Car Seats For Your Baby - How to Choose the Right One

11/24/2011 09:53

Are you in the market for car seats for your new addition to the family? If so, then you'll need to prepare yourself for plenty of choice, tons of car seat features, and more than your fair share of headaches from information overload. Luckily, I've narrowed down what every parent needs to remember when choosing the right car seat for their little angel, and how to choose the right one that fits both budget and car safety regulations.

It's obvious why we use these seats to protect our babies: according to the National Highway Traffic Association, traffic accidents have consistently been named as the number one cause of death for children between the ages of four and fourteen. Additionally, this same report concluded that more than 50,000 injuries could have been reduced or eliminated all together if infants were properly secured in baby seats. Another shocking figure: only 67% of parents secure children ages four and up in car seats. It's time to put car seat safety first - and the first step to doing so is to pick the right car seat to keep your bundle of joy safe and sound.

Infant Car Seats

Until your child reaches a year in age, you'll need to choose among rear-facing car seats. Rear-facing car seats are highly recommended for such young children because of the dangers of whiplash as a result of sudden braking. Since younger children don't have the same kind of head control as adults, braking suddenly can have much more of an impact on an infant's tiny neck and head, resulting in serious and even life-threatening injuries. 

Be sure that you choose a rear-facing car seat with five-point harness straps that are capable of being pulled up to or below the shoulder level. Of course, these infant car seats are not meant to be put in passenger seats, as airbags can pose a serious danger to the safety of your baby. Keep your rear-facing car seat in the backseat, and be sure that it's properly secured according to directions.

Toddler Car Seats

Once you child has reached the 20-pound mark, he or she can be placed in a forward-facing car seat. Be sure to pick car seats that can boost your child up if the harnesses are above his or her neck, as this will reduce any choking hazard that an ill-fitting harness can present. Of course, never use books, pillows or other objects to boost your child up in lieu of a booster seat. If any potential car seats don't come with a booster seat, find another model which does. 

When choosing the right car seat for your baby, be sure that the lap belt will fit snugly over your child, and can extend or retract in order to make it a more comfortable fit. If you're not sure if a child seat will accommodate your toddler, don't be afraid to ask a salesperson to take out model car seats for your child to test out. After all, it's important to test out a car seat before making that purchase - this is why many experts recommend buying in-store rather than online, as you'll be able to more thoroughly test car seats for fit and function.

Older Children

Many child experts and safety researchers recommend that children remain in booster seats until they reach the 80-pound mark - which means that your child could be in a booster seat right up until they're preteens!

When your child grows past the forty-pound mark, a toddler child seat simply won't cut it anymore. You should replace car seats with booster seats, as your child will be able to graduate from car seat harnesses to the seat belts in the car. A good booster seat will allow the shoulder and lap belt to fit snugly across the shoulder and securely on the lap - if the shoulder belt hits above your child's shoulder, be sure to find a bigger model to eliminate any choking or suffocation hazards. Again, never put your child in the front seat of a car until they reach about twelve years of age; this will ensure that the seat belts will fit properly and that they won't be seriously injured by airbags deployed in an accident.

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Ultimately, when deciding which car seat is right for your child, always put safety before brand name first. If you have several potential car seats in mind, play detective and do a little online research to determine if previous customers recommend certain car seats. Where any models recalled recently? Are customers largely satisfied with their experiences? When you can't make up your mind between certain models of car seats, using other testimonials is a great way to make the final decision of a car seat that's just right for your baby.