Infant car seat technology has advanced tremendously over recent years, but you shouldn’t trust just any company with your baby’s safety. Our Geeks set out to help parents find the best infant car seats from trusted brands based on comfort, advanced safety technology, and price. We’ve also put together some helpful tips, FAQs, and car seat installation guidelines.
Best Infant Car Seats
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35 Infant Car Seat
Estimated Price: $250 – $350
Since 1949, this Italian company has been making some of the best car seats on the market. Their ethos is simple: blend comfort with smart, safe engineering. And the Primo Viaggio doesn’t stray from the script. Instead, it builds on previous models, incorporating and innovating tried-and-tested tech which has served families for decades.
Straight out of the box, it’s clear this seat is special. Weighing just over 9 pounds, it’s light enough to double up as a convenient carrier. However, you don’t have to sacrifice durability for mobility. The unit’s upscale shell design is solid and can outlive the clumsiest parent (or most hyperactive infant).
The base of the Primo Viaggio boasts the company’s “Right Tight System” which keeps the seat secure whether you’re using the LATCH strap or just your car’s seat belt. During tests, our Geeks concluded that the tightness of either locking method was dependent on the car. They suggest experimenting with both methods and testing to see which feels most secure.
With this seat, Perego aims to protect your infant during all stages of his or her early life. The dual stage cushion system provides extra support for your newborn’s bottom and neck while the second stage provides comfort and room for your growing baby, while still keeping your child safe and secure.
This seat also has a secret weapon: adjustable side impact protection. Most “adjustable” seats are a chore to orientate, requiring rethreading and rerouting. However, the Primo Viaggio’s side impact protection can be slid up or down on the fly, making keeping up with your little one’s sporadic growth as easy as pushing a button.
Bonus: once you’ve reached your destination, not only does this seat double up as a handy, lightweight carrier, but it can also be slotted into any of Peg Perego’s luxury strollers. Our Geeks found that many other car seats required complicated adapters to achieve the same effect.
Bottom line: this seat doesn’t just bundle together smart, safe engineering and comfort for your little one, but packs a myriad of quality of life additions that add up to making this the best infant car seat under $375.
UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat
Estimated Price: $275 – $325
This car seat is a star player. Not only did it pass every one of our Geeks’ tests with flying colors, but it is one of very few infant car seats to be given five-star ratings in every category of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Easy-of-Use ratings.
UPPAbaby MESA has a strong tradition of building safe, easy-to-operate, and, more importantly, easy-to-stash strollers. When they approached building a car seat for the first time their aim was to create a rear-facing unit that would be almost impossible to install incorrectly.
That’s important, because while studies have shown a rear-facing car seat is one of the most effective ways to keep your child safe in a crash, the seat itself won’t do anything if you’ve botched setting it up. Enter SMART.
SMART is UPPAbaby MESA’s secure attachment system which the company boasts “installs in seconds”. During our tests, every one of Geeks (even our newest recruit) was able to get the seat set up and secure in record time, well within in the 10 seconds budgeted by the manufacturer.
But this seat isn’t just a one-trick pony. Weighing in at 11 pounds, it transitions quickly from safe seating to lightweight carrier (complete with SPF canopy), and under the hood it packs all the safety features you would expect, from adjustable side impact protection to a rigid shell designed to envelope your child.
The seat’s covers are quick and easy to remove and can be machine washed. The company recommends cold water on a gentle cycle with a mild detergent. To dry, just lay the cover flat and away from direct sunlight for a few hours. At just $350 this car seat is a steal.
CYBEX Aton 2 Infant Car Seat
Estimated Price: $225 – $275
Founded in Germany, CYBEX is the brainchild of a passionate dad who believed that car seats can be safe, comfortable, practical, and cool. Back in 2005, that was just a vision. Now, CYBEX has won hundreds of safety and design awards for its range of infant car seats.
The Aton 2 represents the pinnacle of the company’s decade-long pursuit of car seat perfection. Engineered to strict German safety standards, it aced every single one of our Geeks’ rigorous tests, managing to be versatile and light enough for use as both a seat and carrier. It’s comfortable and adapts for both newborns and infants alike and packs all the best of Europe’s cutting-edge safety features.
