How to Choose the Best Infant Car Seat

An infant car seat is one of the most important parts of child’s safety equipment. For example, if you plan on taking your toddler home from the hospital in a car, you will need a car seat to keep your baby in place. A good number of states have laws reinforced on having a properly restrained in a car seat.

Furthermore, using a wrong type of a child car seat, or fitting it incorrectly can lead to the infant suffering from severe injuries when a car crashes. All the child seats are required to meet the federal safety standards in a crash test.

Here is a guide on how to choose the best infant car seat. The goal of this guide is helping parents sort through the myriad of car seats available by providing important what to look for before purchasing an infant car seat?


Why Buy an Infant Car Seat?

You’ll need to buy an infant car seat if you plan on putting your toddler in any type of motorized vehicle. It can be one of the must-have products on your baby gear list.

Infant car seats provide a vital role in protecting your baby from car crashes.


Types of car seats

As your baby grows, you will need to transitions from one car seat to another. These car seats can be used with infants and have some similar functions and features, but they’re not entirely the same.

1. Infant Car Seat

This is the first seat for many new parents. It can only be installed rear-facing and it also has a convenient removable baby carrier that is connected at the based installed in the car. This type of car seat is recommended for smaller babies or newborns. They can also be used for babies from 4 to 40lbs, depending on the model. Furthermore, you should also keep in mind that toddlers can probably get too heavy or too tall for these car seats.

Infant car seats have a canopy that helps you block the sun from child’s sensitive peers. This feature comes in handy both in the car and when moving outside the car while being attached or carried by a compatible stroller.

While some infant seats have a larger weight range than the 40 pounds, the range is still less than that of the convertible car seats because infant seats are specifically designed for small babies as trying to fit for all sizes not doing quite well, This seems like a limiting factor to some of you, but this is what really makes it special and better for small babies and the newborns to travel in.

Most of the strollers provide a range of car seat adapters and you might consider purchasing a lightweight car seat stroller. The ability to click the car seat into a full-size stroller or a frame stroller is very convenient when running quick errands without waking the toddler.

2. Convertible Seat

This seat is recommended for the outgrowing babies. Convertible seats can be easily installed forward or rear-facing. It has a harness system that is quite common to that in the infant seat. However, there are some big differences one of them being the rear-facing weight limit. Convertible car seats feature a higher weight limit than infant seats. This means that kid can ride on the rear-facing option longer which is recommended as the most convenient and safest option.

The rear-facing convertible car seats are installed for kids who are younger than one year and weighing less than 20lbs. These convertible car seats can also be rear-facing for up to 50lbs depending on the type seat.

The forward-facing seats are installed for kids who are at least one year of age. Most of these seats can hold up to 65lbs. The downside of this kind of seat is that it is not fit for newborns or smaller babies. It does not also provide the benefits of a detachable seat.

3. Booster seat

¬When the kid outgrows the height and weight limit for the forward-facing car seat’s harness, it is time for moving to a booster seat which uses the car’s own seat belt. Boosters have the ability to raise a kid up in the car so that the seat belt fits perfectly.

Booster seats come in two types. Backless and high-back. The backless types are easy to set up and portable, but we recommended the high-back types because they have a better positioning of the baby’s shoulders and also provide a side impact protection.

4. All-in-One Car Seats

This kind of car seat provides an important value by taking a kid from birth to booster. They may be tempting money-saver car seats, but they do not do that well when compared to the infant seats and convertible seats.

This type of car seats are heavy and large and lacks the convenience of a detachable baby carrier and may not fit the smaller babies well. This can be a good backup seat or for someone who transports his child less often. The price range for $100 to $330.

5. Toddler Booster

Toddler boosters are only used by kids who are at the appropriate age, weight, while the weight limits to sit facing forward. Also, toddler boosters are designed as forward-facing seats only. They also have a harness that can be used to a certain weight/height.

There are a cheaper alternative to the convertible seats and offer a safe option for older kids who are not ready for a transition or a booster change. The price of Toddler boosters ranges from $55 to $295.


What to look for when buying an infant car seat.

1. Ease of use

Installing the base successfully is half the job. They are other elements you should consider before purchasing a car seat such as the daily process of taking a kid in and out of the seat, and also getting them harnessed in.

You should look for an infant car seat that will not give your problems when installing and harnessing it. Moreover, the content of the instruction manual should be clear and easy to understand.

2. The car-seat base

Most infant car seats have a plastic base that in you install in a car. However, some parents purchase an extra base for a second vehicle. Snap the seat in the base and then buckle your kid when you are ready to go.

