Buying the Right Car Seat

Buckling baby in car seat

As of today, I am 32 weeks and 6 days pregnant! Being pregnant and getting ready for the debut of a brand new human being has brought an onslaught of emotions/tasks/to-do lists that I had never even considered before getting pregnant. Who knew there are 1.5 billion types of bottles out there and if you don’t choose the right one your baby will probably die/be colicky/not develop properly? I sure didn’t know that.

All hyperbole aside, I was totally overwhelmed as I started reading about all of the equipment I was going to need to ensure my baby is safe. Although it may not really matter what kind of bottle I buy for her, there is some baby gear that will absolutely make a difference in her safety levels.

A car seat is a great example. The hospital won’t even let a new mom take her baby home unless she has the right type of car seat. So, whether you are pregnant, getting ready to adopt an infant, or prepping to drive around a grandchild, niece, nephew, or a friend’s baby it is absolutely necessary that you have the right car seat.

Get to Know the Seat

Car seats can be expensive and a lot of people choose to combat the price of the car seat by purchasing a used car seat. If you want to purchase a used car seat you need to be sure that the car seat has every single piece it came with, has not been in an accident, and has not been recalled. If you are set on purchasing a used car seat, make sure you do your homework before you purchase one.

Car Seats Expire

Yep. It’s true. Just like the carton of milk you bought last week, car seats have an expiration date. If you are considering purchasing a used car seat you have to make sure that the car seat has not expired. Most car seats expire about six years from the time that they are manufactured. When you are shopping for a car seat you should be able to see an expiration date printed somewhere on the seat. If you can’t find the expiration date on the seat check in the owner’s manual. Should you have any questions about the expiration date, call the manufacturer and ask them.

Rear-facing vs Forward-facing Seats

The most recent advice states that children should stay in a rear-facing car seat for at least one year. Ideally, you will want to keep your child in a rear-facing seat until they have reached the maximum weight limit of the seat or until the top of his or her head is within one inch of the top of the seat shell. Keeping your child in a rear-facing seat for as long as he or she fits in a rear-facing seat is going to be the safest option.

Why? A rear-facing seat is going to support the head, neck, and spine of children much better than a forward-facing seat, especially in case of an accident.

Try to keep your child in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible. Once you switch to a forward-facing seat it can be much harder for your child to readjust to a rear-facing seat. Be sure that your child is ready for a forward-facing seat before you make the switch.

If you have questions about the type of seat your child should be in, talk to your pediatrician.

The Right Size

When your baby is an infant you want to make sure that you are using a seat that is designed to support an infant. More than likely, this seat will be used until the child weighs about 20 lbs. After your baby grows out of the infant seat, you will then want to find a rear facing seat that will accommodate children up to at least 30 pounds.

There are some seats that have an infant insert to use during the first few months of your child’s life. Finding a seat like this will allow you to continue to use the same seat for a much longer period of time.

Installation

It may seem like an easy task, but installing a car seat can be difficult. After you have a car seat buckled in you want to be sure that:

  • You cannot move the seat more than an inch side to side or front to back when you pull at the base of the seat.
  • You cannot grab any access webbing of the strap on your child’s shoulder after the harness has been buckled. (The chest clip should be placed at armpit level and the harness should be buckled snugly and coming from the proper slots.)

 

If you are having trouble installing your car seat, ask for help! There are car seat technicians that can help you and if you give your local police department a call you may be able to find a local car seat checkup event or a police officer that would be willing to help you with your car seat.

Always in the Back

You probably know this already, but a car seat should never be placed in the front passenger seat. Car seats must be installed and used in the back of the car. Not only is putting a car seat in the front seat dangerous, but it’s a great way to get pulled over and get a hefty ticket.

Got it?

It may feel overwhelming, but finding the right seat is necessary. Now that you are going to be driving a child around, you may also want to ensure your insurance policy is a family auto insurance policy. Shop around by car insurance ratings to find an insurance policy that will give you and your new addition the necessary coverage.

Finally, congratulations! Bringing home a new addition to your family can feel stressful and looking at an infinite to-do list for your new addition may be scary, but you can do it! Take your to-do list one item at a time, and focus your attention on the things that are really going to matter. Take time choosing the safety equipment that will have a large impact on your child’s safety level and you can be sure that you won’t have to stress about those products in the future.

Have you recently shopped for or purchased a car seat? Which seat did you choose? Are you a seasoned mom that has a favorite car seat for a specific age group? If so, please share your expertise!

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