Car Seat Buying Guide

Click here to read the current guidelines for car seats for children

Keeping your baby safe is always the number one priority, but once that is covered you can start thinking about new baby gifts that they will love!

An infant is considered one year old or younger.  An infant or any child under the age of 12 years old should NEVER sit in a front seat of a car, especially if there is a passenger air bag located in that seat.

An infant needs to be rear-facing in a car seat until the infant is one years old and at least 20 pounds in weight and has good head control. Moreover, if your infant is 20 pounds before he turns one year old you should still have him rear-facing in his car seat. See the chart below.  The rear-facing position is the safest position for an infant.  If the one year oldis less than 20 pounds then the toddler should remain rear-facing in the car seat until he reaches at least 20 pounds.  It would be best to keep your child rear-facing until 22 pounds so you won’t have to worry if your child is less than 20 pounds on any given day.  This is important because after a child turns one the amount of growth in weight and height will be much slower than his first year of life.   The decline of excessive growth is a normal occurrence after one year of age. Because if our children grew like their first year of life each year they would be giants!

Remember to always read the information package that comes with your child’s car seat and secure the car seat per the manufacturer’s instructions.  Test for the security of the car seat by manually pushing the seat forward, backward, and side to side.  Remember the car seat should not move more than 1/2 inch in any direction.  If you want to confirm that your car seat is secure you can call your local police station and ask where you can have your car seat check to see if it is secured properly.  Most police station are trained to check car seats or if they are not they will know where you can have the car seat check for proper placement.  Remember it has been found that only1 in 10 car seats are properly secured in a car.

Each car seat may differ on how long a child is able to remain in that specific carrier so please read the manufacturer’s information that is provided with the car seat. Overall, each car seat has different abilities so please get a car seat that grows with your child or remember to update the car seat as your child grows.

Most children are not in boosters after they reach 40 pounds but they should be unless your automobile has seats that can adjust to the smaller frames of your child. The shoulder belt should fit across the shoulder and breastbone.  If it crosses the face and neck, use a belt-positioning booster seat to ensure that the belt is properly placed.  Do not hook the shoulder belt under the child’s arm.

Belt-positioning booster seats are for children weighing 40 to 80 pounds.  Secure the booster seat with a lap and shoulder restraint belt in the BACK seat of a car.  Remember children cannot be properly restrained with a lap-shoulder belt until they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall weighing 80 pounds can sit in a seat with their knees bent over the edge.  Always use a combination lap-shoulder belt to restrain children sitting in an automobile seat.

Remember all children 12 years old or younger should always ride in the BACK seat of any vehicle.

The information was acquired from my knowledge as a CPR instructor and from my text of the American Heart Association instructor’s manual of Basic Life Support published in 2000.  Remember if you go to your local police station they will have the latest updates on car seat safety.

When traveling by car, your baby’s safety is top priority. All fifty states have laws requiring that infants and toddlers ride in properly installed child safety seats. They should be installed in the rear seat of your car; rear facing for smaller children and front facing for bigger kids. Like many other children’s products, you should never use older car seats or buy them used.Several models made before 1981 are even subject to recall by the government. A car seat that has been in an accident should be destroyed and discarded immediately. There are commonly three types of child safety seats:

Whether you’re shopping for an infant, convertible or booster type, here are some things to consider when purchasing your new child safety seat:

  • Car seats get messy. Removable, machine washable padding, pad covers and canopies make life much easier.

  • Some seats recline for baby’s comfort and to encourage napping. Look for easy access levers or other adjustment devices.

  • A common feature is a separate base and removable seat. This means you don’t have to install the car seat every time you use it. It also makes clean up easier.

  • All buckles and adjustment devices should be kid proof, especially in convertible and booster seats for older children.

  • Many models are approved for airline use and some are even designed to rest securely in shopping carts.

  • Most infant seats have handles that rotate 360 degrees around the seat and allow the seat to double as a carrier. Padded handles and several locking positions are desirable for maximum comfort.

You can find many options in child safety seats today. Some have adjustable canopies. Others rock your baby to sleep with a cradling motion. Still others convert from a car seat, to a carrier, to a stroller. But remember that protection in an accident is the number one priority for child safety seats. Be sure the instructions are clear and easy to understand to ensure proper installation in your car. As with any child safety device, only buy car seats that meet or exceed current safety standards.

The following age and weight guidelines will help you choose the right car seat. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions foe exact figures.

  • Birth to 12 months (or 20 pounds): Use an infant or convertible seat facing towards the REAR of the car (backward).

  • 12 months (or 20 pounds) to 4 years (or 40 pounds): Use a convertible or toddler seat in the forward-facing position.

  • 4 years (or 40 pounds) to 8 years (or 0 pounds): Keep your child in a convertible or toddler seat as long as he or she will fit. When your child has outgrown the seat, use one of the following:
    If the car has a lap/shoulder belt in the rear seat, use a booster seat that positions the lap/shoulder belt alone if it fits properly. Secure the lap belt across the child’s hips. The shoulder belt should not cross the face or front of the neck.
    Use the rear lap/shoulder belt alone if it fits properly. It should not cross the face or neck or ride up across the stomach. the belt should fit across the child’s hips.
    If no rear lap/shoulder belt is available, use the shield-type booster seat restrained by the lap belt in the car.
    If no other type of restraint is available, use the lap belt. Position it low on the hips and adjust snugly.

  • 8 years and older (or 70 pounds and more): You can use the car’s protection system without a booster seat.