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Types of Car Seats
Your child should be in a rear-facing car seat until at least age 2.
There are three types of rear-facing car seats:
- People often buy rear-facing-only car seat because they are portable. Most, but not all, can be used in strollers that are sold with the car seat or those recommended by the manufacturer. Caregivers can also purchase extra bases for the car seat so that it can be used in several cars.
- A convertible car seat is larger and stays in the car. It can be used rear facing until your child is at least 2. After that, it can change to a forward-facing seat.
- A 3-in-1 car seat also stays in the car. You can use it rear facing, forward facing, and then later, as a booster seat.
Each of these will work for a child less than 2 years old.
People always want to know what is the best car seat. There are benefits with each type.
The 3-in-1 car seat may be the only seat you'll ever need. That makes it very cost efficient. But keep in mind, a seat used daily for up to 10 years might get worn and dirty!
A rear-facing-only car seat won’t last as long as a 3-in-one or a convertible, but it may be more convenient. If it has a base that stays in the car, you can take the carrier out, so you don’t have to move your sleeping baby when coming and going.
Size also makes a difference. If you have a tiny car, don’t choose a giant car seat. Bigger does not necessarily mean it is better.
Make your decision based on your budget, the size of your car and how easy it is to use.
Three Important Installation Tips
- Install your rear-facing car seat in a back seat using either a locked seat belt or lower anchor attachments. The video above will show you how.
- Look at the car seat’s angle indicator (on the seat) to make sure the recline angle is correct. The recline angle is critical for infants who can’t yet lift their heads to breathe. Check the car seat manual or labels for more help.
- Make sure the car seat is snug enough to pass the Inch Test. A properly-installed car seat should not move more than one inch side to side or front to back when pulled at the car seat’s belt path.
Do you have a mirror in the car for keeping your eye on your baby while you are driving? You may think it helps, but it’s safer to keep your eyes on the road at all times.
Four Steps to the Right Fit
- Your baby’s back and bottom should be flat against the car seat. Do not put anything behind or underneath them, such as a blanket or small pillow.
- Make sure that the harness straps come through the car seat’s slots at or just below your baby’s shoulders.
- Buckle and tighten the harness so it is snug. Do the Pinch Test to make sure you cannot pinch the harness strap at your baby’s shoulders.
- Position the chest clip to be level with your baby’s armpits.
Every time you put your child into the seat, make sure the harness straps are snug. A snug fit means you cannot pinch the straps (webbing) at the shoulder when it is buckled. You have to loosen and tighten the harness each time you put your child in the car seat.
When to Change for new baby
The safest car seat for children under the age of 2 or even more is a rear-facing one. Kids grow a lot during the first two years, so may have to move your child from a rear-facing-only car seat to a convertible car seat or a 3-in-1 car seat installed in the rear-facing position to get maximum protection.
Your child will be ready for a larger, rear-facing car seat when she passes the weight or height limit on the car seat label or when her head is within 1 inch of the top of the car seat.
Riding in a rear-facing car seat will help protect your child’s head, neck and spine in a crash.
Older children with longer legs can stay in a rear-facing car seat and comfortably cross their legs. Experts agree that children in rear-facing seats suffer fewer injuries to their head, neck, spine, arms, and legs when riding in that direction.
All children, even those with special healthcare needs, follow the same rules for staying safe in the car.
Never leave a child alone in a car. Being tired or having a change in routine can make even the most loving person forget a sleeping baby in a back seat. To help you remember your child, put your phone or other item that you’ll need at your destination in the back seat. This will help you remember that your child is there.
Keep car doors and trunks locked so kids at play don’t get into them. And ask neighbors to lock up, too. We hear too many stories of kids getting trapped in cars.