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Baby car seats are designed with travel safety for your child in mind. The baby’s age, height, weight, type of car etc. determine the type of car seat that you need to buy. It is also important to focus on your individual needs such as whether you want to remove it easily or not. A baby car seat is a long-term investment and you will use it on a regular basis, it is hence quintessential to make an informed decision. You must check the compatibility with your vehicle as well. When you install the seat, look up the manufacturer instructions and your vehicle instructions beforehand to ensure compatibility and proper installation.
Here are the different types of group 1 car seats available in the market, so that you can make the right choice:
Infant Car seat: As the name suggests, an infant car seat is suited for newborns and infants. The age specification is usually from birth to two years or when the child outgrows the height and weight specifications. The child will need to upgrade to another seat once he/she outgrows the infant seat. You must not install the infant seats in the front seat. In the back seat, they should be placed in a rear-facing position.
The infant car seat can also be used as an infant carrier or carry bed. They can either be strapped directly into the car onto a base that permanently stays in the car. If you use more than one car, multiple bases can be bought and left installed in the cars.
The growth rate of your child determines how long the infant car seat lasts you. It mostly goes up to 24 months. However, every child is different and some children outgrow the car seat earlier than the others. After they outgrow, there are other options for older infants and toddlers.
You may get a new car seat but that doesn’t mean you would place it front facing. Rear-facing position of the seat is recommended as long as possible. The recommendations state that till 3 or above, the babies must be in the rear facing position. Premature infants will need a car bed before moving to an infant car seat based on their size and weight.
While reusing is good, you must use a car seat from another child only when you are sure that it has been stored properly and was never in an accident. Also, car seats come with expiration dates that you must keep in mind.
Convertible Car Seat
Convertible car seats are more versatile as they can be used from birth till the child outgrows. This ensures a better return on investment. These convertible car seats can be used either in forward facing or back facing position based on the weight and size of the child. It is however advisable that up to 3 years, the child be put rear facing. Only after 3 years, it is recommended to put the child forward facing.
The disadvantages of convertible car seats are that they cannot be taken here and there and also cannot be used as an infant carrier. They do not come with universal detachable bases and hence cannot be moved across cars. While the bulk of these seats, assures a safer and better sitting for the baby, some caregivers find them too bulky for smaller infants.
The all-in-one baby car seats look similar to the convertible models but they can work as a booster as well. The positive is that it is a one-time investment. It grows as the baby grows and doesn’t need to be replaced. It transitions from rear facing to front facing and becomes a booster once the baby is old enough to buckle the seatbelt.
You must use the booster seat in front facing position and the minimum weight requirement varies per model. It starts at 30-40 pounds. The best part is that the booster can be used until the child doesn’t need the car seat anymore. The laws pertaining to infant car seats are different for each country, it is hence important to go by manufacturer indications of weight and size.
Every booster is different. It can either have its own seat belt or harness or can work with the belt available in the car. The choice will depend on the height of the child and their comfort. It is a good idea to try the car seat with the child first before buying it.
The current recommendations mandate the use of car seats till 4 feet 9 inches of height. This height is attained between 8-12 years of age. The child is permitted to ride in the rear seat only post 13 years of age. Below are some recommendations based on the age of the child, that can help you choose the right car seat
Birth-2 years: A rear-facing car seat is ideal for this period. The weight of the child must fall within the recommended manufacturer range for the child.
2-4 years when the baby is under 40 pounds:A convertible car seat is a good idea in order to maintain a rear-facing position as long as possible. You can also opt for a toddler seat that is a front-facing safety seat model.
Age 4 to 8 OR up to 4 feet 9 inches tall: A booster seat with the option for belt positioning is ideal. Remember that this should be done only in the rear seat.
After age 8 AND/OR 4 feet 9 inches tall: Based on the height of your child you can choose to use the booster seat or no. Position the baby using seat belts. This is only after the adult belts start fitting properly. Before that a booster is quintessential. To know if the adult seat belt fits appropriately, check how the lap belt and shoulder belt fit on the child. The lap belt should be positioned on the upper thighs and not the stomach and the shoulder belt should come on the chest. It can pose a strangulation hazard, if on the neck.