Car seats are an essential item for parents and caregivers of little ones. Not only are they required by law, but they provide crucial protection for young passengers in the unfortunate event of a car accident. No parent ever wants to think about those what-ifs, but choosing the best car seat or booster seat for your kids can give you peace of mind and ease some of your worries.
It’s important to remember: all car seats are not created equal! The needs of a newborn baby coming home from the hospital differ greatly from those of a four-year-old going to soccer practice, and your car seat should reflect that. The safety of your family is serious business, so there are many details to consider!
What Kind of Car Seat Do I Need?
There are three main types of car seats, each designed for a different stage of life to protect little ones and keep them comfortable during travel.
The 3 types are:
- Infant car seat
- Convertible car seat
- Booster seat
Infant Car Seats for Your Littlest Passengers
Infant car seats are specifically designed for newborns and infants up to 12 months old, given that they are within the weight and height restrictions. They are rear-facing only and offer the best protection for young babies. Infant car seats use a five-point harness system to ensure baby is safe from all angles. Many infant car seats also have inserts for newborns and premature babies.
Oftentimes, infant car seats have carriers that are detachable from the base, making it convenient for parents to carry little ones without disturbing them. For those early days with little to no sleep, the last thing parents want to do is wake a peacefully sleeping baby!
Convertible Car Seats to Last for Years
Convertible car seats can also be used from birth, but they are also great for kids up to age four or even longer, depending on the conversion type. Convertible car seats can be installed both rear-facing and forward-facing, so they are ready to grow with your child.
Most convertible car seats also have a five-point harness system, but they have more options for growth and can accommodate higher weight and height limits. A convertible car seat is a fantastic option for parents looking for a single solution rather than replacing the car seat when their baby outgrows it.
Booster Seats for Big Kids
Booster seats are designed for children that have outgrown a traditional car seat but aren’t quite tall enough to be safe in a regular seatbelt. Booster seats are designed to lift the child to a position where the seat belt is at an appropriate place on their chest and hips.
Booster seats are available with and without backrests. Backless booster seats are cheaper and more portable, making them a good option for families that need to move seats around regularly. Most children are in booster seats for years, so choosing a high-quality one is imperative!
Choosing the Right Infant Car Seat
Becoming a new parent is perhaps one of the most exciting yet daunting things many people experience in their lifetime. You are faced with what feels like a million decisions at once, like what kind of sleep sack to use, whether to babywear, and even what type of play you should incorporate into your routine.
Choosing which infant car seat to purchase is no different, but we’re here to help!
Some of the key factors you should consider when researching infant car seats are:
- Safety features
- Height and weight limits
- Vehicle compatibility
Ensuring Infant Car Seat Safety
The safety of your little one is the top priority when selecting an infant car seat. Look for options that meet the safety standards set by organizations like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the American Academy of Pediatrics. Both organizations have strict requirements that ensure infant car seats sold in stores must be safe.
Infant Car Seat Height and Weight Limits
It’s important to pay attention to the height and weight limits of your infant car seat, even before your baby comes home from the hospital. Some infant car seats have weight requirements for little babies and cannot accommodate premature infants without an additional piece or at all. If your baby is under the seven-pound mark, make sure to read up before leaving the hospital!
Some infant car seats have a weight limit of 35 pounds, while others can accommodate babies up to 50 pounds. Once your little one starts to get a little taller, make sure that your baby’s head is at least an inch below the top of the car seat to ensure optimal safety.
Your Child’s Comfort
Babies will spend many hours in their infant car seat, especially if your family is into traveling! Look for options like padded inserts, adjustable headrests, and multiple recline positions to keep your baby comfortable during a long car ride. Many infant car seats have accessories that are made especially for their brand; those accessories are great options because you know they are safety-approved for that particular seat!
Infant Car Seat and Vehicle Compatibility
Obviously, your car seat needs to be compatible with your vehicle; otherwise, it’s not very useful! The good news is if your car is a model year 2003 or newer, federal regulation requires the use of the LATCH system.
The LATCH system, or Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, is a set of special anchors that are preinstalled in your car, usually hidden under the seatback a bit. Straps and hooks on the car seat are built-in to maintain vehicle compatibility. This ensures that even if you switch cars often, compatibility is almost always guaranteed!
Infant Car Seats are Worth the Cost
Kids are expensive! Though infant car seats can seem like they come with a hefty price tag, you must consider what you’re getting with your money. Car seats are federal requirements, will be used by your baby for years, and will keep little ones safe should any dangerous situations arise. Setting a budget for shopping is a great place to start when deciding on an infant car seat.
Our Favorite Convertible Car Seats
All of the above is true when researching and selecting a convertible car seat, but with just a little bit more information. Since the seat will grow with your little one well into their childhood, it’s important to consider what you’re looking for in a convertible car seat.
