two, to better protect his or her fragile neck. Convertible car seats are able to be used from the time children are born to when they are roughly 70 or 80 pounds.
When your child has outgrown rear and forward infant seats, you will need to look into high back booster car seats. High back booster seats elevate the child, allowing the shoulder strap to rest properly on your child's shoulders. There are also backless booster car seats are available if your car already has a headrest feature, as well as clasps that hold the seat belt into position. There are also many other children's car seats available to help keep your child safe from the time they outgrow their infant car seat, until they are tall enough to sit without assistance.
>> Consider the space in the car
When considering how to buy an infant car seat, you will want to look at the various infant car seat sizes. New cars will have a LATCH system that the seat can buckle in to, and it is best to have the child in the back middle. You will want to consider how to get the seat into your vehicle and move it around, especially if you drive a compact car.
>> Consider harness type and other features
When you shop for infant car seats, it's important that you consider the various infant car seat features available on different car seat models. There are several harness types, seat bases and fabric styles to choose from.
|Base ||The base is a plastic device that remains in the car and into which you latch the bucket seat. The base keeps the seat secured, so you don't need to adjust it with every trip. Many bases also offer adjustable heights, such as the Flex Loc baby car seats. |
|Harness ||There is a five-point harness option or a three-point harness option on most infant car seats. The five-points are the right and left arm, right and left leg and in between the legs. The three-point harnesses are right and left leg, and then in between the legs. |
|Adjustability ||Choose an infant car seat design that has harnesses that are easy to adjust. Your child is always growing and you will need to adjust the straps frequently. |
|LATCH ||LATCH, lower anchors and tethers for children, are required in all cars made after 2002. LATCH clips are attached to the frame of the vehicle, giving you a place to clip a security belt that then connects to the car seat. This system ensures that the seat remains in place, even in an accident. |
|Ease of cleaning ||Some car seats come with removable covers that can be thrown in the washer when needed. |
|Comfort ||Look for an infant car seat that has extra padding and head support. |
|Travel systems ||Many car seats can be purchased as a package, or "travel system." These baby gear bundles allow you to save money and get the multiple accessories you need for your child. |
>> Consider ease of use
When you are considering which infant car seat to buy, always pay attention to how easy it is to use. Be sure that you are able to buckle and unbuckle the child easily and use it correctly every single time. When looking into how to buy an infant car seat, be sure to consult the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's (NHTSA) recommendations. The NHTSA ranks car seats based on ease of use, as well as the safety and clarity of instruction manuals. Looking at the infant car seat design will also help you. Seats that offer the LATCH features and more points of contact, such as the five-point harness, can be safer than other car seats, and they have the ability to protect children more efficiently, especially if your child is still in a rear-facing seat.
>> Consider maintenance required
Maintenance is a key factor to consider when deciding how to buy infant car seats. Car seat maintenance varies based on design. Babies, and children in general, can be messy and chances are you will want a seat that offers the option of removing the cover to wash from time to time. Removable fabric on car seats can be detached and washed separately. You can also clean the plastic base of the car seat with warm water and a mild detergent.
>> Consider accessories
After you know how to buy an infant car seat, you will want to consider the accessories. Babies are innately curious, so having additional baby gear and baby products on hand to keep them entertained makes traveling easier for everyone.
With a little bit of research, you're sure to find the right infant car seat for your little one.