When you arrive at your destination unbuckle the infant car seat from the base and then take it with you.  Moreover, some car seat bases have additional features such as level indicators that use a bubble or a ball bearing that shows when the car seat is at the correct angle, or an adjustable foot that helps you get a proper recline angle.

3. Easy adjustments

You will also need to adjust headrest and harness as your kid grows. Good infant car seats let you easily adjust the straps and also harness the height from the front.

User-friendly car seats have single-hand belt adjustment with no-rethread harnesses, quick-release buckles, and singlehanded height-adjustable headrests.

4. Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) style

For more than a decade now, all vehicles and car seats have been compatible with Latch system. LATCH style lets parents attach the car seat directly to your car instead of using a seat belt to secure it. Most of the infant car seats use the lower anchors only, not tethers.  The latch connectors often come in two types: a rigid LATCH style that sticks firmly out of the car seat back and a LATCH style that is attached to a flexible strap which threads through the infant car seat. Most parents consider the rigid connectors since they are easy to operate.

5. Cleaning

Kids and messes always go hand in hand. Surprisingly, a number of infant car seats have covers that you cannot take off. A detachable, machine-washable cover makes cleaning easier.

6. Comfort

You should choose a well-padded infant car seat that has a plenty of head support to give the kid enough support when riding a car.can


How to decide which infant car seat is best for your child

Here are some steps that help you in deciding which car seat best suits you and your baby’s needs.

1. Know where you should install the car seat

There are 3 ways to install the car seat. Each has a different kind of the usage pattern

a) Urban caregivers

In case you stay in a large city or two and expect to often take your toddler in Uber or cabs, you’ll consider an infant car seat that’s easy to set up without using a base. You should also look for a car seat that can easily integrate with the cab’s seat belt.

b) Side seat or at the center

The next important thing is determining where the car seat is to be installed in your vehicle. The safest place to install a car seat is at the center middle seat. However, the center location is entirely safe is you correctly anchor the car seat tightly and securely.

Moreover, most parents install the car seat at one of the ca’s side seats, mostly at the right rear-facing passenger seat so that the driver can see the kid more easily. Side seats are very suitable for loading the kid in and out of the car

Installing at the side seats is highly recommended due to its reliable and simple set up process using the LATCH system.

2. Check the crash test level

Every infant car seat in the market must pass the minimum requirement of the crash tests to provide a basic, level of safety and protection. Some infant car seats perform far much better than others in car crash tests. Such seats are considered to offer more protection that those with low car crash test.

Considering the car crash tests narrows the selection of car seats. Whereas many caregivers consider the crash test as the most vital factor. However, you should first consider the ease-of-use and the installation process since over 80 percent of parents improperly install the infant car seat.

3. Consider the stroller options

Selecting the correct car seat is a more vital decision to make than selecting a stroller. After narrowing down your options, you should consider compatible stroller. You should also know what car seats can be reinforced by which strollers.

The car seat frame strollers that are convenient and also lightweight for the first year while your kid remains in the infant seat are highly recommended. But it is advisable for moms to wear a baby carrier to increase the level of bonding and intimacy with their babies. It is also fun for the baby and the parent.

4. Consider the expiration date

Infant car seats do expire after a specific duration. The foam that is used for the crash absorption protection has a shelf life. After a specific period of time, the foam gets destroyed. In case you consider purchasing a second-hand from a relative or a friend, make sure it is not expired and it will not expire in the 2 months you will need.


What you should know before buying a car seat

1. Know your kid

It is advisable you keep track of your kid’s weight, age and height to determine the seat size needed and when it is time to move to the next level of the car seat. Any health or health issues also affect the choice of the car seat.

2. Know your stores

Some manufacturers and retailers allow you to test-install an infant car seat before purchasing it. This is awesome since the seat belt placement or the cushion angle can make a car seat incompatible. Moreover, you should consider purchasing from retailers who accept returns.

Some retailers also offer free shipping services on infant car seats. It is also advisable that you make online purchases only after you have seen them in real life. You can’t fail to find high-end seats at boutiques or stores.

3. Know your car

You should also look at the safest sections of your cars manual and learn the relevant features like seats and belts.


