Up today– Car seats.
If you have children, you have used one. If you are a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or friend, you have probably used one. Even if you don’t have children now, but plan on having one or twelve in the future, you will use a car seat.
A quick run-down for you newbies:
Infant Only: Rear facing, usually for babies 5-20 lbs (approx), one year old. Most now come with a base that stays in your car, and the seat snaps into place.
Convertible: Can be buckled in rear or forward facing. 5-25 (ish) lbs for rear facing, all the way up to 50 lbs for forward facing. Stays in car. Some pricier models also convert to a booster seat
Booster: There are two types, a high back seat, and one that has no back. Both are typically a smaller seat used primarily for children that have outgrown their car seat. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, American Academy of Pediatrics, and other organizations now recommend (and most state laws require) a child ride in a booster seat until at least the age of 8, and 4’9″ tall. These usually have seat belt positioning loops & hooks as opposed to having it’s own harness system.
In order: infant, convertible, high & no back booster.
There are a billion different brand names that car seats come from. The most popular are Graco, Evenflo, Britax, Cosco, and Chicco. The prices vary drastically through out the types & brands of seats.
For today’s post, I’m focusing on infant seats.
In my experience, the average price for an infant-only seat is $75-100, however Amazon.com has a Graco seat listed for $299, and the Evenflo Discovery seat listed for only $59. (HERE) All car seats are regulated by government standards, and more expensive isn’t necessarily always better. Be sure you buy (or try if you plan to purchase online) at a store where you can test out all the features, including how easy to use the base feature is.
According to babycenter.com (HERE), a person looking to purchase an infant seat should check for these things:
• Easy installation: If it looks as if you’d need an engineering degree to install a certain seat in your car, keep shopping. If you don’t install the seat correctly, the baby may not be properly restrained — buckling in your child is not enough. Next, look for a seat with a base that you can permanently install in your car. Then all you need to do is settle the seat securely into the base, buckle up your child, and go. Some infant seats need to be refitted after each use. The last thing you want is to have to make adjustments every time you drive somewhere — you’ll be hassled and your child’s safety could be compromised.
• Adequate restraints: Look for an infant seat with a five-point safety harness. The straps — one for each shoulder, one for each thigh, and one between your baby’s legs — are more adjustable (and thus safer) for an infant than plastic shields or T-bar restraints, which may be found in used seats. (Note: For safety reasons, we don’t recommend buying used seats.)
• Belt adjustments: Avoid seats that require you to adjust the buckle from the back of the seat. The better car seats allow you to make adjustments from the front and have raised belt slots for buckling ease. A few models even adjust automatically.
• Tethers: Beginning September 2002, all new child safety seats and vehicles must be compatible with the LATCH system, short for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. This system is designed to make installation of a car seat easier and safer by attaching it directly to the vehicle instead of using the seat belt to secure it. Rear-facing infant car seats will be required to have the lower anchors only. Convertible infant/toddler car seats (those that can face front or rear) and front-facing toddler seats will be required to have both the upper and lower attachments.
• Washability: Babies and messes go hand in hand. But some manufacturers ignore this universal truth, and a surprising number of car seats come with pad covers you can’t take off. Be smart: Buy one with a machine-washable detachable cover.
• Comfort: Your baby will have a better ride if you buy a well-padded seat with plenty of head support.
That being said, we bought a really inexpensive seat for our baby & were not happy with it whatsoever. The padding was thin, and when you placed your hand on the back, you could feel where the safety foam stopped, leaving a line/bump smack in the middle of his back. The seat was hard to get into the base. The fabric was worn after only a few months. And the sunshade on it was useless, always pulling forward.
Also, what this article doesn’t mention is the weight limit variations from seat to seat. Let’s say that you are 7 months along. Or maybe you had your baby a bit early (more on preemie seats later) and need to get a seat to bring baby home. While shopping, you think that it makes the most sense to get a seat with the highest weight limit that you can, to avoid having to purchase multiple seats.
Please, PLEASE heed my advice here. It really does seem like a great plan, in theory. However, in practice, your back will be KILLING you if you try to lug around a 20+ pound child in a 10lb seat. Our son reached 21 lbs at 6 months of age. There was no way to carry him without me (5’4″, average build) falling over. I literally couldn’t lift him in or out of the car, or a shopping cart. Unless you are a champion weight lifter, you probably won’t have a very easy time lifting 30 pounds of baby, either. And while you obviously can’t predict how much your child will weigh in a few months, please don’t base your car seat choice only on weight.
In my personal experience with carseats, I have used:
Child 1: Evenflo (model discontinued). It was cheap, and it showed. The handle stopped locking into place after 5 months of use.
Child 2: SafetyFirst brand, mid-range price, lasted until she was 8 months old, and she had reached the weight limit. It was ok, no bells & whistles, but it worked well.
Children 3 & 4: Graco Snugride. I LOVED this seat. I still love it. I can’t believe I gave it away after #4 was done with it. It held up through two children who used it a total of 27 months altogether. It washed well, it was easy to use, and seemed comfortable. (For the life of me, I don’t know why I didn’t get another for #5!)
Child #5: Evenflo Discovery. We liked the pattern on this seat (animal alphabet) and thought the ‘Z’ handle was pretty cool. The weight range was good, it had a base, and we grabbed it. Sigh. I hate to bash a product, but this is THE WORST car seat I have ever used. This review on walmart.com says it all:
-The harness straps are difficult to tighten in the back.
-The base has no adjustable foot, so in order to get the correct recline angle in the car, you will most likely need to use a rolled towel in the bight of the vehicle seat, under the base….not the easiest of tasks.
-The harness/chest clip is HUGE and hits small babies in the chin. Poor design.
-And the absolute worst feature? Adjusting the HEIGHT of the harness straps (something that most reviewers haven’t attempted yet when they write their stellar reviews). In order to change the harness height on this seat, you have to turn it upside down, pop a brass clip out of bottom, feed it through a small plastic hole at the hip, and then feed the buckle tong, harness strap, and chest clip through the harness hole the back of the seat (it barely fits). And then you have to do it in reverse to get it in the next slot. Oh, and did I mention you have to do this 2x’s? Once for the left strap and once for the right. You’re pretty much guaranteed to finish with ripped cuticles and broken fingernails.
Do yourself and your baby a favor and avoid this seat! Look for a car seat with a splitter plate in the rear of the seat for the harness. It will make adjustments so much easier.
Think of this Evenflo seat like back-laboring for 24 hours with a 10 pound baby and no pain relief.
Before heading out to shop, check the major retailer websites (walmart, target, toys/babies r us, amazon) for actual customer reviews. It’s really difficult to get a feeling for a seat, and reading other consumers reviews will help you see the positive & negatives of each seat.
On a side note, Britax is a bit more expensive than the average price, but well worth it. They are the Volvo of car seats, with amazing reviews, safety ratings, and features. More on that next Monday.
One last thing– Please, PLEASE do NOT buy a seat just because it matches with your pattern & theme! Worst mistake you can make. READ the safety features. Look up reviews & recalls. Do your homework before purchasing a car seat!
For parents of preemies–
As I’m sure you know if you have a preemie, they do make special infant beds for babies who are well enough to head home, yet too small to fit safely into a seat, typically those under 5lbs. Please find the Consumer Reports article HERE. I can’t offer a first hand opinion on infant beds, as my 33 weeker still weighed almost 6lbs. Hopefully the article will help!
Next Monday, convertible seats!