We’ve all been there: our kid looks adorable, we take a picture, want to put it on Facebook and then realize, they’re in their car seat and we don’t want to risk all the messages that will follow. I’m here to help!
The safest seat for your child is the one that fits in your car properly and is used correctly. Many baby boutiques will allow you to test seats in your vehicle. A couple big box stores will have someone accompany you out to your car with the floor model as well. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you have to re-mortgage your home to get a good car seat. All car seats pass the same federal standards. Sure, some have more bells and whistles but a properly installed seat at any price will keep a child safe. Proper installation is half the battle. Details at carseatexperts.comARVE Error: need id and provider
While we’re talking about installation here are a couple tips:
– Read your manual. It’s not quite as interesting as Harry Potter but it should tell you everything you need to know about your specific seat’s installation and usage.
– You can use the LATCH or the seat belt but not both. Neither one is safer than the other; it’s all personal preference and about which ones is less of a pain in the butt to use in your car.
– You can get your seat checked at a car seat clinic or by a CPST. People often recommend fire stations. While the fireman sure are sexy and watching their biceps while they see if the seat is tight enough is a lot of fun, they aren’t usually trained as CPSTs and aren’t the best option. Gather some info regarding car seat history; it can help you to be decided to head up for the right option.
What seat do I need for my kid?
There’s only 400,000 options out there so it’s not that difficult to wade through or anything. But I’ll give you a few tips.
You have a couple options.
– The very convenient, yet short lived, infant carrier. These are the seats that snap in easily to a pre installed base, and can be carried around. Often these seats last roughly the first year, until about 20lbs (some last longer). Your arm’s ability to enjoy the convenience of carrying the seat may not last quite as long.
High end: Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat – $229.99 CAD ($179.99 USD)
Cost affordable: Safety 1st OnBoard22 Infant Car Seat (With Travel System). – $99.97 CAD ($92 USD)
– The not so portable 2-in-1 or 3-in-1 convertible seat. These seats will last you from the day they exit the womb to the day they get married, roughly. They fit rear facing, forward facing, and often times as a booster.
High end: Diono RadianRXT – $379.99 CAD ($339.99USD)
Cost Affordable: Safety 1st Scenera LX (Aka Cosco Scenera) $89.99 CAD ($44.00)
In lands far and wide the law is generally that a toddler can forward face when they reach 1 year, 20lbs or both. It is now widely accepted that kids should remain rear facing until 2 years old as a minimum to support their spinal column in the event of an accident. If your child can keep going past that by all means keep them rear facing. The longer they rear face, the longer you can sneak snacks into the car without them knowing and wanting to steal a piece. Most convertible seats will support a child up to at least 30lbs. Follow your manual as there are also height restrictions on seats and they vary greatly seat to seat.
A common question/concern is about a child’s legs being long or being unsafe once touching a seat. Have no fear, your kid will find a way to sit that’s comfy for them. Some sit criss cross. Some are too cool for the rest of us and put their feet up and kick back. Some are just meant to be gymnasts and will go full contortionist. Whatever your child does, in an accident they’re legs will be fine. I could explain more but sciencing is hard, so I’ll let the video do the talking.
High end: Diono Radian RXT or Britax Advocate – $459.99CAD ($409 USD)
Cost Affordable: Graco Size4Me 65 – $159.99 CAD ($139.99 USD)
Once you decide it’s time to have your kid question you about the colour of every stop light you encounter it’s time for forward facing. Most likely you won’t need to be a slave to consumerism with a new seat and can continue to use the convertible. Once again, the recommendations and laws don’t exactly line up, because what kind of world would it be if this were all easy on us. Some places have a minimum by age, and some by weight, before you can move to a booster. The simplest recommendation: Keep the seat until they’ve outgrown it by height or weight. Might as well get the most of it.
There is one important difference in seat set up from rear facing to forward facing and that is those evil pieces of the seat that are the biggest pain in the butt to adjust, I think the technical term is straps. When rear facing the straps should be at or below your child’s adorable little shoulders. When they are watching the world ahead of them they go at or above.
If you find you need, or want, a forward facing specific seat (usually these also turn into high back boosters) here are a couple suggestions.
High end: Graco Nautilus – $229.99 CAD ($179.99 USD)
Affordable end: Evenflo Maestro – $119.99 CAD ($79.99 USD)
If you’ve reached booster stage – congratulations! You’re almost done with all of this! A booster seat’s main goal is to make a child taller so the seat belt fits them properly. You want the shoulder belt to lay centred on the collarbone and lap belt low and flat across the hips, not the belly. This is one of the main things to consider when deciding if your kid is ready for a low back or if you still need a high back.
High Back Booster (HBB) – If the seat belt doesn’t fit across the collarbone and across the hips correctly then celebrate your baby not quite being grown up yet and stick with the HBB. It offers a lot more support on proper belt positioning. The other function a HBB offers is nice, comfy head support if your child falls asleep. Your other option is a large coffee to keep them awake, I wouldn’t recommend that one.
As always, read your manual. Some boosters do require you to use latch still, some just fit in.
Backless Booster – Of all steps of car seats this offers the least protection and is only there to make your child tall enough to fit the seat belt right. We spend years wishing they’d stop going and then you get so close to being car seat free you just want those extra few inches.
Exiting the Booster
4’9” is the minimum height to safely use a seat belt sans booster. The 5 step test is highly recommended as the guide to whether your child is ready to free you of all car apparatuses. Once passed, you become the envy of all your friends who still have to deal with huge plastic safety devices.
It’s not recommended to use winter coats or bunting bags in car seats due to the inability to properly tighten the straps. I’m in Canada, my kids need to stay warm. So what options do I have to avoid coming home with kidsicles?
-Fleece jackets. Fleece doesn’t compress like a big puffy jacket so it remains a safe option.
– A purchased, or homemade car seat poncho. I made my kids one with a sheet of fleece from the fabric store and I cut a hole for their head about 6 inches from the end. Easy Peasy and pretty inexpensive.
-Wear the coat, take said coat off at car, buckle child in, put coat back on backwards (like a puffy snuggy).
-If you’re leaving from home you can preheat car. Everyone benefits. Everyone gets to be warm.
-For infant carries, they make what is known as “shower cap style” covers. These have elastics and go over top of the carrier.
It’s very tempting to decorate your newborn’s seat. There’s so many adorable, irresistible products out there. There’s good and bad news. The bad news is there is no testing standard for any of these products. Some companies may genuinely test them but it’s hard to test compatibility with every seat on the market. If it is going to touch the straps in any way make sure it came with the seat. Most car seat manuals will warn against aftermarket products.
Here’s the good news; you didn’t think I’d leave you stranded without a few safe ways to personalize your seat did you?
-You can head to the fabric store, pick out some adorable fleece and make a poncho for winter. He simplest possible way is to just cut a slit in it for baby’s head but if you check out pinterest there’s a lot of fancier designs for those with more sewing aptitude than I.
– Buy a car seat canopy. Functional for keeping wind or sun off of baby and does not interfere with the function of the seat in any way. If you lean a little Stepford in your life you can get one for each outfit you, or baby owns. Switch it up daily. Why not?
If you made it this far I feel like I should have a glass of wine, or a shot of tequila ready for you. Now go forth and feel confident in sharing car seat pictures on facebook without your inbox filling up with messages from your friends.
*Super fun disclaimer time. The seats recommended will not suit all vehicles, all children or all needs and are examples of what’s out there. The prices may vary depending on store and location.