If you are a first-time parent or starting the “baby-stage” over again, you’ve probably noticed there are A LOT of car seats out there to choose from! Hopefully you aren’t too overwhelmed with the MANY choices out there…and if you are…well, we’ve got you covered. We are going to breakdown the Car Seat Stages!
But first, here are a few things to think about before purchasing a car seat:
- Every state has different Child-Restraint Laws: Make sure you know what the law is in your state. You can look up your state law here.
- Not every car seat fits well in every car: Even if you might “want” a certain car seat, it may not install safely in your vehicles make/model. Find a store in your area that will allow you to try the car seat in your car first. It's helpful if the staff is knowledgable and can help you make sure it's installed correctly. The Baby Cubby for instance keeps a Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Certified Technician on staff to help new (or continuing) parents during this process.
- Seat location matters: Some car seats install better with the seatbelt vs. the latch system (or visa-versa) AND some car seats install better on the side vs. the middle (or again, visa-versa). You can always call the manufacture of the make/model of the car seat if you have questions.
- LEARN how to use your car seat: Go to the manufactures website, look through the manual and/or contact the company for any questions and/or concerns.
- Know what the weight limit is for the “Latch System”: Are you wondering what the heck a Latch System is? LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. LATCH is required on car seats and in most vehicles manufactured on or after Sept. 1, 2002, to make car seat installations easier. However, even in vehicles equipped with LATCH, parents can still secure the child seat using the vehicle seat belt and tether. Check the vehicle user guide and car seat user guide to determine what is best for your child. (Chart below from Britax.com)
- Get your Car Seat Inspected: There are Child Car Seat Inspection Station’s across the country with Certified Technicians that will help you install your child’s car seat or make sure that it is installed correctly. If you are local you can have Katie (our CPS Certified Tech) check your car seat for you! If you aren't local, you can find a list of inspection stations in your area here.
- Car Seats EXPIRE!!! It's not recommended to purchase a used car seat because you do not know it's history. However if you know & trust the previous owner, they can tell you the car seat's history. If you are using a “second-hand” car seat, check to see if it is expired. One of the reasons car seats have an expiration date is because plastic breaks down. Think about how HOT & COLD your car gets - those extreme changes in temperature is what weakens the plastic, so while it may look safe it could potentially not hold up during a cash. Typically the expiration date is on the bottom or side of the car seat and most seats expire 6 years after the manufacture date. You can check with the manufacture to find out how long the car seat is good for. Some hospitals check to see if your car seat is expired before releasing your newborn, so if you are thinking about using an expired one it may cause frustrations while leaving the hospital.
- If a car seat is in an accident: It may not be safe to use no matter how small the crash is. Check with the car insurance company to see if they will replace it after an accident. Each car seat manufacture has their own regulations on whether or not a car seat needs to be replaced after an accident. Most car seats can be used after a MINOR ACCIDENT. To determine this, ALL of the following criteria MUST APPLY:
-Vehicle was able to be driven away from crash site -Vehicle door nearest to child restraint was undamaged -NO injuries to ANY vehicle occupants -Air bags (if were present) did NOT deploy or open -No visible damage to child seat.
If you have questions on that specific car seat, contact the manufacture.
9. Buckling the Baby correctly: It is extremely important that your child’s car seat STRAPS are TIGHTENED appropriately (using the “pinch test” to see if it is tight enough) and the CHEST CLIP is at ARM PIT LEVEL. Be aware of the harness height. For Rear-Facing: the top of the harness straps should be AT or within an inch BELOW the shoulders. For Forward-Facing: the top of the harness straps should be AT or within an inch ABOVE the shoulders.
- We are HERE to HELP! We have our VERY OWN Certified Car Seat Technicians! If you are in the area (American Fork, UT), ask for one of our CPS Techs. You can always schedule an appointment to meet with one of these Cubby Moms as well. We also have car seats on display that you can TRY in your vehicle BEFORE buying!
There are 4 types of car seats: *Keep in mind weight & height limits vary between ALL car seats so be sure to check your car seat’s “limits”
- Infant Car Seat: (Rear Facing ONLY)
From newborn till your baby reaches the seat’s height or weight limit; typically an infant car seat’s weight limit is 22 to 35 pounds. Infant Car Seats always face the rear of the car. MOST have a “base” (that stays attached in the car) that the car seat attaches to - and is easily removed with - a “push of a button” or “pull on a lever." Pictured below is the Nupa Pipa Infant Car Seat.