Weighing in at under 10 pounds, this seat was a breeze for our Geeks to carry around. But this lightweight seat doesn’t skimp on heavy-duty protection.
Exhibit A: the seat’s flexible shell. Leveraging the power of EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam protection, this seat is a juggernaut. EPS isn’t just another acronym, it’s the secret behind your child’s safety.
Used predominantly in bicycle and motorcycle helmets, the lightweight material has displayed a superior ability to absorb impact energy. The foam takes the sting out of any shock, whether it’s a fender bender or a tumble in our lab.
The height-adjustable load leg is another European export our Geeks were happy to see. This virtual standard on the continent helps absorb and distribute energy to the vehicle floor, taking some of the punch out of an impact. It also prevents the seat from tipping forward.
Linear Side-Impact Protection rounds up this seat’s safety features, resulting in an extra 40% increased safety for your child. Bonus: thanks to its European Belt Routing system, this seat is equally safe with or without the base in crash tests.
The Aton 2 was also one of the most versatile seats in our tests. The Newborn Inlay, an insert which helps position your newborn during their first months, gives this seat legs, seeing your child through its first year with comfort and ease.
The bottom line: this is the best newborn car seat under $300.
Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat
Estimated Price: $125 – $225
Founded in the 1950s by an inventor after the birth of his son, Chicco has spent the last sixty years developing, manufacturing and shipping baby products in 120 different countries. That’s an impressive resume, one that only gets better when you spend some time with the KeyFit 30.
Designed with the compact car in mind, this lightweight car seat will work whether you’re rolling in an SUV or chugging along in hatchback, which makes this seat somewhat of a unicorn. Why? If you’ve spent much time scouring the net, you may have realized that smaller car seats are few and far between, with most seats ranging between big and behemoth.
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty. The stay-in-car base features Chicco’s ReclineSure spring-load leveling foot and two “RideRight” bubble level-indicators which will help you adjust the seat with pinpoint precision. LATCH connectors coupled with a one-pull tightener take the sweat out of settling on a tight and secure fit.
On the safety side, the KeyFit 30 meets federal crash-test safety requirements, in part thanks to its rigid, shell-like design and additional side-impact protection. However, what puts this seat ahead of many others is the inclusion of a high-quality infant cushion insert.
These inserts help position your child, especially if they are smaller or were born premature, while providing the same protection as the default setup. As your baby grows larger, you can remove the inserts to accommodate their size.
Once you’ve reached your destination, this seat is still a workhorse. The KeyFit 30 carrier is quick to detach and slots into many of Chicco’s signature strollers. It can also be installed without the base, making it easy to transfer your child to another car.
Take note: the seat’s cushions are difficult to remove but are machine washable. Bottom line: this seat is the pinnacle of almost 70 years of rock-solid engineering.
Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat
Estimated Price: $100 – $125
Studies have found that rear-facing car seats offer the best protection for your child. The SnugRide Click Connect 35 does much more than just point in the right direction. The product of stringent crash testing, this infant car seat smashes US safety standards, going far beyond the call of duty to buy you peace of mind when you and your child are on the road.
Weighing in at just seven pounds, our Geeks said this was the lightest car seat in their tests, transitioning comfortably and quickly from on the road to at the park. Graco’s “Click It” tech provides one-step attachment between the seat to any of its Click Connect Strollers, which lets you build your own custom travel system to meet you and your infant’s unique needs.
An adjustable base, with six different recline positions, gives you unparalleled control over the SnugRide Click Connect’s positioning. The seat is also fixed with a level indicator, foregoing the trial-and-error guesswork which plagues most other models. Our Geeks were able to install the seat within seconds and with minimal adjustment.
And while the seat’s quick, easy installation will keep you in good spirits, it’s the unit’s overall comfort which will keep your kid right up there with you. Complete with removeable newborn head support, a rotating canopy to fight the sun’s glare from any angle, and a cozy leg cover, your little one will be travelling in first class wherever you go.
Bonus: the seat’s pads are machine washable and our Geeks were able to remove even the most stubborn stains from the base with just a spot of mild detergent and a damp cloth.
Safety 1st Onboard 35 Air 360 Infant Car Seat
Estimated Price: $150 – $175
You’ve probably seen the yellow “BABY ON BOARD” signs swinging in the rear windows of family cars. Safety 1st is the company behind this universal emblem of joy. While signage may be the company’s claim to fame, building cutting edge car seats is its bread and butter.
