Baby Car Seats

11/24/2011 10:05

Your baby undoubtedly deserves nothing more than the most comfortable and safest car seats, but with the hundreds of choices that all seem to offer different features, how do you know which is best? Use this guide to help you decide.

The features you should look for in a car seat should change as your baby grows. You typically start with a rear-facing seat for an infant, and then progress to a forward-facing child seat for toddlers, and then to a booster seat for bigger children. Let us discuss what you should look for in each type.

Rear-facing seats are designed for infants under twelve months. Look for a seat that is big enough to support the baby's head, neck, and spine. If your baby's head goes higher than the top part of the seat, get a bigger size or graduate to a car seat designed for toddlers.

Choose a rear-facing seat with sturdy harnesses - the more support, the better. Five-point harness straps support the shoulders, hips, and the crotch, but can be quite restricting. There are three-point versions available, which adequately secure the baby's shoulders and crotch. You may have to pay a few extra dollars for added features such as detachable bases that can be secured to your car, or adjustable bases, but these add-ons are more than worth it. Some models even have convertible seats, which are great if you have a big or a fast-growing baby.

Forward-facing car seats are needed when your baby is already a year old or older. Remember to install this seat on your back seat, not your front seat, because your airbags can injure your child or cause him or her to suffocate in the event of a collision.

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Booster seats are for children ages four to six. These seats are designed much like adult car seats, with a seatbelt that supports both the rib cage and the hips. Fasten and adjust the belt just like you would your own seatbelt - the belt should go over the hips (not the tummy), and the strap should support the shoulder (not the neck).