Newborns - What to Look for in a Child Safety Seat
Among the highest goals for any parent is the safety of their child. One of the key elements in that plan is selecting the right safety seat for the car. Here are a few things to look for when trying to find that perfect model.
The first considerations are age and weight. Infants under age one should be provided with a safety seat specifically tailored to their size. It should also be rear facing and not intended for use by older babies.
Those older than one but less than four will weigh on average between 20-40 lbs. They're also, of course, taller than infants and the older they are the taller. That opens up the possibility of a forward-facing car seat, which is a little more convenient for parents. It should be still installed in the back seat, though.
Convenience doesn't have to be sacrificed for any of these goals, of course. Many models are convertible. That is, they can be turned from a rear-facing position to forward-facing with a few simple movements. Still, keep in mind the correct age and weight characteristics.
As an aside, there's a difference between an infant seat and an infant car seat. The former is just a baby carrier that can be placed in the car, on the floor or table at home. A car seat is specifically designed to be used in the car.
Fortunately, clever designers have blurred the line between the two. Many models are available that do, indeed, allow strapping the child safely into the car. It can then be unbuckled and used as a carrier.
Since it is to be used in the car, though, it will be important that it satisfies certain criteria. A 5-point harness attachment design is key. This allows parents to use the car's safety restraining belt to attach the car seat at the hips, shoulders and between the legs. That provides a very stable, secure platform.
It's helpful to have an overhead shield, too. These are padded covers that rotate down over the child. A variation is the T-shield, a padded T-shaped section that attaches to the shoulder straps.
Look for models with a tether at the top that can be attached from the top of the child's car seat to an anchor point in the car. That adds extra safety. Some have a system called LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). This eliminates the need to use the car's safety belts which, after all, were designed for larger children and adults. The car seat attaches, instead, entirely to the anchors. Vehicles made after Sep, 2002 all have these systems.
Other attributes of a good car safety seat can involve convenience for the parent and comfort for the child.
Children come naturally in different shapes. Like the adults they will become, some are slender, others more rounded. Some are a little longer or taller. That means they all fit a little differently in the seat.
A car safety seat that makes it easy to safely and securely add or remove padding, blankets and more provides additional comfort and safety. At the same time, parents have to spend less time adjusting the seat to make a good fit. That's a win-win situation for both. Some even have integrated travel vests that can be buckled around the child.
That same double-theme of safety and convenience is carried on by seat designs that make it easy to insert and adjust the restraining straps. Parents are busy folk and it's easy to succumb to the temptation to take a short cut. But no one wants to sacrifice safety. A design that requires only a few seconds to install or move the seat satisfies all those needs.