This is a sponsored guest post.
Taking a baby for a ride in a car can be therapeutic – it can give them a new experience and can even help them sleep with the gentle thrumming of the car and the noise outside. However, it can be scary for parents (especially new parents) to take their baby with them in the car, even though it’s often a necessity.
The right car seat can set your mind a little more at ease knowing that if something does happen on the way to the grocery store or daycare, you’ll have the best safety equipment available to protect your baby from harm. Knowing how to choose a baby car seat should be a part of your arsenal of safety procedures to keep your baby healthy.
Even if you don’t crash the car, you want the right supports and straps tailormade to keep your baby’s neck and back in the right position so they can stay safe.
- The harness
The harness is the easiest thing to see when you’re learning how to choose the right car seat for your baby. It’s the first line of defense between your baby and the objects around them when the car starts jostling. It’s the easiest thing to buy for.
Check to make sure that the harness has 5 points of contact. This means that it has two straps over your baby’s shoulders, two across the waist, and one between their legs. All of them should click into the same central buckle.
Harnesses in this configuration are designed to keep your baby secure in the seat so they don’t jostle, which is how they could get hurt. If there’s a crash or impact of some kind, these belts distribute the force equally over the baby’s entire body, which reduces the possibility of getting hurt.
Shop on Netparents or a related site to find seats with the best harnesses so your baby stands the best chance of staying secure in the car.
- Know which way they should face
Which way your child should be facing in the car will change depending on their age. To know how to choose a baby car seat, you need to know how the ages break down.
According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, your baby should be in a rear-facing seat from the ages of 0 to 1, and possibly from 1 to 3. As early as 1 and no later than 3, you should switch to a forward-facing seat.
The reason is that a rear-facing seat reduces the possibility that an impact of an object or a seat in front of them will hurt their body. When a car stops quickly, the baby will “fall” against their secure buckle in a rear-facing seat, which is much safer. The NHTSA recommends keeping this seat as long as possible since it’s the safest.
Change to a front-facing seat when they are tall enough for them based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Learn about side impact
Even though most crashes happen from the side, there are fewer safety regulations in car construction for the side panels and doors than for the front of the car. This means that when you’re thinking of how to choose a good baby car seat, you need to look for something that advertises side impact protection.
Don’t worry about a company that says it has the “best” protection – since there’s no standardized equipment test for side-impact safety, they don’t have the information to say that. However, you still need to look at whether the protection exists.
- Easy installation
When you’re thinking about how to choose the best car seat for your baby, you want to look at seats that are easy to install. The reason is that you’re going to have busy days, you’re going to be in a rush, and you’re not going to be as meticulous with your baby’s car seat on some days as on others.
During those days, the car seats that are easy to set up, install, and strap in are the safest because they do the work for you. Read guidelines from the CDC on how to set up the safest seat in the safest way.
In general, you want a LATCH that’s easy to reach and a bubble indicator to make sure the seat is level. Even if it doesn’t have a bubble indicator, it will have lines on the base of the seat denoting how leveled the seat is. However, remember that a convenient seat to install is safer on busy days so look for the bubble in seats that you’re considering.
You also want to make sure that the seat is easy to adjust. Look for seats whose harnesses don’t have to be rethreaded – these are more complicated to get situated and more likely to mess up.
- Easy to clean
You want to keep the car seat clean. Learning how to choose a baby car seat entails learning how to recognize which seats will be easy to clean (which will make it more likely that you will do so).
Look for smooth fabrics that naturally resist water and spills rather than pitted or textured seat fabrics, which are more absorbent and harder to clean.
As a bonus, some seats have removable seat covers, which makes cleaning even easier.
As a new parent, you want to know how to choose the right car seat for your baby. This entails looking at safety procedures first, knowing when to use a rear-facing seat, how to choose a harness, and to make sure the seat has enough side impact protection.
After that, it’s about convenience. Seats that are easy to install and clean will help you get your baby strapped in quickly and securely. The right harness holds them in tight with easy adjustments.
We all want our baby to be as safe as possible, especially in the car. The right car seat can make all the difference.