Best Infant Car Seat Buying Guide
Not until you have your very first baby will you know that there are hundreds and hundreds of things to consider. Your baby list will just keep growing. Suddenly, things that used to seem mundane and totally unnecessary before are now making it to the top of your priority list. Most parents don’t think about buying car seats for their children when the baby is still in the mommy’s belly. They would be too busy going to the doctor’s appointments, shopping for baby clothes and baby proofing the house. They will realize soon enough that once the baby is born in the hospital, they will have to transport him or her home. Thus begins the baby proofing of the car.
Car seats are safety seats designed to give protection to children in cars in case of a crash or collision. Car seats are most often purchased as a separate installation to the car, though some car manufacturers integrate safety seats for children into their cars.
The use of baby car seats in vehicles when transporting children up to 2 years of age or more is mandated by law in most countries, the United States included. Child safety laws in general require children to be appropriately restrained. The manner of restraining the child depends on the child’s age, weight and height. This leads to the classification of car seats into infant car seat, convertible car seat and booster car seat.
In the United States, car seat requirements for child restraint differ from one state to another. In states like Florida and South Dakota, if a child is four years or older, a child safety seat is not required, and he or she may use an adult seat belt instead. For the rest of the country, booster seats are required. It is advised by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the NHTSA to use proper child restraint systems or booster seats for children who are under 4 ft 9 inches no matter his or her age and weight. Rear facing car seats are mandated by law when transporting infants. Infants are to be placed in rear facing car seats until they satisfy both the requirements of being one year of age and at least 20 lbs, though it’s recommended to keep children in a rear facing car seat until they’re two years of age, unless they exceed the car seat’s limit for height and weight. Federal safety standards for child restraint systems have also been set. These standards should be met by all child safety seats in a 30 mph crash test.
Where your child’s safety is concerned, you do not want to rush through it. You would want to be able to make the best choice. There are a number of things to consider in buying the best infant car seat for your family. It could become time consuming when you do not know which type to get and what to look for in a good infant car seat. Several manufacturers have different infant car seat models out in the market, and if you are a first time parent with no initial ideas about infant car seats, buying one can become overwhelming. We here at ParentsNeeds HQ are here to provide you with a buying guide for infant car seats to aid you in making a decision. Join us as we provide you information that may help you with your choices.
What is an infant car seat?
Infant car seats are child restraint systems, which are designed to carry the baby in a reclining position and facing the rear part of the vehicle. They are sometimes called “Bucket Seats” since the design of the seat resembles that of a bucket, complete with a handle and all. They can only be installed facing the rear so that in case of a collision from the front, the restraining forces will be distributed over the child’s head and body. They are designed to form a protective case together with the back of the vehicle during a frontal collision while the outer shell absorbs the impact. Depending on the model, an infant carrier may accommodate an infant from 4 lbs to 30 lbs.
What to look for in the best infant car seat
● High safety rating
You are going to put your baby in a carrier that is made of pounds of steel, in a moving vehicle no less. You would want it to be deemed utterly safe for your baby, yes? Look for an infant car seat with high safety rating from the likes of consumer reports. Consumer reports have been testing out car safety seats for more than 10 years now, and they even test them out beyond the 30 mph crash test at 35 mph. They know their deal and we recommend you take their word for it.
● LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children)
The LATCH system has been long mandated by the government so your car and infant car seat must be compatible with it. It is designed to install the car seat by directly attaching it to your vehicle instead of strapping it on with the use of seat belts.
● Easy to install
Did you know that 80% of baby car seats are installed incorrectly? Poorly installed car seats totally defeat the purpose of even having one as it leaves your child vulnerable in an event of a collision. The content and clarity of the car seat’s instruction manual will play an important role in properly installing the seat. Some models come with color coded guides among the straps and LATCH anchors that make installation a breeze. A good infant car seat will have an indicator for when you have done everything right. These indicators may come in the form of an air bubble or even a green indicator light.
