Read on for some buying tips and a few of our favorite seats.
Car Seat Safety
All car seats on the market meet stringent U.S. safety ratings, so any seat you buy is considered a safe bet. (To see specific seat ratings, visit consumerreports.org) The most important car seat rule is to never buy a second-hand seat, as its safety and integrity could be in question.
All children should be in a rear-facing car seat until at least 12 months of age and 20 pounds, and the longer you keep him looking back, the safer he’ll be. Laws vary from state to state on how long a child should ride in a child-restraint system, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children ride in a forward-facing harness seat until 4 years of age or 40 pounds, and that a booster seat be used until your child is old enough to properly position the seat belt on his shoulder.
If you have trouble installing your seat or just want someone to check and make sure it’s done correctly, drop by a local fire or police station. Many professionals in these fields have undergone extensive training on how to properly install a car seat and are happy to help.
When shopping for an infant carrier seat, carry it around the store and see how heavy it gets—if it’s heavy without a baby, it’s going to be really heavy with one. Also see how comfortable the handle is on your hands and arms.
Before buying a seat, push on the bottom and see how padded it is and how comfortable it will be for your baby. We recommend buying a seat with good padding, as comfortable babies make much happier travelers.
A 3-in-1 seat can seem rather huge when you put a 7-pound bundle of joy in it, so you’ll probably need some positioning gear to make it work (many include these products with the seat).
Infant carriers are perhaps the best choice for newborns, and many moms feel that they are the most convenient since you don’t have to wake the baby up to get him out of the car. Plus, they can be placed in shopping carts or onto corresponding stroller systems. Most carriers are designed for babies as small as 5 pounds, and they typically accommodate weights between 20 and 24 pounds.
Graco Snugride $180 at comfortfirst.com
Infant to toddler seats
Some seats can accommodate newborns all the way up to the toddler years, getting you a pretty good bang for your buck. These 3-in-1 seats can be positioned as a rear-facing seat, a forward-facing seat or a booster seat. The typical weight range for a 3-in-1 is anywhere from 5 pounds all the way up to 80.
Sunshine Kids Radian 80 $250 at target.com
Eddie Bauer Deluxe
Convertible car seats
Many babies outgrow their carriers before they reach the 1 year mark to face forward, so a convertible seat can be a nice rear-facing alternative. You can turn baby around to face forward when she’s ready. Most convertible seats are designed for babies between 5 and 40 pounds.