Choosing a car seat for your little one can be a tough decision. You want to make sure they are comfortable and, most importantly, safe. When it comes to how to choose a car seat, there are a few main factors to consider.
Not only are there several different types of baby car seats, but there are also several for toddlers and older children.
From when to place a child forward-facing to when to move to a booster seat, this handy guide will cover everything you need to know about car seat safety and how to choose the right car seat for your child.
How to Choose a Car Seat
Choosing a child car seat is an important decision in your baby’s life. To start, the most critical factor in choosing a car seat is determining your baby’s weight, height, and age.
If you’re registering or looking to purchase a car seat for your newborn baby, you’ll always want to start with a rear-facing infant seat or rear-facing convertible seat. From there, you can move to a five-point harness front-facing seat. A booster comes next for your older child.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should remain in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat until they are between eight and twelve years old or four feet nine inches.
Choosing a car seat will largely depend on your child’s height and weight. You may also want to consider if you have additional children who are using these seats or if you’ll want a convertible seat that can grow and transform with your child.
Types of Baby Car Seats
Your little one will be in a car seat or booster seat from birth until possibly twelve years old so it’s essential to make sure they are in the safest place possible.
Below, we’ll break down the different types of car seats and what ages and size children they will best accommodate.
1. Rear-Facing Infant Car Seat
An infant car seat that is rear-facing is the go-to seat for most new parents. This seat is designed just for infants ranging from five to 22 pounds who must be rear-facing. Since all babies must be rear-facing, an infant car seat will only work facing this way.
One of the significant perks of an infant seat is that they are lightweight and removable so you can easily pop them out of the car to carry your baby.
You can take the car seat out and safely carry your baby into a store or the house. The car seat then clicks back into the car when you are ready to go.
The base of these car seats will remain secured into the car. This is an excellent option when you need to have bases in multiple cars. You and your spouse, for example, can each have a base in your vehicle. Then you only need one car seat to carry between the two.
2. Convertible Car Seat
You’ll want to keep your baby rear-facing until they are at least two years old. Beyond that, they can continue to stay rear-facing until they reach the maximum weight and height for your particular car seat.
When your baby outgrows the infant car seat a convertible car seat is a great option. These can turn forward once your toddler or young child reaches the minimum height and weight requirements.
It’s recommended a child stays rear-facing in a five-point harness system until closer to four years old if possible.
If you’d like to purchase one car seat for your child that they can use for a few years, a convertible car seat is an excellent option. These seats can accommodate both rear-facing newborns and toddlers.
An all-in-one convertible seat will also have a booster component. These have three seats in one, including a rear-facing infant seat, a forward-facing toddler and child seat, and a booster for older children.
3. Booster Seat
A booster seat is a safe way to secure your older child. Boosters are available in a five-point harness option or as a belt-positioning seat.
A five-point harness is best used for your younger children until they are ready for the positioning seat. This may be around five years old until age nine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC.
When your child outgrows the five-point harness booster seat they can sit in a backless booster that sits them up high enough to use a seatbelt properly.
With a backless booster seat, your child is able to wear a traditional seatbelt. A child can stay in this seat until they are tall enough to use the seatbelt safely without it.
Car Seat Safety Tips
Safety should always be your number one priority when it comes to car seats. One of the main things to remember is to check the size requirements on your car seat before you move your child to the next one.
Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. While you may think a child’s legs are getting cramped, kids are flexible. They are likely comfortable facing backward, and it is safer for them to have their legs bent then to be forward-facing before they are old enough.
A young child’s bones aren’t fully developed. If you turn a child too early or have them in a seat they aren’t big enough for you are opening them up to serious injury or even death.
Remember when your child can buckle themselves, you should always double-check they are properly fastened as well.
Car Seat Installation and Important Notes
When it comes to car seat installation, you can take your seat to the store where you purchased it or to a local police or fire station for a safety check. These first responders are trained in car seat safety and installation. They can help make sure your seat is installed correctly.
Remember never to add anything additional to a car seat that didn’t come with the product. Always follow the instructions that come from the manufacturer.
When you’re trying to determine how to choose a car seat for your baby or child, keep their size at the forefront of your mind.
For more great tips, check out the parenting section for helpful guides and articles.