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How To Choose The Right Car Seat
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How to Choose the Right Car Seat

In choosing a car seat there is a lot to consider. What is safest? What has the best reviews? What brand do I go with? It can be very overwhelming for a parent to pick a car seat for their child so I have broken down the key parts to picking out an appropriate car seat to fit your child. Keep in mind: When choosing a car seat buy new and not used. You never know if a car seat was previously in a car accident, whether it is damaged, or doesn't contain all of the products it came with.

First comes first, How old is your child? How tall is he/she? How much does he/she weigh? These are the things that are going to determine whether you get an infant, convertible, 3-in-1, or booster car seat. I assume you are thinking, what is the difference between those three and how can I tell which car seat is the right fit for my child? See below:

Infant car seat: An infant car seat is a portable rear facing car seat that has a base that you install into your vehicle but can also detach the car seat from the base and click it into a stroller. It has a handle so you can also carry it. Parents view this early in the "A game" car seat a convenient choice for children under the age of one. Keep in mind that it is required by law that children are rear facing until they hit 20 pounds, and it is actually recommended that you leave your child rear facing as long as possible (at least until age 2) because in the case of a crash the forces are distributed equally among the backside of the car seat and child, posing less of a hazard to the child's neck which could snap in a severe crash when forward facing.

Convertible car seat: A convertible car seat is the next step up from an infant car seat. Convertible car seats can accommodate children from the minute they leave the hospital until they no longer need a car seat, although some convertible car seats accommodate children 20 pounds and up. It all depends on the brand and model of the car seat that determines what the minimum weight/height/age requirements are. A convertible car seat has a rear facing position as well as a forward facing position. Look for the highest weight capacity rear facing car seat as possible. A convertible car seat is directly installed into the car meaning it does not detach from a base, you can not carry it around like you can an infant car seat.

3-in-1 car seat: A 3-in-1 car seat is the only car seat your child will ever need. It has a weight capacity from 5lbs (sometimes higher) to 120lbs and goes through the three stages. It looks very similar to a convertible car seat except that it has more of an advantage and in the long run will save you money.

Booster: A booster seat is for older children who have outgrown their convertible car seat but are still too young, weigh too little, and are too short to sit in the car without some kind of restraint. A booster seat does exactly as its name says, it is meant to give kids a boost so that they can be properly lifted up to fit the adult seat belt. Check your state laws for determining what the minimum height, age and weight is for using a booster seat. (And always use your state laws as a minimum, you never actually have to switch to a booster as there are other options.)

Although I am not personally a supporter of booster seats because companies make convertible car seats that support children up to 85 pounds in a five-point harness, it is still an option and if parents are going to choose it then best to know how to properly use one. Booster seats are not attached to the car like an infant, convertible, or 3-in-1 is. They use an adult seat belt to keep your child in place.

When fitting your child to see if they are ready for a booster seat they must be able to sit with their knees over the edge of the booster seat, keep the seat belt on their lap (not across their abdomen), and keep the chest strap across their chest and shoulders, not over their face or neck. Also, it is important that your child is emotionally mature enough not to slouch, fall asleep leaning to the side, fool around, have the seat belt behind their back or under their arm etc. The problem with having a seat belt that is resting on the abdomen is that in a crash, the seat belt could crush all of a child's internal organs. The problem with having a seat belt across the face or neck is that the seat belt can cut a child's neck or face in a crash.

If you choose to buy a booster seat I would highly reccommend that you buy one from Britax with a latch system so it has the capability of being attached to the car and that it has the feature of a crotch strap that attaches to the seatbelt to prevent the seatbelt strap from going over the abdomen.

Side impact protection is something that is very important these days. Side impact protection protects the child's head and body, leaves a barrier between your child and the doors of the car, and distributes crash forces evenly. According to Britax, injuries are more severe in side impact crashes, they account for 1/4 of car accidents, 30% of fatalities are from side impact crashes, and those side air bags in the back and front seat are meant to protect adults, not children.

Another thing to look at is NHTSA ease of use ratings. NHTSA rates car seats using a method of how easy they are to use and install. Their 5 stars account for how easy it is to read the manual, install the car seat, use the car seat and how clear the car seat labels are.

On a semi side note, features are always a plus when choosing a car seat. Features like having a removable cover (for those accidents), reclining car seat (for cat naps and a perfect fit), A thin design (So you can easily fit three in a row), comfortable (soft cushiony seat), and if you like to travel it is nice to have a carseat certified for aircraft.


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