Find a car seat for your child at any age
Child car safety should be the number one priority of all new parents, and having the proper car seat is the first step. There are many different types of car safety seats, with each of them depending on the child's age, weight and your specific preferences. So how do you decide which car seat is right for your child? Here is a brief overview of the different car seats available, and tips that can help you settle on the best one for your precious cargo.
Infant Car Seat
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, all infants should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are one year of age and weight at least 20 pounds. The two types of rear-facing car seats are the infant-only car seat, and the convertible car seat. Infant-only seats are used for babies from birth up to 30 pounds.
The benefits of the infant-only car seat, or baby car seat, are that they are small and come equipped with carrying handles, making transport of your little one much easier. The most popular feature of infant-only car seats is that they snap in and out of a base that stays buckled into your vehicle. This is especially practical during cold winter months when parents don't want to take their tiny babies out of their warm car seat. (This is also when a baby car seat cover will come in handy.) A simple releasing mechanism allows you to pull the infant seat free of the base, with your baby still snuggled cozily inside. Separate bases can also be purchased, which can be ideal for families with more than one vehicle.
Convertible car seats can also be used rear-facing, and are generally larger, with higher weight and height limits than infant-only seats. The benefits are that they can be converted to forward-facing car seats for older children, saving you the expense of having to purchase two car seats. However, the down side is that they do not come with carrying handles or a separate base that remains in the vehicle. If you want to carry your child inside the car seat, it needs to be reinstalled each time you remove it.
Toddler Car Seat
There are several types of toddler car seats that can be used forward-facing once your child is over one year old, including the convertible seat mentioned above. If you've used an infant-only car seat up until this point, it will become necessary to purchase a toddler car seat, which can be used for children who weigh up to 80 pounds.
Another option is a combination forward-facing / booster seat, which can be used with a harness for toddlers up to 65 pounds, and then later as a booster seat without a harness for children up to 100 pounds. (Height and weight limits are determined by the individual manufacturers.) Again, the combination car seat saves parents from having to purchase a booster seat later on, but it may not be ideal for smaller children.
Booster Car Seat
Once your child has outgrown their forward-facing car safety seat, it will be time for a booster car seat. This type of child car seat is designed to raise the child up so that shoulder and lap seat belts fit properly. They usually include a plastic guide that helps ensure the seat belts in your vehicle are positioned correctly.
The important things to remember when shopping for car seats are to check the brand's safety ratings and to consider the age, size and comfort of your child. While car seats can get expensive, remind yourself of what they are protecting, and choose wisely.
By Alaina M. Coyle