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Car Seat Buying Guide For Babies And Toddlers
Types of Car Seat
The car seat you buy will depend on your child’s height, weight and age. Your baby will go through different stages that require different types of car seats. Don’t trade up to the next stage too quickly. It’s important to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat as long as you can.
When you start, you have the option of putting your newborn in a convertible car seat or a dedicated infant seat. Although convertible types can be forward facing as well as rear facing and will hold your baby until he or she is two years old, the infant car seat is a much safer and more comfortable option.
Child Car Seat
The best and safest type of car seat for newborns is a rear-facing infant car seat. They are convenient with an easy-to-use carrier that is removable and mounts on a base that stays in the car. When it’s time to get out of the car, you just click and take the seat with baby in it. You can also buy additional bases if needed.
All babies must use a rear seat until they are two years old or have reached the height and weight limit of whatever seat you are using. Weight ranges for infant car seats can start at 4 pounds and go up to a maximum of 35 pounds. Child seats are equipped with five-point harnesses, which offer good safety for your baby and can only be used in a rear-facing position, which is much safer in the event of a crash. The seat should also be adjusted to recline at a 35 to 45 degree angle.
You can install some seats without the base, but the installation is not as secure and often lowers the weight limit of the seat. Buying a stroller drive system which includes the car seat, stroller and base is also an option.
This is a good way to save money if you plan to buy a stroller as well as a car seat.
Convertible Car Seat
Similar to the baby model, this type has a five-point harness system and is rear-facing, but also has the option of being forward-facing, hence the name convertible.
Some convertible models can accommodate a baby from birth to 45 pounds. There are some companies offering convertible models for toddlers weighing up to 80 pounds and an allowable height of 19″ minimum to 53″ maximum.
A convertible car seat will allow you to switch from a rear-facing position to a forward-facing one as your child grows into the toddler range. Although this can save you money, this type of seat does not offer the same convenience or fit of an infant car seat. They are also not stroller compatible, which is inconvenient if you often take your baby in and out of the car.
All-In-One Car Seat
An all-in-one seat has all the same features of a convertible seat. It can be forward or backward and has a five-point harness system. However, this type can be used, after removing the harness, as a belt positioned booster seat. As the name implies, this seat is designed to meet all your car seat needs from birth to the time you transition your child into a booster seat. The benefits of an all-in-one seat are higher rear weight limits (up to 40 lbs) and a longer seat. The increased length makes it easier to keep your baby in a rear-facing position for a longer time without having to worry about the weight restriction.
The front weight limit of this type of seat is 50 to 65 pounds while still using the five-point harness. This allows toddlers to utilize the five-point harness system, which is a much safer and more preferred method than your vehicle’s 3-point seat belt system. An all-in-one will definitely save you money because it could be your child’s only car seat. The larger size allows your child to stay rear-facing and safe for longer, but it may not work as well for a newborn as an infant car seat.
Child Booster Combination Car Seat
This model is designed for use as a forward-facing seat only. These seats can be forward facing or rear facing and have five point harness systems and will easily convert into a child booster seat once your child outgrows the harness.
When your child has reached the upper height and weight limits of the five-point harness, it is a simple task to remove the harness. Now you have a booster seat that will raise your child to the proper height to use your vehicle’s seat belt.
There are a few things you need to consider when choosing a child booster combination car seat. Some manufacturers will ensure that the weight for a particular model is between 20 and 65 lbs. It is not recommended, nor is it a good idea to put any child or baby weighing even 20 lbs. in a forward-facing car seat. Often, some children under the age of three will weigh enough to meet the lower weight requirements of a belt-positioned booster. Research has shown that this is not nearly as secure as a five-point harness when looking forward.
It’s easy to confuse a child booster combination with a high-back booster seat and vice versa. The simple difference is that a high back booster does not have a harness and is used with your vehicle’s 3-point seat belt.
A strap-positioned booster or “booster seat” does not have a harness built in. It is designed for use with your vehicle’s seat belts only. A booster seat does not require any installation. Some of the more recently introduced models come with LATCH (“Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children”). LATCH will keep the throttle secure and prevent it from flying forward in the event of a crash. When you use a booster, it’s the vehicle seat belt that keeps your child safe, not the booster seat. Some of the high-back booster seats have slots or guides that help you better position the belt on your child, but a backless booster is just a cushion that raises your child enough to allow the use of a seat belt.
A quality booster seat will place the shoulder section of the seat belt over the strong bony part of your child’s collar and chest and allow the lower strap of the belt to go across his hips and thighs, and not across the stomach or abdomen. When properly adjusted, your child’s back should rest comfortably against the back of the car seat (or the back of the booster seat, if you use one). Your child’s knees should bend comfortably at the edge of the seat. The safety belt must also remain in place when your child moves in the seat.
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