When to buy car seat during pregnancy
While you are pregnant and already planning for your delivery, there are lots of questions that would be on your mind and that is natural.
It is a beautiful thing to see your newborn soon enough and to see him ride in that comfy car safety seat right from the hospital the day you’re going home.
Of all the questions, ‘when to buy car seat during pregnancy?’ will come first before all other. I will be taking this first and then move on to how to choose a car seat for newborn as you read on.
This will be a comprehensive guide on basic questions pregnant and first time expectant moms usually ask.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), you are recommended to start planning to buy a car seat from as early as 3 weeks to your due date. This is to allow you enough time to install the seat correctly in your car and also learn how to fit your baby in the safety seat securely.
There are guides on on how to install a car seat (without base) and the safest place for a car seat. You must never install a car seat in the front passenger seat. Children below the age of 13 years must always ride in the back seat.
By safety standards, you are not allowed to take your newborn home without a car seat from the hospital, it is one of those essentials you must have.
Here is a curated list of the best infant car seats that have been extensively researched to cover every basic of how to choose a car seat for a newborn. The list is based on safety requirements, comfy, size, portability, maintenance, budget and more.
How to choose a car seat for newborn – 6 important notes to consider
Moving on, how can you choose a car seat for your newborn?
This can be the most overwhelming part as there is a ton of car seats models out there, though all are made to safety standards but there are personal factors you may consider to pick the right one for you, such as size, comfort, maintenance and even budget.
Now that brings us to which car seat to buy for newborn.
Primarily, here are the what to look out for in a car seat;
- LATCH system – LATCH is an acronym for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. It’s a special safety system that is present in some cars, and car seats, that allows for the seat to be held in place instead of a seat belt. It is more secure as it is specifically designed for a car seat to serve as anchors. However, if your car and the car seat you intend to buy doesn’t have the LATCH system, you can make do with the seat belt.
- Buckle lock – when you are in a store to buy a car seat, try locking and unlocking the buckle and also changing the lengths of the straps. This is to ensure more flexibility when using the car seat. In a case where you are reading a review on car seat models, make sure to look out for a mention on this.
- Manufacturer’s instruction – according to American Academy of Pediatrics, when following the required age period to use a car seat, you are also to follow the manufacturer’s limit for a seat and that includes the weight and height limits.
Also note, when you get the car seat of your choice you are to register it with the manufacturer using a card that comes with the safety seat.
You can also make the registration online with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/car-seats-and-booster-seats#registration
The reason why you need to register your car seat is to allow you get updates and recall notices in the event such happens.
After you may have tried installing your baby car seat following the guide on the manual or from other supportive resources, you are recommended to visit a car seat inspection station nearest to you to help you check that the car seat is installed correctly. They can further help you make the decision on the position to place the car seat.
You can find an inspection station close to you at https://www.safercar.gov/
Choosing a Car Seat for Newborn
Now let us go in to details on how to choose the right baby car seat for your newborn.
It is also important to learn that there are different types of car seat categorized based on age (infants, toddlers and school-aged children).
There’s the rear-facing car seat – this is what you need to start with and will use for the first 2 years of your baby’s life. You are to ONLY use a rear-facing seat type within these 2 years even if your baby outgrows the limit for the one he is using already.
The next type is the forward-facing car seat. This is used after the rear-facing type and is suited for toddlers and preschoolers.
The third type is the booster seat. When your child reaches the age of 8-12 years and a height of at least 4 feet 9 inches, they can use this.
The car seat belt can then be used when your child has grown big enough to fit properly under a seat belt. Say from 12 years above.
1. Car Seat Safety
This is the most important factor to note when making a choice on a car seat. The major reason you need a car seat in the first place is to ensure your baby’s safety while he rides with you.
Safety regulations varies from country to country and there are different safety standards established per state in a country also.
In the United States for example, there is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who set the rules and standards for highway safety to help prevent crashes. They are also responsible for setting standards for car safety seats.
It is interesting to know that before every car seat is sold in the U.S. they go through a crash test and assigned a safety rating score before been released in the market. You can check the Ease-of-Use ratings here (https://www.nhtsa.gov/ratings) and also use the car seat finder here.
Every car seats sold in the United States has a standard safety rating and you can be sure this factor is ticked off your list as ‘okay.’