The Onboard 35 Air 360 is a space-aged car seat packed with the latest in safety tech and exceeds federal and European rollover standards. Promising to protect your child from every angle, this seat leverages the power of Air Protect, a revolutionary new cushioning system designed to shield your child from side impact collision and reduce crash forces around your infant’s head.
In a crash, these forces are instead instantaneously diverted into the headrest. Coupled with the seat’s GCell HX patented race car foam – the same material used to protect Indy car racers on the track – this unit is an impenetrable cocoon.
However, this level of safety doesn’t come at the cost of comfort. Soft foam throughout the seat offers added protection and forms a cushy but supportive layer between your infant and the safety tech under the hood. Plus, a deep seat structure simultaneously shields and embraces your child.
Bottom line: an adjustable, sturdy handle and ray-busting rotating canopy round out a formidable package and our best car infant car seat under $200.
Maxi-Cosi Mico 30 Infant Car Seat
Estimated Price: $175 – $250
Very rarely does a product surprise our squad of seasoned Geeks. But the Maxi-Cosi, which costs just under $275, defies its price point managing not only to be one of the most affordable seats on our list, but one of the most comfortable and convenient too.
Maxi-Cosi was founded with simple aim: arming parents with the safest car seat and stroller money can buy.
The seat weighs just eight pounds and transitions from car seat to carrier in seconds. An ergonomic handle – molded to fit any grip, whether its mom or dad’s – is still comfortable, even over extended periods of time. Plus, the car seat is compatible with many popular strollers, from Maxi-Cosi’s own to luxury offerings to other well-known trusted brands.
But the seat really starts to excel on the road, where a series of safety innovations and refinements come together to create a safe space for your vulnerable infant. Featuring Air Protect – a new industry standard in car seats which instantly diverts crash forces away from your baby’s head to the headrest, and an enveloping and cushioned shell design – you can now breathe easy knowing you’ve hedged the bets in your little one’s favor.
Our Geeks are big fans of breathable fabrics. But too often, this small luxury comes with a big price tag. Defiant as always, the Mico 30 has managed to do one better, incorporating self-wicking fabric into the design. The fabric draws liquids away from the skin keeping your baby comfortable and dry from start to stop.
Cleaning time? No problem. The seat’s pads are removed in a matter of seconds (Yes! There’s no frustrating rethreading required) and the seat’s fabrics are both machine washable and dryer safe. All that for less than $275, need we say more?
Baby Trend EZ Flex Loc Infant Car Seat
Estimated Price: $90 – $125
Installing a car seat can quickly turn into an hour-long chore. While many car seat manufacturers are happy to leave their customers flailing with belt, buckle, and everything in between, Baby Trend wants to spare you the hassle.
Fixed with a no-thread adjustable harness, flexible LATCH connectors and reclining base, the Trend EZ Flec Loc eliminates the guesswork of installing a new car seat. Our Geeks were able to have this seat up and running in a few seconds flat, putting it miles ahead of its nearest competition.
But how does the seat fair when it’s ready and raring to go? Designed for infants between 5 and 30 pounds, the seat utilizes EPS energy-absorbing foam technology to reduce crash forces. Soft head support helps shield your child while providing an extra layer of comfort.
The seat’s height, unlike others, can be adjusted with the push of a button, and quick adjustments can be made on the fly to accommodate your baby’s growth. Our Geeks were impressed by the unique carrying handle which features a rubberized grip to keep the seat from slipping out of your grasp. The seat’s canopy is also larger than most other seats, protecting your child from the elements.
Plus, the seat is compatible with most of Baby Trend’s world-class strollers. Bottom line: your child’s safety simplified at an unbeatable price.
Infant Car Seat FAQs
Why do safety seats have an expiration date?
Federal safety standards don’t require manufacturers to cap the lifespan of a car seat, but the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has warned that heeding expiration dates set by companies is one of the most important precautions you can take.
This is due to a variety of factors, including the following:
- Wear and tear. The car seats in our reviews were built using the highest quality materials. However, even the best parts will start to deteriorate over time. This is because car seats are exposed to fluctuating high and low temperatures that can warp the seat’s structure causing it develop near-invisible hairline fractures. In turn, these fractures will lead to catastrophic failure in a crash.