2. Convertible Car Seat: (Rear/Forward Facing) Depending on the manufacture, MOST convertibles can be used from newborn to 65 pounds. With a Convertible Car Seat, you can rear-face them from newborn to 40 pounds (more or less, depending on the car seat you purchase). YES! You read that RIGHT…rear facing a 40 pound child is POSSIBLE - depending on the car seat's weight and height limits. After they grow out of the “rear-facing” limits of the car seat, you can face the seat forward until they hit the height and weight limits for the forward position. *Why is rear-facing safer then forward facing? In the event of a car accident everything in your car will continue traveling forward, including your child! When your child is rear-facing, they will just go back into the car seat giving their neck and spine the support it needs. If they were to be forward-facing, their body would continue to travel forward where their neck and spine is not supported and can cause serious bodily harm. There are some who say that their child does not fit in their car seat rear-facing because their legs are too long, this is not a valid concern. Yes your child may not be able to stretch out their legs but that is not dangerous for your child in the event of a car accident and your child will find a comfortable position. Pictured below is the Chicco Nextfit Zip Convertible Car Seat.
3. Harness-to-Booster: (Forward Facing ONLY) Depending on the manufacture, the use of the 5-point harness can go up to 90 pounds and/or 58 inches tall. After the child grows out of the "harness limit's" you can convert the car seat to a “Booster Style” car seat without having to buy a new seat. Under law, a child must remain in a booster seat until at least the age of 8 years old. *Why is a 5-point harness safer then a booster? Read more here. Pictured below is a great option for both a harness-to-booster and a booster car seat, Britax Frontier Clicktight Booster Car Seat.
4. Booster Car Seat: (no harness, use with shoulder belt only) AT LEAST 40 pounds & 4 years old AND if the child can sit PROPERLY in the booster seat the ENTIRE car ride. That means no slouching, no pulling the seat belt out, no sitting on their knees, no leaning forward, etc. Just because your child fits in a Booster Seat, doesn’t mean that it is safe for them. The Car Seat Lady has great recommendations and information on WHY being harnessed is safer AND questions to ask yourself before switching your child to a booster to help you decide if they are ready for a booster. *Who should ride in a booster seat? Read more here. *When is my Child ready to use a booster? Read more here. Pictured below is the Nuna AACE Combination Booster Seat.
If this is still VERY overwhelming for you, Britax has a wonderful new “Fit My Child” interactive chart. All you have to do is click your child’s age, height, weight and sitting shoulder height then it does the work for you! It gives you ALL of the car seat recommendations for your child based on your child’s size/age/weight etc. SIMPLE. AS. THAT. However, this is only for the Britax brand, so if you are looking for another brand, you will have to go straight to their website.
What about Special Needs Car Seats? I have a 7 year old Special Needs Child (who does not have incline issues etc, he just has the mentality of a 1 year old), so I KNOW first hand HOW HARD it is to find a 5 point harness car seat to fit a LARGE and VERY STRONG child. For my son, the booster style is out. He can't sit still, he will pull the seat belt out and put it under his arm pit, slouch and try to get out. For these reasons (even though he meets the age, height, weight, etc.) he cannot be in a booster seat safely. I found that the Britax Frontier is PERFECT for my son with room to grow.
The Frontier is a VERY EASY INSTALL with the seat belt since it has the "click-tight" feature. All you have to do is lift open the bottom of the seat, thread the seat belt through and close the seat back down to lock it in place!!!! A-MAZING. Every child with Special Needs has different "car seat needs" that need to be addressed (like being able to sit up or needing to be at a certain incline etc)...so you'll obviously need to check with their doctor to make sure their car seat meets their needs. I just wanted to share my own personal experience with my son.
Infant Car Seats
Convertible Car Seats
High-Back Booster Car Seats
|Britax B-Safe Ultra
||Britax Clicktight Marathon||Britax Frontier Clicktight|
|Britax Clicktight Boulevard|
|Chicco Keyfit 30||Britax Clicktight Advocate||
|Chicco Keyfit 30 Magic
|Chicco Nextfit Zip|
|Maxi-Cosi Mico 30|
|Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30|
|Diono Radian 3RXT|
|Nuna Pipa Lite|
|Maxi-Cosi Magellan Max|