Why You Must Have a Baby Car Seat

by Sally Thatcher

When purchasing a baby car seat, some features are absolutely essential. Keeping your baby safe should be every parent’s highest priority, and a good car seat will do just that. Unfortunately, searching for the right car seat can be overwhelming as there are hundreds of models, features and brands to sort through. If you don’t know what to look for, the process can be time-consuming and draining. Concentrating on a few essential features will help you sort through your choices and find the car seat that’s right for your family.

The single most important feature of any car seat is the 5-point attach. Most car seats feature one of two kinds of attachments: the 3-point harness and the 5-point harness. A 3-point harness is probably okay, but the 5-point harness will do much more to keep your baby safe and secure in the car seat. With more attachments, the 5-point harness further restrains the child in case of ejection.

We all know that small children are required to be in a car seat, but all the different guidelines for weight and seat orientation can be confusing. Car safety seats on the market today have a dizzying array of features, but the basic types of seats are categorized into four main positions: rear-facing, combination, front-facing and booster seats.

Even older children are candidates for child safety seats, including children who weigh around 60 pounds. A nine-year-old, for example, might be a candidate for a car safety seat made for an older, larger child. In general, a standard car seat will accommodate a child that weighs 20-25 pounds. If your child is about 10 pounds heavier, you’ll probably need to purchase a car seat that is geared for larger children.

Of the four types of child safety seats, the rear-facing seat is considered the safest. When deciding on a car seat, you might want to consider how much your child is going to grow – and perhaps purchase a larger car seat so they won’t outgrow it as quickly. A booster seat, one kind of child safety seat, is for older kids, or those that weigh around 40-50 pounds. Whether you have a small seat, large seat, rear-facing or booster, it’s extremely important that the car seat is installed carefully and thoroughly.

Here are some guidelines: For a booster-seat type of restraint, the lap belt must fit around the child’s hips. The shoulder belt should come across the shoulder and chest – not over the neck. You’ll want to use a high-back model of child safety seat if you have no headrests or low seats in your car. It’s possible to purchase a child safety seat with adjustable head supports and additional padding.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) surveys all car seats for infants and children. They are rated on a number of categories from clear instructions to ease of use. The good news is, car seat manufacturers are listening to the government’s suggestions, and are constantly improving designs. For current information, visit the NHTSA website.

If you want to find a model that got straight A’s, you can definitely find the one that’s right for you. eBay and Froogle are two good sources of information to start your search. When you find the car seat that fits your needs, make sure it received an acceptable safety rating from the NHTSA.

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