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Expecting a Child? What You Need to Know About Car Seats

know about car seats

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Few things are as exciting as expecting a child, especially when it’s your firstborn and you’re new to the experience. However, with so much information about car seats and child safety available on the Internet, shopping for a car seat can be a daunting experience.

When your child’s life is on the line, what’s the best way to keep them safe?

know about car seats

Children grow fast, which means the type of car seat they need to use will change over time. As your child gets older, you’ll likely go through at least two or three car seats. Because of that, it’s essential you know the protocols for optimal safety, what we call best practice. A small change can make a big difference in overall safety, so you’ll want to be sure you are keeping up with the latest trends.

If you’re expecting a child, learn about car seats for children of different ages.

Infants and Smaller Toddlers

As car safety experts, we recommend infants and young toddlers use a rear-facing car seat.

A rear-facing car seat faces away from the driver and contains a special harness for the baby. In case of an accident, these seats are designed to cradle and move with the infant, reducing possible injury to the neck and spinal cord.

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You’ll likely use these seats for the first few years of your baby’s life, but your child’s size and weight can affect the general timeline. Some states require rear-facing until age 2, so be aware of your state car seat law too.

You can easily install these types of car seats through your car’s standard seat belt or a LATCH system (lower anchors and tethers for children). Both methods are safe, so the choice mainly depends on what your vehicle is equipped to handle. A general rule for rear-facing car seats is that they should be used up until the baby reaches the highest weight or height specified by the car safety seat’s manufacturer. There are many brands on the market, so do your research and pick your favorite to find the best option for your car and infant.

If you use an infant carrier, when your kid gets older, you’ll need a different kind of seat. Often a child will outgrow the infant carrier but still need to be rear facing. A convertible car seat can start rear facing and turns forward facing later. It is an excellent choice for parents who want to utilize the same seat as their child grows. Parents can even skip the infant carrier and start with the convertible seat or an all-in-one seat.

As the name implies, these car seats can convert from rear facing to forward facing.

Toddlers and Preschoolers

Once a child has outgrown the weight or height limitations of a rear-facing car seat, you’ll need to upgrade to a forward-facing seat with a harness. Or once they outgrow their convertible seat’s rear-facing specifications, the seat needs to be turned to forward facing.

Forward-facing car seats are positioned to protect larger children in the event of a crash or collision. This type of car seat can be installed with LATCH anchors, but only up to a certain weight. Whenever you’ve exceeded manufacturer recommendations, you must use your car’s seat belt to secure the seat. Much like rear-facing seats, your child should only use harness seats until they reach a height or weight limitation. Many of these car seats can accommodate weights up to 65 lbs., but you may see variation across different products.

Also, it’s critical to consider how local traffic laws may affect your child’s car seat use. Depending on your local jurisdictions, you may need to comply with special requirements to ensure the health and safety of minors. Failure to do so can result in severe consequences, so consult your local child restraint statutes to ensure you comply with the law! 

School-Aged Children

After exceeding the forward-facing seat limitations, the last stage of car seats is called a belt-positioning This stage is commonly known as “booster seat stage” but alternative devices, like the RideSafer vest, also fit.

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All booster seats aim to position the child so that the car’s seat belt crosses their chest and secures their hips. In other words, the primary function of these seats is to allow smaller children to sit higher up so the seat belt fits them more like it would an adult. The RideSafer, on the other hand, brings the seat belt down to fit the child. Boosters require a lap-shoulder belt. RideSafer can be used with a lap-shoulder belt or lap-only belt and tether strap.

Regardless of the type of device, a child should use one until they reach the proper height for seat belt use. Typically, this will occur when they’ve reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between the ages of 8 and 12. Many different types of booster seats are available on the market. Some of these include:

Booster Seat With High Back

This booster contains an extended seat backing to provide added head and neck support for your child. As such, they’re mainly used in vehicles that lack high-seat backs or headrests, such as small passenger vehicles and many older car models.

Backless Booster Seat

These seats do not feature extended backing. They’re ideal for vehicles with enough headrest space for the child and for older children who can sit properly for the whole ride and need less side to side support.

All-In-One Car Seats

An all-in-one seat combines all three car seat categories into one versatile tool. As your child outgrows the height or weight limitations within the different categories, you can convert this type of car seat between rear-facing, forward-facing and booster. Many all-in-one car seats contain a 5-point harness that attaches at the shoulders, at the hips, and also between the legs. If properly cared for, some all-in-one car seats can last up to 10 years! 

Combination Seat

Like the all-in-one this type of seat transitions through the years as children grow. However, a combination seat does not include the rear-facing stage, only forward facing and booster. It is a forward-facing car seat with a 5-point harness that can be removed when the child reaches belt positioning stage.

Some brands are calling these transitioning seats “harness boosters”. This is not a different type of car seat. These are all-in-one or combination seats that transition from a 5-point harness seat to a booster seat by removing the harness straps in the seat.

Download our report: Common Car Seat Mistakes and How to Fix Them

What Else do you need to know about Car Seat Safety?

No matter what car seat your child is using, the best way to learn about your car seat is to read the manual and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Every car seat is designed in a unique way. Not all seats will work for every child, car, or situation. For example, installing the car seat in the middle back seat of the car may be the safest place to position your baby while driving, but this position may not work for your car and car seat combination or other family considerations. You should use a car seat to ensure your child is safe. Don’t skip past the instructions and make a mistake setting up your seat.

It’s critical to ensure you install and maintain your car seat as appropriate. An off-balance setup or missed anchor can result in severe injury to your child.

When cleaning your car seats, be sure to use safe chemicals. Otherwise, you risk diminishing the protective qualities of seats and harnesses. Again check your manual for specific instructions.

Many traffic safety experts publish ongoing studies about the effectiveness of car seats. Like most consumer products, the technologies for car seats are continuously improving. As such, you may want to freshen up on the most recent literature regarding car seat safety.

Utilizing a car seat and booster seat properly may save your child’s life. As a parent, always ensure small children are safely buckled in a car seat when you get behind the wheel. Even short drives can be disastrous if you don’t take precautions with your child’s safety.

Copyright 2023 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. You may not publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this material without permission. You are welcome to link to Safe Ride 4 Kids or share on social media.

© kalinovsky | depositphotos

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