How to Find the Right Car Seat for Your Child
When the stork arrives on your doorstep (so to speak), you’re going to be facing a lot of lifestyle changes that you may not be prepared for, from sleeping in 2-hour segments to a refrigerator full of pre-loaded bottles to bumpers on every conceivable surface and anything breakable hidden in cupboards. But these are just the changes you’ll face within your home. You’re also going to have to make some adjustments to the way to travel. Not only will you become vastly more concerned with every bump on the road and the speed at which you take corners (not to mention the type of car you drive), but you also need to consider the accommodations for your growing infant. In other words, you’re going to need a car seat. But there are a lot of options on the market; how do you know which one will provide the most safety and comfort for your child? Here are just a few things you should look for.
1. Five-point safety harness. This is the basis for your child’s ultimate safety. Without the proper straps on the seat to secure your infant, there’s really nothing to keep them in the car seat. The five-point system is so named for the five straps that it contains: one for each arm and leg and one between the legs. For ease of use, look for a seat with straps that are adjustable from the front (rather than the back of the seat). This will make it a lot easier to get your child strapped in and ready to go quickly. Holding a squirming baby with one hand while reaching blindly behind the seat to adjust straps with the other is not ideal.
2. Permanent base and LATCH system. A permanent base for your car seat is a great idea. Since you will likely want your car seat to do double duty as a carrier (or even pop into a stroller base, as well), it behooves you to get an all-in-one system that includes a car base. This will allow you to simply pop the seat in (baby and all) and secure the seatbelt, and then pop it out again (rather than having to leave the seat in your car and remove the baby each time). The seat should also include a LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system. This has been a legal requirement since 2002, but older seats may not have it. It’s probably best to find a seat with upper and lower attachments since this will allow the seat to face front or rear (extending the life of the product).
3. Padding. Your kid could be spending a lot of time in this seat, so it’s important to ensure comfort with adequate padding, especially for the head. If your baby gets fussy every time you put him in the seat, chances are it’s not terribly comfortable. And nobody wants to listen to a squalling baby for the duration of every trip.
4. Removable covers and pads. This is not essential, but it is handy. You don’t have to be around babies long to discover that they’re pretty messy. And they’re bound to get a car seat gummy and covered in guck in no time. Odds are, you’re going to want to wash it at some point, and removable, washable parts make this process a lot easier.
5. Price. You don’t want to quibble over price where your child’s safety is concerned, but newborns are expensive and you would like to start a college fund at some point. So while there are certainly plenty of pricy options, you can get a quality seat for under a hundred dollars. Renting from a hospital is also an option, especially since you will have to get a new seat as your baby grow.
Sarah Danielson writes for Kanetix, where you can shop around for insurance quotes and find a great deal.