While in the UK, the age requirements are similar. The UK makes use of EU regulations. More here.
In Canada, Transport Canada is responsible for conducting crash tests to assess safety of car seats. They are responsible for safety car seat regulation in Canada.
2. Size, Height and Weight
While this is another aspect to look into in making your choice for a car seat, it is not in itself expressive as you can’t determine that yet till your baby begins to grow.
However, it is important to know the flexibility different car seat manufacturers offers in terms of limit when it comes to weight and height.
Weight and height limit is set according to manufacturers to let you know at what limit your baby is to stop using the present safety seat and move to the next type appropriate for their size.
But even before this, there is the possibility of having a preemie (premature birth). In this case, your baby may weigh less than 6.5 lbs. For this weight, you need to make sure that the baby seat comes with a feature that helps to make up for space (newborn insert) and keep your baby firm and tight.
As your child grows, they exceed the manufacturer’s limit for a car seat according to the type of baby seat.
Some details on weight, and height:
Rear-facing car seat: – age: 0 – 2 years or more; weight: up to 40 lbs. or more.
Forward-facing car seat with harness: – age: 4 – 8 years; weight: up to 60 lbs. or more.
Booster seat: – belt-positioning booster seat: – age: 8 – 12 years
3. Compatibility and Portability – Choosing Between Convertible Car Seat and Infant Car Seat
This is one point that makes this whole planning overwhelming sometimes, but here’s a straightforward comparison to help you make a quick decision.
Infant Car Seat
- It is smaller in size – weight range of 22 – 35 lbs. and height of 26 – 35 in.
- More convenient to carry as it comes with carrying handles.
- Have a separate base that can be fixed in your car while you detach the safety seat anytime
Convertible Car Seat
- It can be used as a rear-facing car seat and later converted to a forward-facing hence the name.
- It allows for a higher weight and height limits (up to 40 – 50 lbs.) meaning your child can use it longer.
- However, it is bulkier and doesn’t come with carrying handle or a separate base.
- It has a 5-point harness strap system that attaches at the shoulders. Hips and between the legs.
Overall, the convertible seems to take the win but remember you need to consider your convenience and your baby’s comfort now and then.
An infant seat offers you more flexibility. You will need to visit the hospital regularly and move your baby often between the car and a stroller (which the infant seat offers such compatibility) and then to the hospital or your home.
On the other hand, the convertible saves you on cost as you only buy one seat.
However, giving my take, I’ll recommend the infant car seat as this gives you the most flexibility and comfort you need for your baby and yours truly.
This guide on Car Seat and Stroller Compatibility Guide will help you choose the perfect combination for your comfort. Cheers!
However, if you will ever be going for a convertible car seat, this guide will help you in choosing a convertible car seat.
Argh! I sigh!
Yeah, comfort is delicate and precious. And it even extends to you. When your baby cries it discomforts you, more so the baby is already discomforted.
But before we delve into that, remember highlighting on comfort earlier, under convertible car seat vs infant car seat. Well, I recommended the infant car seat as that gives you and your baby more comfort and flexibility in terms of carriage.
But how about material and brand?
You do want an infant seat that caters for extra padding to give your baby good comfy spot, and breathable material to enhance further comfort as well,
After several in-depth research to different brands and from customer feedbacks, I found the UPPAbaby MESA to be the best car seat in this category.
Oh, how sweet!
Remember, at the thought of when to buy car seat during pregnancy came up from the beginning, the response according to ACOG was at least 3 weeks to your due date to give you enough time to install the seat correctly.
There are different models of car seat and of course different difficulty level, however, all car seat manufacturers make it easier with the help of a guide. And even with the internet at your fingertips you can get it done at an instant.
Ease of installation of a car seat is a factor you should consider in choosing a car seat.
Some cars have a LATCH system that allows for car seats to be installed easily with the anchors. While some cars may not have the anchors, you’ll need to check yours. You can still install a car seat with the seat belt.
Another thing you may need to learn is how to install a car seat without base since you may need to go out in another car, say an uber or a cab. This guide can come handy.
You want your baby to be in a clean environment at all times and that is the beginning of healthy living for him.
But how easily is it to get out stain and maintain a clean car seat always?
Stains are inevitable and is a common thing that must happen.
You want to consider a car seat that comes with a seat cover that is easy to remove and is machine washable.