Check The Local Laws First
Your local laws govern part of what to look for in a car seat. This page on Wikipedia contains links to DMV (department of motor vehicles) of different states. Look for your own state to find out the specific local laws that applies to you. Below, I will explain to in depth for what to look for in a car seat.
All of the new car seats nowadays have to follow strict regulations before they are allowed to be sold. In other words, since the year 2016, all of the car seats you buy are safe whether they are expensive or cheap.
However, some seats are still better than others. The government can only regulate the minimum safety requirements of a car seat. The rest is still up to you. This is especially true when it comes to fitting your car seat with your baby or your car.
Your Baby Should Fit Into The Car Seat
Your car seat should be capable of securing your baby’s head if a car accident happens to occur. All infant car seats are required to rear facing, so part of that is taken care of. However, accidents don’t necessarily happen in front or back, that’s why make sure the car seat cushions both sides of your baby’s head.
Make sure the straps are at the right places. There should be two straps for the shoulders, should straps for the thighs, and one more coming from the bottom between the legs. That would be a total of five straps. The straps should be too tight, and easy to adjust to accommodate growth.
Avoid Broken Car Seats
Sometimes a nice friend or nice relative will give you their car seat. However, you should not accept any kinds of car seat, because it is actually your baby’s immediate defense in case something happens in you car. Ask your buddy or relative if the car seat is:
- older than five years
- have missing parts
- have been in accidents
If the answer is yes to to any of the above then tell them to throw it away…nicely of course. The reason is because this car seat serves almost no protection purposes.
Make Sure Your Car Seat Matches Your Car
Just because a car seat fits your baby doesn’t mean it fits your car. Ask the store if you are allowed to return or exchange your car seat in case it doesn’t fit. Don’t take no for an answer. If all sales are final, then go somewhere else. There is no point purchasing a car seat that won’t fit into your car.
Check to see if it is secure. Secure the car seat into your car at the rear passenger seats. Afterwards, push it from all directions to see if it shows any sign of movement. It should be locked in place and not move around. Next, have someone sit in the seat in front of the car seat location. It can be the driver seat or the passenger seat next to the driver seat.
Make sure the person sitting in front is comfortable. This is especially important if the car seat is located behind the driver’s seat. Let’s say the driver is big or tall, then obviously the driver seat will be position towards the rear more than other people. Check to see if the car seat gets in the way of the driver’s seat. This can due to the size of the car seat or the shape of the car seat. If it gets in the way, then go for a different car seat.
Infant Car Seat Vs Convertible Car Seat
It’s really money versus convenience. When you have a newborn baby, you will have to decide between an infant car seat and a convertible car seat. Once your baby is nearing one year old, then an infant car is no longer big enough to fit your baby. Eventually, you will have to purchase a convertible once your baby has outgrown her infant seat.
There are advantages to infant car seats. They are extremely convenient. Basically, you install a base of your infant seat into the car, and the car seat itself is extremely easy to attach and detach. A lot of parents like this because you can carry your baby along with the car seat without waking your baby up. Some strollers are even designed for you to attach your infant seat onto it.
Convertibles are practically a one time purchase. If you like convenience, then you will buy an infant seat, then a convertible seat, then eventually a booster seat. However, if you want to save the dollars, you can skip the infant seat. The convertible seat itself is good enough to handle that role. It is called a convertible, because it can be changed from rear facing to a front facing car seat. Rear facing is practically required by law for newborns throughout the country because it is the safest protection against a crash compared to front facing. After your baby grows to a certain height, then simply turn your car seat 180 degrees, reattach to your car (with seat belts of course), and now you have a front facing car seat.
Booster seat fills in the time gap between a car seat and the seat belt. Most parents I know don’t bother with a booster seat. They simply let their children sit in a car seat until they are tall enough to rely on seat belts alone. However, a booster seat is still an option for you. It basically makes your child sit higher and allow the regular seat belts to lock on to her better.