- Tech improvements. Companies are constantly innovating, and as a result modern car seats are often leaps and bounds ahead of those engineered in the past decade. A newer seat is most likely safer than one built in the early 2000s.
- Shifting safety standards. A seat that may have met the minimum safety standards a decade ago may nosedive in modern crash testing.
Take note: most seats’ lifespans are capped at six or eight years, and some may last as long as ten years. Regardless, you should rather buy a new car seat than invest in a second-hand unit with an unknown history.
How can I keep child warm in his or her infant car seat?
Before you pull out the puffer or any other heavy layers, remember this: thick jackets can flatten in a crash leaving the harness slack and your infant vulnerable to crash forces. In some cases, infants bundled in heavy layers have even been flung from their seats after a collision.
When travelling in a car seat your child should not wear anything thicker than a lightweight fleece. For extra warmth, place a blanket over your child and the harness. However, our Geeks recommend investing in a special seat cover designed to keep your child both warm and safe, such as this one.
How do I know if a car seat will fit my car?
Not every car is the same, and despite manufacturers engineering and designing car seats which can adapt to most vehicle setups, a perfect fit is not always a guarantee. However, with sites such as Amazon offering free and almost immediate refunds on returns, our Geeks suggest ordering a seat from one of the many trusted companies above and rigorously testing to see how it fits.
Is my seat installed correctly?
Remember to always follow the included instructions manual closely. Once the seat is correctly positioned and connected, test to see that it doesn’t pivot, seesaw, tip over, or wobble.
If there is movement, check again to see if the seat is correctly connected. If yes, try connect the seat using the belt as opposed to LATCH or vice versa. No dice? Contact the dealer to troubleshoot the problem and find out if there are any extra parts that may help accommodate the seat in your car.
Finally, if none of the solutions above work, return the seat and opt for another one reviewed above.
Is it a problem if my infant car seat is loose?
Definitely. Under no circumstances should your infant car seat be able to pivot, seesaw, wobble, or tip forward. This could lead to serious injury or even death in a collision.
What are the different safety seat choices?
There are three types of safety seats to choose from:
- Infant (or baby) car seats are rear-facing car seats designed to keep your child protected in a cocoon of crash force-reducing materials. Typically, these seats can accommodate children up to two-years-old or carry up to a maximum weight of 35 pounds. When your child reaches either limit, it’s time to transition to a rear-facing convertible safety seat.
- Convertible car seats can be set up in either a rear-facing or front-facing position. This allows you to adjust the seat to accommodate the growth of your child. Typically, these seats can carry children up to 40 pounds in a rear-facing position and up to 70 pounds when set up as a forward-facing safety seat. Remember, it’s safer for your child to keep them seated in a rear-facing position as long as possible.
- Booster seats are designed for children who are at least four-years-old and weigh more than 40 pounds. Instead of using a LATCH attachment system, theses seats make use of the car’s regular lap and shoulder belts to help restrain your child. You may use a backless booster seat only if your car’s stock seats are equipped with head support.
What is LATCH?
LATCH, or “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children”, is an innovative new attachment system for securely installing your car seat in your vehicle. Using hooks and built-in straps fixed to the car seat, it allows you to connect the seat to anchor hardware in your car.
This modern technology often results in a tighter fit than the conventional seat belt method. However, we suggest testing your new car seat with both setups to settle on the most secure attachment system.
What is a tether?
This European invention is a strap fixed to the top of a car seat. It is equipped with a fastener and used to prevent front-facing car seats from tipping forward.
In a crash, a tether can cut down on the forward motion of your child’s head by up to eight inches. Our Geeks suggest always using a tether with front-facing car seats but never with rear-facing seats, unless otherwise specified by a trusted manufacturer for their product.
Is it safe for my infant to travel in the front seat?
Absolutely not. The front seat is close to one of the most common points of impact: the front of the car. These crashes are lethal and have led to the deaths of countless children.
Many states have laws requiring children to sit in the rear seat until a certain age and even then, organizations, such as SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A., recommend seating your child in the safety of the back seat whenever possible.
