The Ultimate Guide to Buying Your Baby’s First Car Seat
The Ultimate Guide to Buying Your Baby’s First Car Seat
Children’s car seats are not what they used to be. The more we learn about the physiology and safety needs of babies and young children, the more car seats have evolved.
While better ways to protect our children is never something to complain about, the number of options which now saturate the consumer market can easily overwhelm new parents, or any parents for that matter.
Every year, safety standards are updated and new features and technologies are incorporated into car seat designs. What features should you look for? Which features are deal-breakers, and which could be bypassed?
In this post, you’ll find:
My recommended approach to comparing and assessing car seats,
An overview of current laws, standards, and guidelines regarding car seats,
A comparison of the primary types of car seats available,
The features and qualities today’s car seats boast with pointers to help you decide which ones you need and which you can bypass,
The car seat we chose for our daughter, and why,
My top tips for finding the best seat at the best price.
The Ultimate Buying Guide for Your Baby’s First Car Seat
This heading is one of the most commonly asked questions about children’s car seats, according to Google. You’re probably wanting to know the same thing. I know it was a dominant consideration for me as I was building my baby registry during my pregnancy. I opted for a very budget-friendly travel system (which is a stroller and infant seat combo). Looking back, I could kick myself. Repeatedly.
When I chose this seat, I did read the reviews on Amazon for safety concerns, but my top determinant was ultimately price. I didn’t do in-depth safety research and compare models and features. I just found one that fit the literal bill and clicked “add to registry.” Over the six months that I used this seat, I began to realize my error.
You Get What You Pay For
While I was thinking about which seat would be most amenable to a gift-giver’s budget, I should have been considering which seat would do the best job at protecting my infant. Fortunately, the seat was never put to the test. It probably would have done the job of keeping my baby alive, but it is not a quality infant seat.
I didn’t even fully realize this until Carrots seemed to be outgrowing it at only six months old, so I began researching her next seat. What finally changed my perspective was reading Amazon reviews which detailed horrendous vehicular crashes which could easily have proved fatal to all passengers.
One review completely changed my perspective
In one review in particular, the vehicle rolled multiple times after colliding with a semi. Two of the passengers were babies under two. The younger baby was ejected fifty feet from the vehicle, still in his car seat, and survived nearly unharmed. (The other kid was safe as well with minimal injury). (It’s in the top reviews for this seat, complete with pictures.)
As my eyes were opened to my previous decision making process, I felt really stupid and rather guilty. To think that I would prioritize a budget (not even my own!) over the life and safety of my own child. While price will always be a limiting factor and legitimate consideration, I urge you to first decide which car seats you trust to carry the most precious cargo on earth and then compare prices.
To get a good seat, you will probably spend between $100 to $300, but if you want premium features, you can certainly spend more. Once I was hit with the gravity attached to my child’s life, this seemed like a much easier bite to swallow. My husband and I do not have an unlimited budget. We are young with student loans to pay and limited income as he tries to finish law school and I care for a new baby.
However, when you look at the long term cost, many of these car seats will fit your child for six to nine years. Divide $200 out over that time, and protecting your child is suddenly pretty dang cheap–even cheaper if you divide the cost by the number of times your child will ride in it protected.
Car Seat Laws and Guidelines
Laws regarding children’s car seats are at the discretion of each individual state. In addition to the government’s safety regulations are recommendations made by safety experts and pediatricians, which usually exceed the requirements placed upon you by your state.
Since each state is different, you will want to know:
How long, or until what size, does your child have to remain rear-facing?
When can your child transition from a front-facing seat to a booster seat?
When, or at what size, can your child ride without a safety seat?
When, or at what size, will your child be permitted to ride in the front seat?
Make sure the source you check is up to date for the current year. Most likely, your child:
Will be rear facing for 1-2 years and,
Will be in a car seat for a total of 7-9 years.
I made it out of my booster seat at five years old just before the laws changed (at least in my state) and was riding in the front seat of my dad’s ancient Toyota Corolla since it didn’t have a passenger air-bag. Now your kid has to use a car seat basically until they get their driver’s license.
It seems like every year the “recommendations” keep your child in a car seat longer! Pretty soon, your child will need a booster seat to take to college with them. Joking aside, the recommendations do make sense to me, so I looked for a seat that could accommodate my child from babyhood to Algebra books.
One additional thing to note: you might be thinking of saving money by using a secondhand seat, and the recommendation is that you don’t. You just don’t know how a seat has been worn out or compromised through previous use, especially if it was involved in an accident, or is nearing its expiration. I’m all about saving money, but as a better-safe-than-sorry move, we opted to just purchase a new seat.
What are the options?
The first option is the one you’re probably already picturing in the back of your car ready to bring your brand new bundle of poop and joy home from the hospital. These seats usually accommodate your baby for the first year and are specially tailored to the safety needs of an infant. After marinading in amniotic fluid squished up in a little ball for nine months, a baby’s spine, neck, and bone structures are weak and flexible.
As I’m sure you well know, a new baby’s head needs extra support so that it doesn’t flop around and injure the neck or spine. Besides that, another concern is that Baby’s head will drop forward and restrict air flow. The infant seat provides the best angle and contoured support to protect the head and spine from both regular movement and dangerous impacts.
An added benefit of the infant seat is that it can easily be removed from the vehicle and used as a carrier. I am not the kind of person who totes this bodybuilder basket everywhere I go, but I will admit to its occasional conveniences. It’s nice not to have to wake a sleeping baby to take them into the house, or when your first arrive at a restaurant and value a few precious seconds to scarf down the corn chips and salsa. You can also warm it up in the house on a cold winter day so that baby is already buckled and snuggly before an outing.
Hey mom friend
I want to encourage you to find your own parenting style by putting on your mom genes and tailoring your parenting instincts.
I believe that you are the best parent for your child, and I want to help you believe that, too.
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