Car seats are an essential part of protecting your little one from serious injury or death in the event of a crash. They are typically purchased at birth or in the early months of life and can be used from rear-facing to forward-facing, depending on your child’s age and size.
The best seats for infants — and babies in general — are the ones that fit your child’s body correctly and are installed in a manner that protects her. In addition to the seat, your child may need a harness, which will also need to be positioned correctly in her body.
Some car safety seats, especially infant seats, have a tray shield that rises up over your baby’s head in the event of an accident. This can cause a serious collision or injure the baby’s neck, which is why it’s so important to get a seat that fits your child properly from birth.
For infants, car seats can be installed in a variety of ways: directly into the vehicle, via a base or with the use of a top tether, a device that attaches to the top of the seat in the car to hold it steady. You can choose from many different models and brands, so make sure to read the instructions carefully and follow them thoroughly.
Installing infant car seats is easy and requires no tools, but you must be sure that your child’s harness is properly positioned. The harness should be tight and the shoulder straps should lie flat in a straight line without sagging or twisting. The chest clip should be positioned at the child’s armpit level. Never place a blanket between the baby and the harness straps, as this can interfere with a secure fit and cause her to slip out of the seat in an accident.
Once your child has outgrown an infant seat, you will need to transition her to a convertible car seat, which can be installed rear-facing or forward-facing. Most convertible seats have a maximum weight and height limit for both the rear-facing and forward-facing positions, which usually occurs around your child’s first birthday.
The best convertible car seats will be designed to be compact and easy to install, with a front-adjust harness that can be used from birth to at least age 3 or 4. They will offer a high rear-facing weight and height limit, as well as an option for a forward-facing booster seat as your child grows.
Convertible seats can be installed in any vehicle that has a rear-facing or forward-facing seating position, so they are ideal for parents who travel frequently. They can also be moved between vehicles easily, allowing you to take your child with you when you need them.
Unlike infant and convertible seats, all-in-one seats don’t require a separate base or carrying handle. They also have higher rear-facing and forward-facing limits than infant or convertible seats, which can be helpful for larger children who will grow into them.