Choosing a Car Seat
Probably somewhere near the top of your things-to-buy-for-the-baby list is a car seat. And while it's nice to look for the cutest ones or the ones that match your stroller, as with many baby items, safety comes first!
In general, all children under the age of four are required to sit in a car seat or booster seat while in a vehicle. You can check your state's laws for more specific information regarding this. Also, it is recommended by the AAP that “infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. Most convertible seats have limits that will allow children to ride rear-facing for 2 years or more.” Rear-facing is safer for babies because frontal crashes are far more frequent than rear end crashes, according to Car-safety.org. Their experts report, “Rear-facing is safest for both adults and children, but especially for babies, who would face a greater risk of spinal cord injury in a front-facing car seat during a frontal crash.”
Now, there are a few different types of car seats. First, you have infant carrier car seats. Each brand and style has different weight limits, but generally infant seats are good up to 20-30 pounds. And, of course, the price range is very wide. One benefit of purchasing an infant seat is that once you install the base in your car (the hospital or your local police station can check it to make sure it's installed correctly), getting the carrier in and out is a breeze. Snap in, snap out. You don't have to wake your sleeping newborn by lifting them in and out of the seat. Another plus is that they are fairly cozy, and infants like to be snug. Also, many infant carriers snap right on to a stroller, so it's even easier to be on the go with your baby. The only negative point is that you'll have to purchase a new car seat once your baby outgrows his or her infant seat.
The next car seat is the convertible car seat. This car seat is also very popular. You can use it for your newborn and all the way up to their toddler years (most models can be positioned front-facing or back-facing). Convertible seats are left installed in the vehicle, and you remove the baby from the seat instead of it being a carrier. Each brand and style, again, has many different price points. They also vary greatly in weight restrictions, so be sure to check the models you are researching to make sure they offer what you're looking for.
Other car seat types include forward-facing seats and booster seats. These types are for children who have reached the maximums in age, weight, and height for rear-facing. Once you get to that point, be sure to check out Consumer Reports for expert advice and buying guides. They also provide a list of preferred brands for all types of car seats!
Whichever type of seat you choose, there are a few features that www.car-safety.org/guide says you should definitely look for. One is the five-point harness; they are considered the most sturdy and safe. Also, you should look for the two-piece chest clips. These prevent the straps from twisting, and also make buckling in your baby much easier! Another feature is “wings” or head pads. These pads are either on both sides of your baby's head or a foam horseshoe that goes around the head. Not only do these keep your baby's head stable and secure, but they're also good for a cozy ride.
Now that you know the basics, you can narrow your search down some. To narrow it even further, try browsing online for car seats. Major stores generally have user reviews, so you can get real-world advice from parents who have purchased the seats you're researching. Also, an important step to remember in the purchasing process is to check out www.safercar.gov to find a list of recent recalls. Good luck!