Choosing a car seat for your newborn is not something to be taken lightly. In the United States, each state has sets of laws that are strictly enforced, and car seats sold in the United States must be federally approved. So, what should you look for?
There are plenty of factors to consider from what you drive, the age and height of your baby, and federal and state laws. This guide should help you find the seat that works best for you, and we’ll also include the top three that moms like.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, a division of the Department of Transportation) a rear-facing baby seat specifically designed for infants is the only type of seat that your newborn should be put in.
What is a Rear-Facing Seat?
These are the best options for your very young passengers. As stated, they face the rear of the car and are designed to cradle your child in the event of an accident. Infant rear-facing seats are specially designed for your infants. They are small and generally portable, but in most cases, your child will grow out of it before their first birthday.
Height and weight requirements
Speaking of which, the car seat should just not be selected or thrown away based on how your newborn looks in them. There are very specific requirements set for height and weight for each seat on the market.
You can find out just when your child is too big by reading the maximum height and weight allowed by the manufacturer. While these may generally be around the same numbers, always follow the manufacturer’s specific requirements.
There are minimum numbers to take into consideration as well. Say for example you have a premature baby. That newborn will obviously weigh less compared to a non-premature birth. Make sure your seat is safe for that baby’s weight. If your baby weighs around four pounds, a seat with a five pound minimum rating is considered unsafe.
How they connect to your car
Modern cars have child safety in mind. They make it easy to make sure that your baby can be strapped in for the ride! Exactly how depends on both your car and the seat that you get. ALWAYS consult both your baby seat’s manual and your car’s manual to make sure that you are doing everything correctly.
The good thing about the internet is you can find forums and groups that can help you find the best infant car seat for your car, in the event you drive something “unique” and are not quite sure which is best.
If your car seat does not directly attach to your car, then it will lock into a base that does. Seats with a base are a great option to make it easier to pop the car seat out and carry your baby to and from the car.
When to get rid of a seat
There is a time when you should get rid of the car seat, and I don’t mean when your child outgrows it. If you’re like me, you like to get as much use out of something as possible to avoid having to buy another. If you are planning on having more kids, you may think holding onto your car seat is a good idea. There is a catch.
Your seat has an expiration date. Generally this is about six years after the date of manufacture. Any reputable car seat will have a clear label that says when this date will happen. Why? The seat is not going to fall apart and melt into a puddle at that date, but the manufacturers take wear and tear of the materials into consideration, and the expiration date is how long they believe they can assure safe and normal operation.
Can you get away with using them longer? Sure. Milk is good for a while after the date on the bottle, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Thankfully your newborn won’t be able to fit in the same seat for six years, but if you buy one that is used or plan to have another child, take this into consideration.
The other time is after an accident. Your manufacturer may suggest to replace it or even void any warranties the instant your car touches something that it is not supposed to. The NHTSA suggests replacing them after a moderate to severe car accident.
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Top Three Baby Car Seats
There are plenty of options out there for your infant. Here are the top three that we found have come up again and again in forums, Facebook groups, and other parts of the internet.
Voted the number one car seat by New York Times author Rebecca Gale, the Chicco KeyFit 30 has it all: style, safety, and affordability. The average prices for baby seats vary from around $150-$400 depending on features and brand, and this one is just around $200. Many agree that it is lighter and easier to install compared to others, and it has one of the highest safety ratings of government conducted head-impact collisions.
Cheap is not something you want to get when considering your baby’s safety. However, sometimes we have no choice but to look at affordable options. The Graco is considered by many to be one of the best affordable options. While “affordable” is subjective, the $164 price tag is reasonable for the lightweight, durable, and audibly connecting seat you get.
While this is the most expensive at $500, it is by far the most versatile. While many manufacturers offer a stroller attachment for their seats, this car seat IS the stroller. It connects to your car just like any other seat does, but when you disconnect it, you unfold the base, and it turns into a well built stroller. If you don’t have the room, desire, or time to lug around a separate stroller base, this is for you.
Keeping your infant in the correct seat is an absolute must for safety and legal reasons. Hopefully with this guide you have a better understand