Baby’s First Car Seat: Choosing and Using

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a Graco My Ride 65 Convertible Car Seat!

There are so many things to think about when you’re expecting a new baby. Co-sleeping or crib? Breast or bottle? Pacifier or thumb? But one decision is vital to the safety of your little one: baby’s first car seat. You’ll need an infant car seat to bring your baby home from the hospital, and pretty much every day afterwards.

When you’re choosing an infant car seat, first you have to decide if you want to buy a carrier-type seat or a convertible seat.

Infant Car Seat Carrier

A carrier seat has a handle so that if your baby falls asleep on a car ride, you can carry your baby inside without waking her up. It often snaps in and out of a base in the car, so you don’t have to install it every time you want to go somewhere. Usually, you can buy this type of car seat in a set with a stroller (travel system) and the car seat will also snap into the stroller.

The convenience of an infant seat means that this is the type of seat many, many parents choose. A couple of drawbacks are 1. that they can get heavy to lug around as the baby grows. My workaround to this is that once the baby starts to get bigger, I just leave the car seat in the car most of the time. But I still have the option of popping the seat out if my baby is asleep and I need him to stay that way!

The other drawback to using an infant car seat carrier is that your baby may grow out of it relatively quickly. It is important to remember that car seats are rated by both weight of the child AND height. So even if you have a skinny baby (as I did) who is nowhere near the seat’s weight limit, your tall baby may be outgrowing his seat. Audrey outgrew her infant seat at four months! She was barely twelve pounds (limit was 20), but she was at the upper limit for her height. And if your baby outgrows the seat, you will have to buy a new one quickly.

But the good news is that many infant car seats made now have a higher weight AND height limit. The seat that we bought for Sydney (and then Joel used it, too) was good for children up to 30 pounds and 32 inches. Just make sure you carefully read the specifications for the seat you buy so your baby doesn’t grow out of it sooner than you’re aware.

Rear Facing Convertible Car Seat

The other option for infants is to buy a convertible car seat. These are seats that typically can accommodate children from about 5 pounds to 30ish pounds rear-facing, then can hold children up to about 40ish pounds forward facing. The good thing about buying this type of seat is that you only need to buy one for your child that will last through the toddler years and into preschool (depending on the seat and the size of your child).

The drawback of using a convertible car seat is that it is just not as convenient as an infant carrier car seat, in my opinion. But, in all likelihood, your child will be in a convertible seat at some point, so it might be more cost effective to just buy the one seat.

Infant Car Seat Installation and Safety

Once you have purchased your baby’s first car seat, it is time to put it in the car. I know you don’t want to, but you need to actually read the manual. Every car seat is different, and every car is different. You need to know exactly how your child’s car seat works to make sure your baby is as safe as possible.

In general, here are the tips that are the same for all car seats:

  • Either use the LATCH system OR use the vehicle seat belt to install the car seat, NOT both. Check your car’s manual to find out more about LATCH.
  • Make sure the seat is tight enough so it doesn’t move more than one inch side to side or front to back.
  • Once your child is in the seat, make sure the harness is tight around his body. A loose harness will not protect him nearly as well.
  • Use the car seat every time your child is in the car. If it is a routine to get buckled in, your child will get used to it.

I am always amazed at how many people I know that do not have their children’s car seats installed correctly. Please take the extra minute or two to be sure you have done it right.

(Car seat safety information comes from Safe Kids, USA. There are tons of resources on their site to keep your kids safe. Check them out!)

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a Graco My Ride 65 Convertible Car Seat!

Come back the rest of the week to read my series on car seat safety:
Monday: Why I’m a Car Seat Fanatic
Tuesday: Infant Car Seats
Wednesday: Tips for Toddler Car Seat Safety
Thursday: Car Seats for Preschoolers
Friday: Car Safety for Older Kids

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3 comments to Baby’s First Car Seat: Choosing and Using

  • stephanie anderson

    Liked on FB and shared on my personal and blog's pages!

  • Laurel

    We had an Eddie Bauer seat that we purchased as the convertible seat for our son after he outgrew the infant carrier. It was fine initially, but as he grew we realized the crotch belt was designed poorly. You could not adjust it, it was way too short for accommodating a child's growth. When we tried it for my daughter when she was his age, the same issue. The crotch belt design is important!!

  • Laurel

    Don't forget that most townships offer carseat installation. Or sometimes baby stores (small business) have employees that are certified to install them.

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