3 of our favorite convertible car seats are:
- UPPAbaby KNOX Convertible Car Seat
- Clek Fllo Convertible Car Seat
- Cybex Sirona S Convertible Car Seat
KNOX Convertible Car Seat from UPPAbaby
UPPAbaby is one of the most recognizable names in baby gear, and for a good reason! This KNOX convertible car seat easily adapts and has easy-to-read measures to ensure correct installation, making it a breeze for parents! Its safety features are top-of-the-line to protect from 14 to 65 lbs. (well into childhood). This sleek convertible car seat comes in classic white and black, so it will match any car’s interior.
Riding in Fashion with the Clek Fllo Convertible Car Seat
This convertible car seat boasts extended rear-facing use to follow best practices and can rear-face up to 50 pounds. Additionally, the steel anti-rebound bar absorbs energy to not only protect the head in a crash but ensure a smooth ride for your little one. This convertible car seat comes in tons of bright, flashy colors, so it can reflect your child’s bright and bold personality!
Get Tech Savvy with the Cybex Sirona S Convertible Car Seat
The Cybex Sirona S with sensor safe is an exceptional convertible car seat with an exciting feature: it links to your smartphone! If anything happens to the harness while you’re driving, you will get an alert. So, if your little one is suddenly able to unbuckle their harness, you don’t have to worry about not knowing. This seat also features a load leg, which reduces impact during a crash and can help keep your child safe and sound.
Finding a Great Booster Seat
So, you’ve finally made it to the big kid years, and you have found yourself needing a booster seat! Booster seats are the car seat option for big kids and will be important well into their childhood. Some kids are in booster seats until around age 12, depending on weight and size. There are tons of benefits to finally moving up to a booster seat.
Booster seats are more portable, easily interchangeable, and often come with a smaller price tag than other car seats. Booster seats like this Clek Olli Booster Seat are nice and compact and come with a detachable backrest, so you’ll be able to use it for many years! The Clek Olli Booster Seat also comes in adorable colors, so your little one can help pick it out and make it so much more special!
Another favorite booster seat is the UPPAbaby ALTA Booster Seat. This booster seat has seven positions to grow with your child, and its spacious design ensures they will be comfortable, even on long rides. One of the biggest reasons we love this booster seat is because the seat fabrics are easily removable and washable, which is a huge win for those big messes!
What are Car Seat and Stroller Travel Systems?
Baby transportation is important for parents who want to maintain their on-the-go lifestyles. Fortunately, many infant car seats are also part of travel systems, which is another great thing to consider when looking at car seat options. Travel systems offer all-in-one systems for car seats and strollers, making adventures much more accessible for parents.
One of our favorite travel systems is the UPPAbaby VISTA V2 Stroller and MESA Car Seat. The MESA car seat easily clicks in and out of the base and stroller, so there’s no fuss when getting in and out of the car. Another reason we love this system is the bassinet attachment; it can be attached to the stroller and ensures you always have a comfortable, safe sleep option for baby on the go.
Another unique and popular travel system is the Doona Infant Car Seat and Stroller with Base. This travel system is the first of its kind; the wheels of the stroller are permanently attached to the car seat and unfold with the click of a button. This is the ultimate convenience item for busy parents!
Car Seat Safety Tips
Car seat safety is one of the most important things to learn about in early parenthood. We have a few easy tips, but always read the manufacturer’s manual for your car seat and follow all regulations.
First and foremost, your child should be in a rear-facing car seat position as long as possible; backward-facing is the safest place to be! A rear-facing seat, which can be found in infant and convertible car seats will absorb more energy in a crash and protects your child’s head and neck. It may seem like your little one doesn’t have enough legroom, but there is no evidence to support that legs and feet are at increased risk for injury in a rear-facing seat.
Car Seat Harness Position and Fit
Finding the right fit for the harness in convertible and infant car seats can be tricky. Shoulder straps should fall at or just below the child’s shoulders on rear-facing seats and at or just above the shoulders on forward-facing seats. Crotch buckles should be as close to the child as possible without being underneath them. Finally, always make sure chest clips are at armpit-level.
Harness straps should fit nice and snug. You should not be able to pinch any slack in the straps, but you should be able to fit two fingers flat beneath the shoulder straps. In cold weather, avoid bulky clothing under harnesses and opt for a cute blanket instead!
If you are unsure about car seat safety and the fit of your seat, look up car seat experts in your area. Oftentimes you can visit a local fire or police station, and a certified expert will help you out.
Buy Car Seats With Confidence
Buying a car seat or booster seat for your child can be tricky and confusing. Fortunately, Hazel & Fawn is committed to providing only the highest quality boosters and car seats for your little one. When you purchase from us, you can rest knowing your child is using a product that is safe, effective, and stylish.