If you are traveling with your baby in a car, always ensure they are safely placed in a suitable car seat. Thousands of children are killed every year in car accidents. Using a proper seat will help protect the life of your child. But with so many different brands and types of car seats on the market, it is quite easy to become overwhelmed by the choice. The following information is provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and will help you choose an appropriate car seat for your child.
Toddler/Infant Seats Recommendation: Rear facing only seats, including rear facing convertible seats.
All babies and toddlers should be placed in a rear facing car seat until the age of 2 or until they reach the maximum weight or height allowance allowed by the individual car seat manufacturer.
Toddler/Preschoolers Recommendation: Forward facing seats with a harness and convertible seats.
After the age of 2, or if toddler outgrow an infant seat, they should be placed in a forward facing car seat with a harness. This should be used until they reach the maximum weight or height allowed by the individual car seat manufacturer.
Young Children Recommendation: All children who are too big for a forward facing car seat should be placed in a belt positioning booster seat. A booster seat should be used until the car seat belt fits properly - this is when the child reaches 4 ft 9 in height, typically between the ages of 8 and 12.
When a child is old or large enough to use a car seat belt without the aid of a booster seat, they should still use a lap and shoulder seat belt for best protection. Ideally, all children under the age of 13 should be seated in the rear of the car.
Rear Facing Seats
There are three types of rear facing seats:
1. Rear Facing Only
• Used for babies up to 22 to 35 pounds (depending on brand).
• These seats are small, neat and have a carrying handle. Some come as part of a stroller set.
• Many come with a base. The base is installed in the car so that the seat clicks in and out of it. You can buy additional bases if you have more than one car. 2. Convertible seats (used rear-facing)
• Can be converted to forward facing when the child is older.
• Tend to be bulkier and often do not come with carrier handles or separate bases.
• Used for babies up to 40 to 45 pounds meaning you can use them for longer.
• Usually have a 5 point harness that attaches at the hips, between the legs and at the shoulders. 3. 3-in-1 seats (used rear-facing)
• This type of seat can be used rear facing, forward facing and later as a booster seat.
• Tend to be bulky so you need to check that they fit your car while your baby is still rear facing.
• Do not have carrier handles or bases. However they generally have higher rear facing weight allowances (up to 45 pounds) and height limits.
Forward Facing Seats
All children over the age of 2 and younger toddlers who have outgrown rear facing seats, should be placed in a forward facing car seat with a harness. There are a few different options:
1. 3-in-1 seats and convertible seats as discussed above. 2. Forward only facing seats. These are used with a harness for children up to 80 pounds (depending on the make). Although manufacturers don't make forward only seats anymore, some may still be in use from the past. 3. Travel vests are used for children who have outgrown car seats, or they can be used as a temporary alternative to a car seat.
Booster seats are for kids who have outgrown forward facing seats. They are designed to raise the child so that the car seat belt fits over his lap and shoulder.
Popular Brand Names
Some manufacturers produce several model variations which accounts for the price range given below with some brands.
Rear Facing Only Seats
Aprica A30 ($299)
Chicco KeyFit Infant Car Seat ($190)
Combi Shuttle 33 ($199)
Evenflo Embrace ($100)
The First Years ($170)
Peg Perego ($250-$300)
Safety 1st ($69-$180)
Summer Prodigy ($180)
Convertible Only Seats
Eddie Bauer ($130-$180)
The First Years ($200-$240)
Lilly Gold ($270)
Orbit Baby ($380)
Peg Perego ($330)
Safety 1st ($80-$190)