Shopping Tips

  • If you want to purchase an infant car seat but also need to trim consider shopping for a good travel system. A stroller and an infant seat are often sold together at a discount.
  • Because the technology improves gradually, it is important your purchase a new infant car seat and not a second-hand one.
  • Whether you are buying a convertible car seat or an infant car seat, consider purchasing one that has a 5-point harness (two waist straps, two shoulder straps, and one strap between your child’s legs that meant in the middle), compatible with the LATCH systems which provides a way of fastening the base tightly without using the car seat belts, and a side-impact protection such as extra air pads or foam at the side of the baby’s head.
  • In case you can easily afford to purchase a premium infant car seat that is priced above $200, consider additional features the anti-rebound bar found at the foot of the car seat. This feature limits the amount of the seat’s movement during a car crash. Other features that you should also take into consideration include a larger canopy, accessories such as a little boot around the baby’s feet, and a larger canopy.
  • Also, check the straps of the car seat you are buying to see if they are easy to adjust as your kid grows. Ideally, you will want straps that won’t have to be rethreaded. However, many models have a pull cord between the toddler’s legs or adjustment handles at the back of the seat; this makes rethreading a thing of the past.
  • Finally, though many manufacturers tend to continue simplifying the Installation process, it is recommended that after you install the infant seat, make sure that your work is checked by a professional.


Here is the outline of the key steps that are involved when choosing the right car seat

Choosing – The very first thing is knowing what type of car seat is suitable for the height, age, and weight of your kid.

Spending – The next step you take after choosing a suitable car seat is knowing how much you need to budget for a car seat.

Buying – When buying, make sure that the car seat will fit properly in all the cars your kid travel in.

Fitting – Learn how to fit you infant car seat and then adjust it safely.


Fitting Tips

  • You can watch videos on YouTube showing you how to fit a kid car seat properly.
  • Make sure you ask your retailer to demonstrate the car seat’s features, how to make adjustments, and how to fit the car seat
  • Go through the instruction manual keenly and keep it safe. This is because you will need to refer it when making adjustments as the kid grows.
  • You should also look at the photo gallery showing signs that your infant car seat is wrong for your kid or your vehicle.
  • Check the car seat each trip to make sure that it is installed firmly and is adjusted to suit your child’s height.


Car Seat Terminologies

To help you understand the guide better, we have come up with a number of terms that will help you interpret the info as simple as possible.

Buckle – This is where the harness systems connect and also locks in place.

Retainer Clip – This is a plastic clasp or buckle that holds the shoulder straps firmly together over the kid’s chest. It is positioned at the kid’s armpit level.

Harness – It consists of straps which keep the baby in the infant car seat and also spread out the crash forces. There ae two types of harness: 5-Point that consists of 5 points of contact and a 3-Point type that has 3 points of integration (2 shoulder straps and one buckle on the seat’s crotch strap)

Harness slots – These are parts of an infant car seat where the harness system crosses through the shell for the shoulder height and weight adjustment.

Shell – A metal structure or a molded plastic of the car seat that’s located on the outside of the infant seat or structurally on the inside enclosed by the car seat padding.

Paddling – Additional inserts or padding that some companies offer to boost the kid’s comfort that is tested with the car seat. However, avoid using padding with an infant car seat which didn’t come with a specific car seat. This is because it can alter the seat’s effectivity during a crash.

Seat Padding – This is a padding that covers the frame or the shell of the car seat. Most of them consist of a dense foam.

Recliner Adjuster – This is a car seat feature that lets the seats to reclined for the rear facing car seats, and semi-reclined for the forward-facing seats.

Belt Path – Belt Path is the part of an infant seat where the lower anchor connector or the seatbelt is placed to secure a car seat to the caregiver’s vehicle.

Level Indicator – A part of the car seat which helps you identify the correct rear-facing installation angles. It can be a red to a green indicator, or a ball level.

Lock-Off – An inbuilt belt-locking feature that integrates with particular types of car seat belts. It works with the same concept as the locking clip.

Detachable Base – A separate car seat base that’s installed in the car, while the carrier portion of the car seat has been removed from the base.


Dangers of buying second-hand child car seats

Secondhand cars are more exposed to wear and tear than new thanks. This can affect the safety protection for your kid. Some parts of the car seat such as the harness could have been cleaned which dangerous chemicals that can make the seat’s fabric deteriorate. Furthermore, the seat could have been involved in a crash and weakened.

Old car seats do not comply with the latest safety regulations or have gone through the updated safety tests. Some of them could be missing the instruction menu that shows you how to install and adjust the seat safely.


Anna C

Anna is the main author of this website. Like many of you, she is a mother who is continuously searching for the best parenting tips in order to learn more about child development.