Restraining your child in the backseat, as opposed to the front, reduces your infant’s risk of being killed in a collision by over a third. In a head-on crash, your child can be flung through the windshield or headfirst into your car’s dashboard. And even the airbags pose a risk to your little one, inflating with enough force to inflict severe spinal, neck and head injuries.
Where is the safest spot in my vehicle for my infant to sit?
The short answer: in the rear seat. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stressed the importance of restraining your child (under the age 12) in the back seat. According to research, seating your child in the back seat instead of the front can reduce the risk of injury or death by over 30%.
When possible, you should position your infant car seat in the center back seat as this will shield your child from potential side impact.
How do I secure my newborn in his or her car seat?
Newborns will always need to ride facing the back of the car in a safety seat. You want to set the seat to recline around halfway back. This will best protect your newborn’s neck and head while keeping their airways open.
The seat should be positioned in the center rear seat, situating your newborn as far away from all the points of potential impact. While a convertible safety seat can often accommodate newborns, an infant car seat – such as the ones reviewed above – is best suited for younger children as it will often come equipped with a newborn inlay and specialized side impact protection.
When placing your newborn in the safety seat, make sure you put them down butt first. You want your child’s back resting against the car seat’s back. Buckle your child in by laying the straps over your infant and ensuring that there is one leg on each side of the crotch strap and that the arms are over, not under, the shoulder strap.
Use a newborn inlay provided with your car seat or receiving blankets on each side of your newborn’s body to fill in any space on the sides of the seat.
How tight should my child’s harness be?
Too tight and the harness could restrict your child’s breathing. Too loose and your child could be flung from the car seat in a crash. Achieving a snug fit can be challenging. Use this handy guide to ensure your child is safe and comfortable on every trip:
- Buckle up your infant and secure the harness.
- Pinch the top and the bottom of the harness strap near the shoulders.
- Can you still pinch it? The harness isn’t tight enough.
When do I switch to a front-facing car seat?
The short answer: usually when your child is at least two-years-old. However, you should let your child use a rear-facing seat for as long as possible. This is because an infant’s spinal cord can easily stretch in a crash, leading to death or being paralyzed for life. According to studies, a rear-facing seat is typically five times safer than front-facing units.
However, do not use a rear-facing seat if your child outweighs the maximum weight designated by the manufacturer.
Why is facing backwards so important?
Your newborn or infant is a fragile creature. Their muscles and bones are still forming and vulnerable to even the most minor crash forces. Now, if your kid is facing forwards in a frontal crash – both the most common and most devastating kind of collision – your child’s body is held in place but their head is not.
As a result, your infant’s head is thrust forward, stretching out the neck to a breaking point. Adults and older children will most commonly suffer minor injuries such as whiplash, but an infant’s neck bones may even separate in a crash leaving your kid permanently paralyzed or dead.
Facing rearwards, the head, neck and torso are restrained. This prevents any movement, protecting the child best in the any type of collision.
My infant’s feet touch the car’s seatback. Is this safe?
Researchers have found zero evidence that longer legs are at a higher risk of being hurt in a crash. This is because children will typically fold their legs into a comfortable position while travelling in a car seat.
While legroom isn’t an issue, the positioning of your child’s head should always be noted. When your child’s head extends beyond or near the top of their infant car seat you should consider upgrading from an infant car seat to a convertible.
What is a locking clip?
A locking clip keeps the lap section of the lap-shoulder restraint secure on an infant car seat by attaching to the shoulder portion next to the latch plate. Locking clips have largely been phased out since most newer vehicles are equipped with safety belts that lock up to accommodate the installation of infant car seats.
However, sometimes you may still require a locking clip to achieve a safe and secure fit. Remember: always place the locking clip around half an inch from the latch plate.
Are any infant car seats escape-proof?
Kids are inventive little creatures who will brainstorm their way out of anything, especially the “naughty corner”. Our Geeks have found that little Geeks who figure out how to escape from infant car seat will quickly engineer their escape from another. The only solution: conditioning.
Try this method: bring the car seat into your home and let your child roleplay as the parent by buckling their favorite action figure, doll or plushie into the car seat. This play communicates the best way for your miniature Houdini to behave next time they’re travelling in the car.
