Choosing A Car Seat

Choosing A Car Seat

It’s time to bring your baby home for the hospital, do you have a good car seat?  Buying the right care seat is one of the most important actions that a new parent has to take, the safety of your child is your main job.  There are a lot of rules concerning car seats and there are a lot of different points about car seat safety that parents need to keep in mind.  Just putting your infant in a car seat is not enough, you have to know how they should fit and how to properly anchor a car seat.

What Is An Infant Car Seat

What Is An Infant Car Seat?

Car seats have evolved dramatically over the years.  At one time, car seats were just plastic booster seats that raised the child up and maybe put a lap belt over their waists.  Now, a well designed car seat is contoured to fit the child’s body and cushion their head.  Car seats today will have multiple straps to keep the child anchored in the seat and keep the seat anchored to a solid part of the car frame.  Instead of a one-size-fits-all design, car seats now come in different sizes for the different stages in your infant’s life and their size during those stages.  Sound complicated?  It can be a bit intimidating but there are some basic guidelines that parents can follow to make sure that they have the right car seat.

Look For The Right Size First

To pick the best car seat means choosing the seat that matches your baby’s size and weight.   Proper sizing isn’t always determined by age, the size and weight of your child is the main info used to fit a car seat. The other size factor involved is making sure that the car seat fits properly in your car.  Too large a seat or too small a seat can lead to serious safety problems.

Know The Different Types Of Car Seats Available

One of the first things you may notice is how many different types of car seats are made.  Front facing, rear facing, convertible, booster seat and baby seat are the most common options but each manufacturer uses different marketing terms to set their products apart.  Some infant car seats are called combination seats, meaning they can face either front or rear.  Some seats are designed so that you can remove the seat part completely from the base (with the infant still in the seat) and attaché the seat to a stroller.  These are often referred to as convertible seats and are very handy if not a bit expensive.  Know what type of seat is recommended for the size of your child.

A Five Point Harness Is Always The Safest For A Car Seat

One of the most important advancements in car seat safety has been the 5 point harness. This form of seat belt has five straps that are mounted to the frame and held in place with a harness or clasps, giving the child an amazing level of protection.  The straps don’t move, meaning that your child is held firmly in place in case of an accident.  As long as the base and seat of the car seat are properly and securely attached your child will not be thrown around the car.  NASCAR has recognized the safety potential of this type of harness and has mandated in their cars for years.

How Do I Properly Install A Car Seat?

All infant car seats (except used and second hand seats) are required to come with clear and concise printed instructions for the installation of the seat. Proper installation is critical, the car seat base must be attached firmly to a part of the frame (usually using a part of the seat frame).  An infant in a car seat has to be held in place in case of an accident.  Don’t panic if you can’t get the base of the seat properly installed.  Almost every fire department and police department offer car seat installation.  Call and check when and where it is available.

Know How To Properly Secure Your Infant In A Car Seat

Securing your child properly in the car seat is the second very important task you are glowing to have.  Once you have safely and securely installed the car seat you are then ready to put your child in the seat.  The proper way to put your child in the seat will depend on what type of seat you are using and how small or large your infant is.  Children under the age of one should be placed in a rear facing seat.  After age one they can be placed either front or rear facing.  Don’t have your baby all bundled up before putting them in the seat, they will be more comfortable if you swaddle them with blankets after they are strapped in.

Make sure you have tightened the harness and that your child’s head is comfortably but securely resting on the back of the car seat.


What Exactly Is LATCH?

LATCH is an acronym that refers to Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. It is the backbone of a car seat installation system and is designed to hold the entire car seat unit in place in your car. The lower hooks and latches are securely attached between the bottom of the back of the seat and seat itself, usually to a frame part. Newer cars will have designated car seat hooks that are welded to the car frame. This is the part of installing a car seat that causes most people problems, it can be difficult to find the loops that are meant to attach the car seat.  Your local fire department can help you with this installation.

Car Seat Latch And Tether

Check The Tether

Most car seats will come with a tether, a strap that is attached to the car seat.  This tether is meant to clip onto the seat in front of a front-facing car seat and hold the seat firmly in place away from the front seat in case of an accident.  Almost all recently manufactured automobiles have attachments on the backs of all seats that are designed for using a car seat tether.

Don’t Use A Booster Seat Too Soon

What Is A Booster Seat?

Your child will probably start complaining about their car seat before you are ready to put them into a booster seat.  Most experts recommend that you keep your child in a harness seat until they have reached 40-45 pounds.  They should be tall enough to sit all the way back in the booster seat and be able to bend their knees.  They also must have enough body strength to sit up straight for the entire trip being taken. The harness seat is far safer than the booster seat but eventually your child will need to move into a booster seat.

You Can And Should Use A Car Seat On A Plane.

All airlines allow approved car seats to be used for infants on all flights.  The size restriction is 16 inches, meaning that large car seats won’t fit.  Airlines don’t require you to buy a seat and use a car seat but both the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)  and the American Academy of Pediatrics highly recommend that you use a car seat for all children under the age of 3.  While most airlines allow you hold a child up to the age of 2 on your lap during flight, turbulence can create a safety problem.

Used Car Seats Are Okay, But Be Cautious

It’s perfectly acceptable to use a second hand car seat as long as you do some basic safety checks on the unit.   Used infant car seats must have belts and harnesses that are not torn, frayed or cracked. The harnesses and straps must be securely bolted to the frame.  Make sure that seat cover doesn’t have any cracks or rips.  If the car seat reclines you need to make sure that all of those parts move easily and lock in to place.

Do an online search to discover the history of the used car seat you are thinking of using.  Check with the manufacturer as well as the Consumer Safety Products Commission.  If there has been a recall, don’t use the unit!  A recall is a serious action and is only done when there are severe safety issues.

Pay Attention To Car Seat Recalls

Because safety tests are always being done on car seats you will need to pay attention to any recall notices that may be issued.  If you have registered you seat with the manufacturer you will probably get a notice from them.  Some major retailers will send out notices but these may be quite broad in nature.  They will look in their database for any car seat purchases and send notices to that entire group.

The best source for information on car seat recalls is the Consumer Products Safety Commission.  The CPSC is an independent agency of the US Government charged with product testing and safety regulations.  Their site is constantly updated and will have all recall notices posted by manufacturer and by type of product.

There Are Special Car Seats For Special Needs Children

Any child with any special needs will probably need a car seat with special features.  Check with your doctor first and know exactly what special needs your child has.  Certain groups like Easter Seals or the Multiple Dystrophy Association can help you with some types of special needs car seats.

Know The Other Types Of Harnesses Offered On Car Seats

Car seat can come with different types of harnesses that are safe and approved. A typical six-point harness will have 6 straps to hold your infant in the seat.  Two straps secure the shoulders, two straps are at the hips and the last two go across the crotch. Similarly a five-point harness has two straps that go over the shoulders, two that go across the hips and one strap at the crotch. The t-clasp is a padded triangle shaped latch that joins all of the straps at the child’s midsection.  By connecting all of the straps securely you are holding your child against the contours of the seat, offering maximum protection for your baby.  Keep in mind that as your child grows you will need to adjust all of the straps.  They will become tight and uncomfortable for your infant as they get bigger.


Once you have asked yourself the question what is a car seat you will need to ask the question what is the best car seat?  Always err on the side of caution when it comes to a car seat.  Your child’s safety will depend entirely on what you choose as their car seat.  As always with children your slogan needs to be safety first.

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