At some point in your baby gear shopping days, whether for you or for a baby gift, you will encounter the dilemma of the car seat. Which one is best? What should you look for? Should you take a used one that your sister’s kids have outgrown? New moms and dads can rest assured that there is plenty of help available for choosing the ideal car seat.
- Each state has its own regulations, but all agree that you need a car seat, and a properly installed one, before you can leave the hospital with your baby. It used to be that the proud mom would swaddle baby up in her arms in the front seat while dad slowly drove home. Those days are gone in favor of car seats that protect infants. Not only are these seats safer in case of a collision, but they also prevent baby from distracting you while you’re at the wheel.
- In most cities the local police will help you install your car seat safely. Take your car and the seat down to the station before you have the baby and have it installed properly. It’s not a bad idea to do this up to two weeks or more before delivery just in case you go early.
- Should you take your sister or a friend’s old car seat? Experts discourage it. Even though most seats are still safe after being used, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be 100% perfect. Don’t take any chances. This is one area you might want to splurge on. Get a new seat complete with instructions. You’ll sleep better at night.
- Look for an infant car seat that is also convertible to a toddler car seat. Most every store has them now. The bottom will serve as the base. The top portion is a detachable bucket type seat with a handle for you to lift baby in and out of the car in. You install this type of seat so that baby is riding with her face towards the back seat. These rear-facing car seats have been determined to be the safest for infants. Once your child is 20 pounds and one year old—she must meet both requirements—you can turn the seat around so she is facing forward. But experts suggest leaving baby’s seat rear-facing until she outgrows the weight limit listed on the seat’s packaging. Most rear-facing seats will allow a child up to 30 pounds to stay rear-facing. Read your manufacturer’s instructions carefully and save them so that you can refer to them as baby grows. Don’t turn the seat around until your baby safely meets all the requirements of a front facing rider.
- Never put a car seat in the front seat of a car that has air bags. It is unsafe. Baby should ride in the center of the back seat if at all possible. It’s the safest place.
- Other things to look for are washability. You’ll want a car seat that has a cover that can be easily removed for cleaning. Babies often spill milk or food in the car and you need to be able to remove the cover to properly clean it.
- Make sure your seat has tethers and anchors. New car manufacturers now are all required to be equipped with the necessary accommodations for baby seat installation. Ask your car dealer (or check your owner’s manual) for the exact specifications your car has for car seat installation. Most times it’s a metal D-ring that’s installed at the top of the back seat so that you can attach the clips from your car seat for a secure anchor.
- Don’t go for cute over comfort. Baby needs a padded seat and you need a belt that adjusts from the front, not the back of the seat. So if you fall in love with a pink polka dot car seat with no padding that only adjusts from the back, pass on it. Save cutesy for your baby wagon. You’ll save yourself months of aggravation. You want to be able to get at that seatbelt from the front and adjust it as baby grows.
- Go brand name if you can. You’ll rest easier knowing you’ve chosen a brand that you trust. Again, if you can, this is one area that you want to get the very best available.
Choosing the Right Babysitter