Or, you could schedule your trip with enough time to accommodate a few stops along the way. Every time your child manages to unbuckle and scramble from safety, come to a stop and explain that you won’t be budging another inch until he or she returns to the car seat.
Alternatively, you could create a reward structure (offering up extra TV time or a special treat) which entices your little one to stay still, safe and buckled up. Another escape? Your child forfeits the reward.
Are car seat-stroller combinations safe?
Infant car seats are often designed to attach to specialized strollers to create a simple carrier and pram travel solution. These combinations are rigorously tested and adhere to both company and federal safety standards to ensure the wellbeing of your child.
All the infant car seats listed here can be combined with strollers for your convenience.
Can I use my car seat on a plane?
This depends on the seat. Check to see if your seat, or the one you are purchasing, has been certified for use on an aircraft (FAA-approved). If not, most airlines will allow you to check in your car seat as free-standing baggage
What’s the difference between EPP and EPS foam?
Expanded Polystyrene foam (EPS) is a lightweight material often used to line the inside of bicycle and motorcycle helmets or even coolers and wine shippers. The foam is able to effectively absorb crash forces, buffering the blow of a fall or a crash.
In infant car seats, the foam is typically used to protect the child’s upper torso and head from side-impact forces by absorbing the impact of a crash. However, it is considered a one-impact foam, hence why experts recommend replacing car seats after a collision.
Expanded Polypropylene foam (EPP) has an identical function but has the ability to rebound after a crash. Many companies are switching over to using EPP foam in their car seats as it is more durable and helps increase the lifespan and extend the expiry date of an infant car seat.
How do I clean an infant car seat?
Lost snacks, spilt juice boxes and melting ice cream cones are all part of the ride. A quick bath will take care of your kid, but how do you clean your car seat?
- Remove the cover. It’s time to hit the books. The instruction manual that came with your seat will include a step-by-step guide on how to remove your cover from your seat.
- Hand-wash. While most of the seats on this list come equipped with machine washable covers, we still recommend hand-washing car seat covers using mild soap and cold water.
- Skip the dryer and line dry your cover. Alternatively, you may lie the cover flat in a warm well-ventilated space.
- Scrub the buckle. Your cover will bear the brunt of your child’s clumsy catering. However, parts, such as the buckle, harness and tether, may also fall victim to stains. Use mild soap and cold water to scrub the buckle and other components clean before drying with a rag.
Infant Car Seat Tips
1. Replace Your Car Seat After an Accident
It may have just been a little fender bender and your child may not have even been in the car, but experts still suggest that you consider replacing your car seat after a collision. Why? Your seat is the designated epicenter for absorbing crash forces. Those forces put immense strain on the components of your car seat potentially degrading their ability to absorb crash forces again in the future.
However, don’t replace your car seat after every little bump and bash. A light bumper check in the parking lot isn’t going to cause any damage to your infant car seat.
2. Everyone Buckles Up!
Your child follows your lead. If you travel without a seatbelt it’s going to be tough to convince your little one to stop escaping from the safety of their harness.
Everyone buckles up! That goes for you, your other children, your friends, and even your stubborn uncle.
3. Rope in an Expert
There’s no harm in getting a second opinion. Head to seatcheck.org, enter your zip code and find a technician nearby who can come assess your vehicle and car seat installation to triple check your child’s safety so you don’t have to keep second guessing.
4. Ride the Rear-Facing Limit
Your child will eventually outgrow their infant car seat. But when it’s time to switch to a convertible seat, don’t ditch rear-facing.
Crash testing has shown that your child will always be safer facing the back of the car because it keeps your infant’s head, neck and torso restrained, preventing crash forces from damaging your child’s vulnerable spine.
Experts recommend keeping your child rear-facing until at least the age of two. However, if your child is two-years-old but has not yet reached the maximum height and weight limits of the unit, don’t flip them around.
As stated previously, your child’s legs are not in danger in a rear-facing seat as infants naturally adjust the positioning of their legs to a comfortable position.
5. Use a Tether Strap
If your child is using a front-facing car seat, use a tether strap to prevent the seat from tipping forward or over in a collision.
6. Keep it Centered
The center rear seat is the safest spot in the car for your kid. Why? Your child is most isolated from potential rear, side and frontal impact in this position, shielding them from harm of a direct hit in an accident.
