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What To Look for in a Child Safety Seat
Oh my God, you’re going to have a baby! So now you have to start shopping because babies need a lot of stuff. Before you go crazy deciding on dresses and cell phones and wallpaper borders, there’s something you need to put at the top of your list: child safety seat.
Why should this be at the top? Well, because among other things, you will need to bring your baby home from the hospital and by law every child up to 18 months must be properly restrained in a child car seat.
Yes, a child car seat is so important: the safety and comfort of your child depends on it. And you will use it a lot. This is a purchase that deserves some time and thought. It is an investment.
So what exactly do you need to look for in this investment? How do you decide among the thousands which safety seat is right for your child? Well, take a deep breath (you don’t want to rush this decision) and check out the tips below. (Note: To make them easy to remember, these tips are arranged to spell something that small children sometimes like to do: PESTER.)
P is for Price
There is not too much to say about price. You’ll find child safety seats in a wide range of prices, but remember: This is a significant investment. First find the seat with the right specifications, then look for the best price for a seat that meets them.
Think you could save money with a second-hand car seat? You may want to reconsider because, basically, they may be a bad idea.
A used child car seat may have invisible damage that affects its performance. It’s probably missing its instructions (How do you hook this thing up?). And depending on its age, it may not be up to current standards. Unless you know the history of the car seat, keep looking.
One feature you may want to consider when looking at prices is convertibility. Some “convertible” car seats can be used for a wider range of weights and heights, and will work for infants. and little children You will buy one seat instead of two.
E is for Easy to Use
As mentioned, an infant car seat gets a lot of use. You want that use to be as easy as possible.
- Is the chair easy to install?
- You have to take it into the car before you can use it, and if the seat isn’t installed correctly, your child may not be properly restrained. If other people are going to install the seat, there is an even greater need for easy installation.
- Where will you use the car seat?
- Will you be taking the seat in and out of the car often? If so, weight is a consideration.
- Is the seat easy to carry?
- Model handles and weights vary.
S is for Suitable
Car seats are not always a one-size-fits-all proposition. Is the safety seat you are considering right for your car?
- Does it fit in your car. Does it fit in other cars you might need to use it in? (Note: You can call the manufacturer to verify this.)
- It is difficult to use the tether installation methods in some cars. Is yours one of them?
- Are the seats angled so you can level the child’s car seat?
- Does the bottom of the safety seat fit well on the car seat?
- Does the rear seat have enough clearance for rear-facing seats.
- Does the rear seat have enough legroom for forward facing seats. (Or will your child kick the back of your chair?)
Is the seat suitable for your child?
- Check the seat specification for age, weight and height. Will the seat “grow” with your child.
- Is the seat comfortable? Is it well padded? Is there protection for metal parts that could heat up in the sun?
- Does the seat recline. (If you’re planting for long trips, this is a must.)
- Is the harness quick and easy to attach and detach? Is it too easy to detach, ie can your child untie it?
T is for Type
There are three basic types of child car seats:
- Baby seats – These are for babies (usually 5 t0 20 pounds). Some have a handle and can be snapped out of the car and into a frame or cart, and some come with removable bases that you leave in the car for easy installation. You can even find some of these attached to strollers in “travel systems. The choices are mostly personal preferences, but make sure you angle these seats correctly (45 degrees) to protect your baby.
- Convertible seats – These can be used as both rear-facing and forward-facing seats, so they work with babies and toddlers. Some of the newer ones are designed for heavier weights than in the past and can be used with children up to 70 pounds.
- Booster seats – These are for toddlers at least 3 years old and at least 40 pounds. If you’re considering one of these, note that the AAP recommends that every child under 40 pounds ride in a regular front-facing or convertible car seat. and that no one I’ve found recommends shields.
E is for Easy Clean
You know how babies are. Make sure any car seat you get is easy to clean, preferably with a removable, washable cover.
R is for Return
There are many things to look for and consider when buying an infant car seat. If you want the biggest selection (and the best prices), you’ll probably want to shop online. It is easy, safe and convenient.
Just make sure you buy from a seller with a good return policy. A quality child seat is an investment, and even though you’ve done your homework, you just never know. Additionally, sellers with solid return policies tend to provide quality merchandise that they stand by.
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