Knowing what to look for when purchasing a car seat – and knowing how to properly install your car seat – can easily become a nerve-wracking process for any new parent. Thankfully, with the right planning and guidance, it doesn’t have to be a struggle.
After nearly 20 years studying child passenger safety, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with countless parents, safety experts and industry professionals on this very topic. While working at Britax, I have used my knowledge of the space to help the company innovate and design some of the safest products on the market.
For anyone like me, a simple, easy-to-follow checklist can often be the simplest way to navigate important decision-making tasks, such as picking out the right car seat. The following checklists can provide a stress-free way for you to feel confident and in control when it comes to purchasing and installing car seats.
How to Choose the Right Car Seat
Shop early. It’s highly recommended parents have their car seats installed by the time they’re seven months pregnant, just in case the baby arrives early. Also, this provides parents with additional peace of mind during a stressful time.
Identify which direction you’ll need. New parents have two options when it comes to car seats: infant car seats, which are rear-facing only and convertible car seats, which can be rear and forward facing. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommend children use rear-facing car seats until they exceed the height, weight or any other fitment requirements of the specific car seat. Your car seat manuals will help identify these requirements.
Multiple considerations for multiples. If you’re expecting multiples, you’ll want to consider a car seat that can fit babies under 5 lbs so they remain safe and secure.
Additional questions to consider:
- Will the car seat fit in my vehicle?
- Is it easy to install multiple times?
- How easy is it to clean and maintain?
- Does it work with your lifestyle – e.g. does it fit into the stroller you use every day?
- If it doesn’t click into a stroller, is it easy to move around between vehicles?
- Does the car seat come with a warranty?
- Does the seat pass chemical compliance testing?
- If using an older car seat, what is its expiration?
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