However, if you have more than one child using a car seat, remember that the oldest child is typically the most vulnerable as they will be using a front-facing seat and should be given positional priority.
7. Heed the Expiration Date
Car seats slowly degrade over time, developing invisible hairline fractures which can lead to catastrophic injuries in a crash. While experts state that car seats should be disposed of after a decade, most companies recommend replacing car seats after six to eight years.
Our Geeks suggest steering clear of used units with an unknown history.
8. Don’t Use Your Seat Outside of the Car
Your new car seat is designed to protect your infant on the road. But it’s not meant to double up as a seat for your home. Unless otherwise stated in the manual, experts warn that sitting in a car seat for extended durations could pose serious health risks to your little one.
For example, it may cause your child to develop a flat spot on the back of their head where the skull is softest, cause breathing issues, or, in some cases, exacerbate gastroesophageal reflux disease. Plus, your infant can easily fall from the seat when it is not attached to the supplied base.
However, you may use the seat as a carrier or, when possible, in conjunction with your travel pram.
9. Master the Buckle
Learning how to tighten or loosen the harness on your infant car seat on the fly is a useful skill. It allows you to achieve a custom fit, maximizing comfort for your little one and avoiding the frustration of trying to fit your child’s arms through the seat’s tight straps.
Keep in mind that the chest straps should not restrict your child’s breathing. Aim for a snug fit wherein it’s still possible to squeeze your finger between the strap and your child’s chest.
10. No Bulky Clothing
Shielding your child against the cold may put them in danger during a crash. Why? Snowsuits, puffy or thick jackets, and seat liners can compress during a collision, creating wiggle room for unintended movement and injury.
Dress your child in thin layers, buckle them in, and then place a blanket over the harness and buckle, for a fool-proof method of keeping your child safe and snug in the colder months.
11. Keep Your Trips Quick
Studies have shown that newborns have far lower oxygen levels than normal when restrained in an infant car seats. The result: major breathing issues down the line. Whenever possible, you should avoid subjecting your child to extended hours strapped sitting in your infant car seat.
This will also help prevent to flat spots forming on your baby’s head.
12. Ditch the Padding
When positioning your baby, you do not want his or her head to flop forward. Padding can create distance between your child’s head and the seat back leaving room for potentially lethal movement in a crash.
13. Cut the Clutter
It might just be an empty soda can, but in a crash even small pieces of trash can turn into dangerous projectiles. Scour your car for potential hazards – from books to toys – and ensure that your vehicle is a clutter-free zone.
Remember this: extra items – from groceries to the beach toys – belong in the trunk.
14. Clip It Right
The chest clip of your harness should be positioned at the same level as your child’s armpit. This helps restrain your baby’s body, keeping your child in the safe cocoon of your car seat even if your car rolls over or spins.
Position the chest clip too low and your child could be thrown from the car seat.
How to Install an Infant Car Seat
Your new car seat has arrived, but what next? There’s a tear, a snap and an avalanche of plastic parts, manuals in thirteen different languages, and you, standing there with no clue where to start. Don’t fret, we’re here to help.
- Read the instruction manual. Playing the guessing game won’t save you any time. And even if you’ve mastered the ins-and-outs of your last car seat, each unit has its own quirks that can quickly trip you up.
- Position your car seat in the rear center seat if possible. Not only is the safest spot for your kid – he or she will be safe distance from any points of impact – it’s also a comfortable location for you to install the seat.
- Study your vehicle. Modern cars often come equipped with lower anchors to help attach your car seat. However, older vehicles – particularly those that weren’t manufactured in the last decade – may not be designed to accommodate your new car seat. In some cases, you may need specialized adapters. We recommend consulting your car’s manual before purchasing a seat to ensure that the unit is compatible with your family vehicle.
- Secure the seat. When your car seat has been positioned and attached, ensure that your seat is tightly installed. For reference: if your seat pivots, seesaws, tips over, or wobbles, you should adjust your setup to ensure a tighter fit.
- If your infant car seat’s base is not level, your child’s head is at risk of flopping forward. Recline the seat until the base is level. Many of the seats listed here include a handy indicator to help find the right recline setting. However, a spirit level – when correctly used – can also aid in this process. (Remember that you will need to adjust the angle of the car seat as your child grows.)