A car seat is one of the first and most important items you will purchase to prepare for a new baby. On average, Americans spend a little more than 2.5 hours each day in a car. Your infant car seat will also get some extra mileage as it doubles as a carrier. Considering the amount of use your car seat will get, make sure you invest in a quality product that is both safe and comfortable for your baby.
Do Your Research
You can search specific models and find updates on recalled car seats online at SaferCar.gov. Some reliable brands with a variety of products include Graco, Safety 1st, Chicco and Britax. When you are shopping around, keep in mind that not every car seat can be properly installed in every car – try before you buy!
Used Car Seats
This is not the time to be frugal. The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that you may be risking your child's life when you purchase a used car seat, whether it be from a friend, online, or from a thrift store. Many second-hand stores sell hazardous products that could be damaged or recalled. Car seats should never be reused after they have been in a crash.
If you are looking for a great deal on a used car seat, follow these guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
- Don’t buy a car seat that is more than six years old
Check the manual for an expiration date and if a manual is missing, do not buy
- Check for visible cracks and missing parts
- Make sure it has a label with date of manufacturer and model number
- Contact the manufacturer and check for recall
No Sleeping In Car Seats
Car seats are not intended for sleeping. Sleeping in car seats isn’t just discouraged, it is prohibited by many states and child care regulations. The American Journal of Pediatrics reminds parents that sleeping in car seats all too often leads to injury and death. Positional asphyxia occurs when a baby slouches down in a car seat and their airway closes. Young infants don't have the neck strength to lift their heads to breathe, leading to suffocation. Napping in car rides is okay so long as you are continuously checking on your child. Babies should not be allowed to sleep longer than one hour while in their car seat.
Safety by Ages
Keep your baby rear-facing until at least 2 years old, or as long as possible. Rear-facing seating is found to be five times safer than front-facing seating. Even after your child outgrows their infant seat, continue rear-facing using a convertible or 3-in-1 car seat.
2-7 years old
Only switch to a front-facing car seat when your child reaches the maximum height and weight requirements for their particular car seat. A front-facing car seat should have a harness. After they outgrow the harness, it’s time for a booster seat.
8-12 years old
Your child should continue use of a booster seat until they are 4’9” – this height fits the seat belts correctly. Even after your child is ready to use just the vehicle belt alone, they should ride in the back seat until age 13.