As with many other types of baby gear, there are plenty of different options. However, a car seat is a bit special since you are actually going to use it in a car.
On the road.
With Other People driving next to your precious family…
Safety is therefore extremely important.
An infant car seat is one of the very first things you will need for your baby unless you plan to give birth at home or take the bus to get home from the hospital. And choosing the right infant car seat can be a bit confusing!
The very first car seat for your baby isn’t going to last for a very long time. Babies grow too big and become too uncomfortable, usually already at the age of four to six months. Nevertheless, spending money on a really safe seat for your infant is money well spent.
Here you’ll find some tips that will help you choose the best car seat for your baby.
Tips for Choosing the Right Infant Car Seat
- A rear-facing car seat is a must
- Which type of car seat to choose
- Installing a baby car seat
- Buying a used car seat
- Shopping online
A rear-facing car seat is a must!
All newborn babies, up until they are at least one year old and weigh over 20lbs or 9kg, must be in a rear-facing car seat. End of story. This is by far the safest way to travel for infants.
The 20 lbs/1 year recommendation is to be perceived as the bare minimum. The longer, the better. In Sweden, children are kept rear-facing until 3 or 4 years old, which has led to a very low injury and death rate for young children in this country.
Which type of car seat to choose
There are basically three types of rear-facing baby car seats available:
- Fixed rear-facing
- Convertible rear-facing
- Removable rear-facing
Convertible rear-facing car seat
Convertible rear-facing infant car seats are designed to be kept in the car and you take your child in and out of the car. These are ideal for your main car. Once installed, they are left in place. The only adjustments you need to make would be to the harness as your baby grows.
Because they are convertible, they are able to grow with your child. They can be changed into forward-facing child car seats once your baby has exceeded the rear-facing size and weight limits. These are more expensive but do mean that you are unlikely to need to buy another car seat as long as your child needs to be secured in one.
If you do plan to turn your baby to face forward early, then a convertible car seat can be a real money saver. On the other hand, if you plan to go with the newest recommendations and keep your baby rear-facing for a longer time, then you might not need to buy a convertible car seat. When it is time to turn your baby around, he might be tall enough for a regular front-facing booster seat.
Or make sure you buy a convertible car seat that has a weight limit of some 40 lbs (18 kg).
Fixed rear-facing car seat
The fixed rear-facing infant car seats are not as common anymore. They are identical to the convertible rear-facing car seats – only they are not convertible! :-) Hence, they are installed rear-facing in your car and there is no way to convert them to a forward-facing seat. These tend to be at the lower end of the price range since their design is a bit simpler than the convertible car seat.
Some rear-facing infant car seat can easily be put in either a sitting or leaning back position. This is very convenient as babies as well as young children (and adults…) tend to fall asleep easily while riding a car.
Removable rear-facing car seat
Removable infant car seats are my personal favorites for a baby’s first car seat. They come either as a single unit, with a carry handle, or as part of a full stroller system. If they are part of a stroller, they will be able to be taken out of the car and connected to the stroller frame.
The fact that the car seat is removable means that you do not need to keep waking up your baby to take them in and out of the seat. This is so convenient for young babies that tend to sleep a lot!
Some car seats have a curved base and can act as a baby rocker. These are fantastic for settling your newborn back to sleep!
The disadvantage of a removable car seat is that your baby will outgrow it quite rapidly. Depending on the size and temper of your baby, this type of car seat might work for between 5 and 10 months. Some babies (like my youngest) are quite content with a small car seat for a long time. My daughter, on the other hand, was furious. She wanted more space (despite being a smaller baby), and we had to move her to a regular fixed car seat when she was six months old.
But if you plan for siblings within five years (the recommended life span of a removable seat) or are not on a tight budget, I recommend a removable infant car seat.
Installing a baby car seat
You need to be absolutely certain that your newborn’s car seat is fitted correctly.
Ensure that all straps and harnesses are tightly fitting.
Never place a rear-facing car seat in a passenger seat that has an airbag. If the airbag is released, it could have devastating consequences for your baby.
The best advice is to contact certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technician who can help you to fit your seat correctly.
Accessories are the fun part! While considering safety and comfort for your baby, it won’t hurt to buy a car seat that matches your car…
You will find infant car seats in a variety of colors and fabrics. You should consider how easy it is to clean before you buy one and look for removable covers. If they are machine washable, then even better!
Many infant car seats have headrests that can be used while your newborn is very small. These should be able to be adjusted and eventually removed as your baby grows.
Other worthwhile accessories for a smooth car ride with your baby are:
Buying a used car seat
Of course, car seats are not cheap. However, you need to be very careful when you are buying used hand car seats.
Check for wear and tear, and also ask if the car seat was ever in a car that was involved in a road traffic accident. Remove the cover, if possible, to check the seat fully.
If you are in any doubt at all, do not buy it.
Car seats may not show any damage after being involved in an accident, but their internal structure could have been weakened.
Also, manufacturers don’t recommend using infant car seats that are too old. Removable car seats should be no more than five years old, and fixed and convertible seats usually be less than 8 years old.
Make sure that the used car seat you are about to buy is not too old.
If you are at all interested in saving money, or use your money elsewhere, consider buying your baby’s car seat online. The savings can be quite massive; sometimes 50% or more. Make sure you check prices with the biggest online providers, like Amazon.
It is still a good idea, of course, to visit a local baby store to check out the goods and compare prices.
More Baby Gear Tips
- Your Baby Gear Checklist
- Your List Of Newborn Baby Needs
- Choosing an Baby Stroller
- Choosing an Baby Crib
- Choosing an Diaper Bag
Huang, YY., Liu, C. & Pressley, J.C. Restraint use and injury in forward and rear-facing infants and toddlers involved in a fatal motor vehicle crash on a U. S. Roadway. Inj. Epidemiol. 6 (Suppl 1), 28 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40621-019-0200-4
Paula Dennholt founded Easy Baby Life in 2006 and has been a passionate parenting and pregnancy writer since then. Her parenting approach and writing are based on studies in cognitive-behavioral models and therapy for children and her experience as a mother and stepmother. Life as a parent has convinced her of how crucial it is to put relationships before rules. She strongly believes in positive parenting and a science-based approach.
Paula cooperates with a team of pediatricians who assist in reviewing and writing articles.