● Easy to use
Look for an infant car seat that scores highly on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s five star rating system. The higher the rating from the NHTSA is, the easier it is to use the car seat. Aside from a car seat’s ease of installation, ease of use depends on the ease of securing your baby in the car seat. The best infant car seat will have harnesses and headrests that are adjustable. As your baby grows, you will need to do some harness and headrest adjustment to get a perfect fit. Better models have quick-release buckles and can be adjusted from the front.
● Car seat base
A good infant car seat will come with a car seat base, which you will install in your vehicle. It is a convenient way of snapping your infant car seat into place. Simply lock your infant car seat into the base before the journey and unsnap the car seat from the base once you reach your destination. Easy peazy. This is especially helpful if you use multiple vehicles. You may buy an extra car seat base and have it installed in your other cars. No hassle of having to install the whole car seat every time you use your extra car.
The best infant car seat is one that is convenient. Look for an infant car seat that you may latch onto a stroller once you have unsnapped and unloaded it from the car. Get one that is compatible with most stroller brands.
● Load leg
It is sometimes called a foot prop or support leg, is a metal rod that retracts from the base of a rear facing car seat and is designed to rest at the vehicle’s floor. This provides additional support and prevents the car seat from rotating sideways in an event of a collision.
A well padded car seat can go a long way as this will keep you child comfortable during the ride. A soothing seat can calm irritable infants down and will thus result to better rides for both you and your baby.
● Easy to clean
Babies are messy, and this is not brand new information. Look for an infant car seat that has a detachable cover that is washable. A regular cleanup will ensure your baby gets the best rides of his life.
The best infant car seat is reclined at an angle between 30 to 45 degrees. This gives your baby the desired crash protection, without interfering with his or her breathing.
● Side impact protection
Some models are padded with impact absorbing foam to further protect your child in case of a side impact, instead of a frontal crash.
● Price that is well worth it
As with any other purchase, you must consider the price. Car seats do not come cheap, after all, they are made of quality materials and much engineering went into their designs. For top quality infant car seats, prepare to shell out around $200 to $300.
Other points to keep in mind:
- Read the height and weight specification of the infant car seat and be sure that your child is within the limits. Be mindful of the height and weight limit. Children will usually exceed the height limit before they outgrow the weight limit. You will know that your child is too tall when the crown of his head is almost to the top of the shell, less than about one inch in distance.
- The harness shoulder strap should be just below your baby’s shoulder. A harness above the shoulder will prove to be unstable and compromise the optimal crash protection.
- Perform the pinch test to ensure your baby is properly harnessed. The harness is secured enough when you are unable to pinch any fabric on the straps at the shoulders of your child.
- Never place a rear facing infant car seat in the front seat that has an airbag. If you place your car seat in that location, your baby’s head will be positioned close to the airbag. Should the airbag engage, your baby will be at risk of suffering severe or even fatal head injuries. Some car models now offer a disabling switch for airbags in the front passenger to make placement of car safety seats for children in the front seat possible.
- Read the instructions carefully so that you may properly install the infant car seat. Watching instructional videos may be helpful and easier to follow. Proper installation of the car safety seats is very important. Your child’s safety depends on it. You will know you have properly installed the carseat when it does not move for more than one inch, side to side or front to back.
- As mentioned quite a few times, it is important to seat your infants and toddlers in rear facing car safety seats until they’re two years of age or when they outgrow the height and weight limit of the seat, whichever should come first. With that said, know when to retire your infant car seats and when to move on to booster seats.
- Car safety seats, just like motorcycle helmets, are tested and validated for use in just one collision event. Once the infant car seat has been in a crash, whether your child is in it or not when it happened, it is highly recommended to replace the car seat.
- Avoid purchasing second hand car safety seats especially when it has an unknown history or it has already been in a crash.
- Infant car seats have an expiration date. The usual expiration time is 6 years from date of manufacture but this can vary from one manufacturer to another.
- Be sure to take note of your infant car seat serial number as it has been common in the past that car seats are recalled due to safety issues.
Should your mind still be reeling from all the considerations that you have to make, let us present to you our highly recommended infant car seats. We here at ParentsNeeds HQ put together our very own Top 5 Best Infant Car Seat reviews. Read on to know more about our 5 recommended products. And the top 1 on the list, Chicco KeyFit 30.