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How to Buy a Car Seat for the New Baby

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Baby boy in car seat

There are 2 choices for a baby that weighs 20 pounds or less.  There are infant car seats or infant-toddler ones.  The experts suggest that the infant car seat is the safest for the little ones.

Infant-toddler seats or convertible car seats can be used facing forward or backwards.  As the name states, you can use them for both infants and older children up to 40 pounds and they can also used facing forward or backwards.  If your baby is under one year of age, then you will want to use the seat in the back, facing towards the rear.  Once your infant reaches its first year and weighs 20 pounds or more then you can face the seat in a forward position.  It is recommended to keep them facing backward as long as you can.   If he/she is still content in the back-facing position after his/her first birthday and the seat meets the weight requirements, then you can leave him/her in that position.   Most new models can handle a baby up to 30 pounds even in a back facing position which will keep them safest for a longer period of time.

It is smartest to purchase an infant car seat, and then change to an infant toddler seat when your child reaches 20 pounds or more.

Questions to ask before you buy

• Can you install it easily?    Car seats will go in and out of the car so you want to make sure you have one that is easy to install.  If it is not installed properly, it can cause injuries, so look around for one that isn’t too complicated.

• Does it have a good harness?   Look for a five-point safety harness that has one for each shoulder, and thigh as well as one that goes between your child’s legs.  This type of restraint is safer than t-bar restrainers or shields made of plastic, generally found in older models.  It is best and recommended by safety experts to purchase one new and not one that has already been used.

• Can you reach the adjustment straps?    Some seats have access to the straps only from the back, you might want to look for ones that can be adjusted from the front and some even have raised belt slots to aid in buckling your baby in.   If you have it in your budget you can even get a top of the line seat that will adjust automatically.

• Does it include a LATCH system?   Latch stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children.  The lower anchors are built into the rear of the car and a requirement for all models built after 2002.  The tether is a strap attached to the top of the seat to hook into a bolt in the automobile.  This makes the seat easier to install because you do not use the seat belt, and more stable in the event of a crash.  Right now only front-facing seats are required to have both attachments, but all child safety seats are required to have at least the lower anchors.

• Can you wash it?  Be sure to find a seat with a cover you can take off and wash, you will be glad you did.

• Will your baby be comfortable?   Look for a seat with plenty of padding and support for their head and back.  Make sure he is still able to move his or her arms and freely and see out the window.

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