How to Choose a Car Seat That Meets The Needs of Your Baby
There are many types of car seats available on the market today. In order to be able to make an informed decision it is best to check out car seat manufacturers. You can also check any consumer guide for information on recalls, seats that have been crash tested, the best type of restraint systems for your child. Before that even starts be aware of the fact that there are many types of car seats. The choice you make will be based on your prior research and your child's needs. A note of caution: before you purchase a car seat check the manufacture's recommendations and be sure the seat is compatible with your vehicle.
One type of car seat is the infant only car seat. This seat comes with a detachable base, comes with higher weight and height limits, harness slots that will help to change the seat from rear facing to front facing. The multiple slots can be adjusted to fit your baby. They also have handles that can be folded down while the child is in the car. They can be raised to make carrying your baby easier.
Convertible car seats are bigger and heavier and may not be appropriate for some newborns. The reclining position and ease of adjusting the harness are important assets. A convertible seat can be used rear facing for most newborns and front facing for older babies over twenty pounds. The American Pediatric Association recommends a child stay rear facing until s/he reaches the maximum weight and height listed by the manufacturer. The straps and are adjustable to a child's size, the seat should be moved to the proper position for the weight and height of your baby. The seat belt should be threaded through the seat belt path.
Forward facing seats cannot be used in the rear facing position. They are only for children over a year old and over twenty pounds. They can be used with either a lap only or lap/shoulder belt system.
Combination seats also cannot be used in the rear facing position and are also only for babies over a year and over twenty pounds. It has an internal harness for children whose weight is between forty and fifty pounds. It can convert to a belt position booster seat by removing the harness for larger children. They can be used with lap only or lap/shoulder belts.
Booster seats come in different types. Some come with shield boosters that are padded bars that lock into position much like the handlebars on carnival rides. There are booster seats that come with a high back to support your child as s/he rides in a car. Some booster car seats are built into vans and some cars. Check with your vehicle manufacturer to be sure the seat will accommodate your child's size. There are travel vests that attach to the seats with lap only belts.
Now that you know the types of car seats, there are things that must be considered in order to ensure the safety of your baby. Is the seat safe? How did it fare in crash testing? Is the restraint system easy to manipulate? If they are difficult to buckle your child in or remove him from the seat your child's safety could be compromised. In an accident, a sudden stop, or quick swerve will the seat hold your child? If the seat moves in any way in these situations your baby could be at risk. The car seat should attach snugly to the seat if properly installed. With seats that have multiple belt slots to accommodate your child be sure you use the right one. The belt should be at your child's shoulder level or just above.
Most newer car seats come with the LATCH (lower anchor and tethers for children) system. Installation is supposed to be easier but they are difficult to use and are not always safe. Parents complain that upon installing seats with this system there is too much slack, the seats have a tendency to move or slide out of position. In an emergency situation this could have seriously disastrous results. A company has created a tool called Mighty Tite that is used to pull in the slack and it has been safety tested and is recommended.
As previously stated check consumer guides and online sites for recalls. This is especially important if you have a used car seat. If you purchase your seat second-hand you need to inspect it thoroughly. Check that all belts and buckles are in good shape and working as recommended. Make sure the belts aren't frayed or the buckles cracked. Check the frame for any breaks or gaps that your little one could get fingers stuck in or that are sharp. If you find such things don't use the seat until you can get it repaired or replaced. If the seat comes with removable covers it is suggested that you remove them and wash them well. If it doesn't have cloth covering you might want to buy some. A vinyl seat, could in the summer, burn your little one's tender skin. In a desperate attempt to remedy this when my own child was an infant, I found a large towel and cut holes in it and place it on the seat so that anywhere my son's skin would meet the seat, it was protected at least with the towel. If you are really creative you could make your own.
Be practical in purchasing your car seat. If you have an infant buy a seat that will convert to a front facing seat as your child grows. Infant seats also come with a base that remains installed while you are able to remove a sleeping child from the car without disturbing him too much. Some such infant seats can also attach to a stroller frame. This multi-use seat is practical and will save all the bending and unbuckling and buckling of seat belts and then stroller belts. The internal harness keeps your child appropriately restrained.
Let's go over some important considerations in purchasing car seats. Keep in mind compatibility with your vehicle's specifications. Check for recalls and safety testing - how did the seat fare in these situations? Is it the proper seat for the size of your child? Can the seat be converted from a rear and front facing seat - it is more economical to buy a convertible seat. Is the installation easy or does the seat seem to move around in the belt system? There is a tool called Mighty Tite that can take up any slack and make the seat secure in its position, thus enhancing your baby's safety. Choose carefully and choose wisely, you are carrying very precious cargo.