Expectant parents have so many things to consider while awaiting the arrival of their new baby. Some decisions are easy to make, décor, clothes, bottles. Others concern the health and safety of your child, which makes the decision-making process much tougher. Among the tougher decisions, picking a car seat is especially challenging because it is the single-most-important safety device that you and your child will use.
Chances are you have many questions. What type of seat do I need? Do all seats have the same safety features or are some better than others? What criteria should I use when determining which car seat to purchase? It’s overwhelming, but we have the answers for you. We are going to breakdown everything you need to know while choosing a car seat so that you can make your decision with confidence.
First thing’s first, knowing the different types of seats…
Not all car seats are created the same, there are different types that each come with their own set of functions. We’ve taken the liberty of explaining what makes each type of seat different.
The infant car seat. Infant seats are specifically made for newborns and very young babies. These seats are always rear-facing and can be used from the time your baby is born until they exceed the seat’s height and weight limits – this usually occurs at about one-year-old.
Convertible seats. Convertible seats are best used for kids over the age of one. They are meant to grow with your child, so they usually have a flexible functionality. Convertible seats and be rear or front-facing depending on the individual seat and your child’s size. These seats are not meant to connect to other devices, such as a stroller, and aren’t designed to constantly move between vehicles.
Convertible seats are usually heavier and bulkier than other forms of car seats, but they do not require a base as they are secured using your car’s seat belt or LATCH system.
Booster seats. Booster seats are not appropriate or safe for children under forty pounds. They provide less protection and serve the purpose of “boosting” your child up so that they can safely use your car’s seat belt.
There are two different types of booster seats, high-back and backless. High-back boosters more closely resemble a traditional car seat.
The most important factors to consider while choosing a seat…
The three most important things to keep in mind when picking out a car seat are your child’s age, weight, and height. These three things determine the safety features need to make sure your child is secure while you are driving.
Infant seats are usually the best option until your child reaches 30 pounds and is a year old. After that, convertible seats are the most suitable for children who weigh up to 50 pounds. When your child outgrows their convertible seat, you can switch them to a booster seat, which is typically used until your child reaches about 12-years-old.
These factors are guidelines and should be considered in conjunction with one another because all children grow and develop at different speeds. Make sure to read all included instructions with your car seat so that you have a comprehensive understanding of safety features, age recommendations, and height and weight requirements.
Car seat safety features…
When you are shopping for a car seat, the safety features are perhaps the single most important thing to pay attention to. While there are official standards for car seats on the market, it is always important to know the safety requirements and how they protect your child.
Five-point harness: This harness used in all car seats consists of two shoulder straps, two waist straps, and a leg strap that all meet in a middle buckle. This harness is the safest currently available as it keeps your child securely fastened in their seat and evenly distributes any shock if you should find yourself in a collision.
Side impact protection. Side impact protection is much harder to measure, and therefore, unregulated. You will want to make sure that the car seats that you are considering advertise side-impact protection because about 25% of all automobile crashes occur from the side, rather than the front or back. That makes this a crucial safety feature to look out for.
Higher rear-facing weight limit. Rear-facing seats are the absolute safest option for keeping your child protected while you are driving. Seats with a higher rear-facing weight limit ensure that your child can stay better protected for a longer period of time.
Easy harness adjustment. The harness of a car seat is supposed to around your child in a very specific way. It is important to find a seat that lets you adequately and easily adjust the straps so that your child is secure.
While choosing a car seat can be confusing and somewhat stressful, understanding the information above can help you choose the seat that is going to keep your child safe while you are driving. Also, if you are still unsure, talk to a sales associate from the store or website that you are purchasing your seat from. Chances are they are well-versed in the topic as they have helped many expectant parents, just like you!