With so many options these days, how does a parent know what car seat to buy for their newborn, toddler or even their big kid? It’s important to know all car seats sold by a retailer or even online meet the same federal safety standards. These crash standards are very stringent and withstand at least 25Gs. Some manufacturers test their car seats above these standards. Some manufacturers offer higher quality fabrics, more safety features, new technology, infant support cushions and cup holders. If this is important to you, then spend the extra money. After all, the car seat is the only product required by law. It goes without saying, it’s an investment for your child’s safety, right?
Shopping at a locally retailer gives you the option to try out different car seats in your vehicle. It’s important the car seat fits properly in your vehicle. Not all car seats fit in every car, nor do they fit every child properly. You can also seek help from a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician who can assist you by checking the installation. You can find one at https://cert.safekids.org. Not all techs are available to shop with you, but some work outside their regular day jobs or have their own business to help parents. In person help is often your best solution for navigating through the confusion.
Checking social media channels can often be confusing, as multiple people chime in with their opinions and you can lose sight of the important advice, get confused and just end up frustrated. I always recommend seeking help from the manufacturer, first. Believe me, they only want to sell you their product if their car seat will fit correctly in the car and fit your child properly. Most manufacturers have a certified Child Passenger Safety Instructor on hand to assist you, as well. These advocates tend to have ten to twenty-five years of experience.
- Your first step is to check for correct installation. If you are waiting on baby to arrive, it’s impossible to check the harness fit, but infant seats and convertible car seat accommodate most newborns and fit the baby. A convertible car seat is a car seat that goes rear-facing and forward-facing. Some go one more step and convert to booster mode, as well.
- A tight fit is important: Check at the belt path for less than one inch of movement front to back and side to side.
- Snug harness: A proper fitting harness should be at or below the shoulders and should fit snug and comfortable. All car seats come with a 5pt. harness so your child rides like a race car driver with the straps over their thighs, buckled between the legs, then over the shoulder with a chest clip connected to keep the straps on the shoulders.
- Rear-facing is best: Newborns will ride rear-facing, but you also have the option to keep older children rear-facing longer, these days. Many convertible car seats extend rear-facing 40-50 lbs. It helps protect the head, neck and spinal column in frontal collisions (most crashes are at the front of the car).
You’re not alone in this journey. There is lots of help available. The right car seat is the one that fits your car, fits your child properly and the one you will use correctly every single ride.
Buckle up and be safe!
Certified Child Passenger Safety Instructor
Global Safety Advocate at Diono
Allana has been a certified Child Passenger Safety Instructor since 2002 and the Global Safety Advocate at Diono since 2011. Her role at Diono expands across departments, from Marketing to Compliance and Product Development and Design. She is always excited to help parents and caregivers navigate the world of car seats to help prevent childhood injuries and death. Allana is the mother of two boys, ages twenty-two and fourteen and has been married for almost twenty-four years.