When you are a new parent or expecting a first child, or just trying to figure out the new guidelines…finding the right car seat can be very intimidating and confusing. Those of us here at Nurzery know how difficult this can be so we have come up with some simplified summaries and tips for you.
Infant Car Seats
Infant car seats are also called “bucket seats” because they have a handle making them resemble a bucket. These seats hold the child in a partially lying down position keeping their body encased for protection. They are rear-facing in vehicles and are designed to form a safety barrier for the baby with the seat back in case of a collision. These car seats usually click in and out of a secured, belted base, but some can be belted into the car on their own. When you have a base already securely hooked in your vehicle, the infant car seat simply snaps in to the base which makes it easy to transport your baby. You can safely carry them in their comfortable seat. Some babies enjoy napping, resting or even eating in their infant seat because it is soft and in a comfortable position for them. These car seats usually have a height and weight limit of 35 pounds and 30 inches. This is the car seat you will need for your child from when he or she is first born until he or she out grows it. You will always keep this seat rear-facing.
- For newborns
- Weight: up to about 35lbs
- Age: birth to about 15 months
Convertible seats are car seats that can safely carry a child through various stages, and there are many different types available. Some convertible car seats are only designed to be rear-facing, some are only designed to be forwarding-facing, and there are some that are able to convert from rear-facing to forward facing when your child reaches the height and/or weight needed to switch. Convertible seats are made both with a 5-point harness and an overhead shield strap, but the 5-point harness is considered to be the safer design. Convertible car seats are not the best choice for a newborn because the harness slots are often above the baby’s shoulder until he or she gets taller. The rear-facing convertible seats have a maximum limit of about 45lbs. Forward-facing convertible car seats usually hold a maximum weight of 65lbs, but it varies among manufactures.
(Below varies by model)
- Permanently strapped in to the vehicle either rear or forward facing
- Weight: about 20-65lbs
- Age: 9months to 4 years
**Important !!** The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies remain rear-facing until they outgrow their convertible seat, no matter their age. You should leave your baby rear-facing until they outgrow the weight limit for their seat, or the top of their head is within an inch of the top of the car seat. There is an older rule of thumb that is still believed that you turn your babies around to forward facing at 12 months and/or 20 pounds, but this is NOT the AAP suggestion for what keeps babies protected through their various sizes and phases of life. Many children will be over the age of 2 when they need to be turned to forward facing.
Booster car seats are for children that are able to properly use an adult seat belt. Booster seats are only for children that are over 4 years old and/or 40lbs. Booster seats give children the “boost” they need so that the vehicle’s shoulder strap can sit firmly across the collar bone and chest and so that the lap belt can sit securely across the hips. If the seat belt is not appropriately fitting, it can cause internal damage in a collision. There are high back and no back boosters seats available, but the high back seats are considered the safer design
- Forward facing using the car’s belt to latch in the child
- About 40-100 pound
- Ages 4-12 (until reaching the seat’s weight limit)
Why Should I Buy a New Car Seat?
Car Seats Expire:
As strange as it may sound at first, all car seats expire. It varies among manufacturers, but most car seats expire within 6 years from the date they were made. The manufacturer will have a date of expiration listed on your car seat-usually stamped on the bottom. Pay attention to this date, and do not use it beyond that date of expiration.
Car Seats are not safe after a crash:
If a car is in an accident with the car seat in it-whether a child was in the car seat or not-the car seat’s safety has been compromised. The car seat needs to be replaced if the car was in any sort of collision.
Car Seat Recalls:
Car seats, like any other safety product, can get recalled. There are varying degrees of a recall. Sometimes the whole car seat needs to be replaced, and in other cases the manufacturer will just send the owner a part to be replaced.
Car seats not being safe after expiration dates, collisions, and recalls are three big reasons why you should buy a new car seat. If you get a used car seat, you will most likely not have the full history of it. You will not have all the information you need to ensure it is ready to protect your baby in your vehicle. The money you might save getting a used car seat is not worth the risk you are putting on your baby. Your baby’s safety is your priority, so it is certainly worth the small investment of buying a new car seat to ensure he or she is given the highest level protection while traveling on the roads.
- Make sure the car seat straps are pulled snug. If they are loose they will not properly protect your baby.
- Use the vehicle’s “LATCH” system (metal anchors that many vehicles now provide for easy installation and secured attaching) or seat belts to attach the car seat to your car. Be sure to properly follow the instruction manual included with the car seat.
- The car seat should not move more than 1 inch from left to right or front to back once installed.
- If it is your first time setting up that car seat, get it checked at a car seat inspection station to be sure it is installed properly. Here is a website you can use to find one near you: http://www.nhtsa.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm
- Do not use a car seat passed its expiration date-usually stamped on the bottom.
- Do not use a car seat if it has ever been in a crash event.
- Do not use a car seat unless you know the FULL history of it-including if the car seat itself or any of its parts have been recalled.
- Call the manufacturer if you do not know when the car seat expires or if you are not sure about a recall matter.
- Always use car seats in the back seats. The middle seat has been tested to be the safest. Never use the car seat in the front passenger seat directly behind the front air bag.