Baby Car Seat Buyers Guide for New Parents or Those Buying a Baby Gift

The proper baby car seat is essential for protecting your precious child. Every year, car crashes kill more children than all childhood diseases combined. While this gives you a good reason to make sure that everyone gets into the habit of strapping up before you start the car, it is especially crucial to make sure that the most vulnerable person in your family—the baby—is safely secured in a baby car seat that is properly installed.

Whether you are buying a car seat for your child or selecting one as a baby gift, there are certain things you need to know before making your purchase.

The Baby Car Seat

When a newborn leaves the hospital, parents must have an infant car seat installed. Babies who weigh less than twenty pounds (and all newborns do) must have a rear facing baby car seat. Infant car seats are available in a three point or five point harness system.

Many infant car seats are part of a larger system that include a stroller, infant carrier and a base. The base is installed in the car (make sure it is installed properly) and the carrier snaps into the base. When the parent arrives at their destination, the carrier snaps out of the base and into the stroller. This type of system is convenient because it allows the parent to transport a sleeping infant from car to stroller and back without waking him. When my children were babies, I loved the convenience of this system.

baby car seat

A child has outgrown a rear facing baby car seat when he weighs more than twenty pounds (the limit is twenty-two pounds with some car seats) and/or the top of his head is less than one inch from the top of the car seat.

The Convertible Car Seat

An option that many parents or baby gift buyers might want to consider is a convertible car seat. A convertible car seat can be used rear or forward facing, so it grows with baby and as such, is an economical buy. Convertible car seats have three different harness systems available: tray shield, t-shield or the safest of all: the five-point harness system. Make sure to use the convertible car seat in the rear-facing position, until your child reaches the weight limit and then convert the seat to the front-facing position. Make sure to read the instruction book so you will know when your child has reached the limits that indicate he has outgrown the seat. This is paramount to your child's safety.

The Combination Toddler Car Seat

A combination car seat is one that faces forward and then converts into a booster seat when your child outgrows thecar seat. The combination car seat usually has a 5 point harness, but the booster seat uses your car's safety belt to secure the child. Don't confuse a combination car seat with a convertible seat—a combination car seat is for toddlers, not for infants because it cannot be used as a rear-facing seat.

Booster Seat

When your child is ready to use a booster seat (child reaches the weight or height limit or other limits specified in the toddler car seat instruction book), you use the lap and shoulder harness of your vehicle to secure the child in the seat because a booster seat does not have a harness of its own. The booster seat positions the child higher on the seat so the seat belt fits him securely.

When selecting a child car seat, consider the needs of your family. If budget is an issue, you may want to start with a convertible car seat, then move to a combination car seat. If convenience is important and you plan to run a lot of errands with your infant, the infant car seat that includes a base, a carrier and a stroller is an excellent buy. Once your child outgrows this system, you can purchase a combination seat or a regular car seat and then a booster. Above all, make safety your biggest consideration.

Since motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of children, do your homework before buying a baby car seat. Make sure you read the instruction manual that comes with your baby car seat. Make note of the indications that your child is outgrowing the seat and plan ahead. Double check that the car seat is installed properly. If you are buying a car seat as a baby gift, use the information in this article to get your friend, relative or colleague the best that money can buy.

Our favorite Baby Car Seat shopping site allows you to make comparisons and choose the best possible infant or toddler car seat. Free shipping for orders over $79.99.

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