Infant Car Seats

Whether or not you own a car, you should have a car seat ready before your baby is born. If you live around the corner from the hospital and are walking home, you can securely place your baby in an infant car seat, which can attach to car seat strollers.

Unless you plan on walking home, you should have an infant car seat correctly installed in your vehicle. This is essential for your baby’s safety. Check your state’s car seat safety laws and your hospital policy, as there are certain areas that have laws stating that you cannot leave the hospital unless you have a car seat if you are leaving in a private vehicle.

Planning ahead and buying a car seat before your baby is born allows you to have some time in case there is a problem with the carseat you purchased or if you have trouble installing it.

Car Seats for Newborns

Newborns can use an infant car seat or a convertible car seat. Although a convertible car seat is cheaper, using infant car seats has its advantages, such as that it’s safer. Even though most newborns fit in a convertible car seat, experts agree that babies weighing less than 20 pounds are better off in smaller infant car seats. For further information, learn about the differences between infant car seats and convertible car seats.

Infant car seats are designed for newborns and small babies. They’re structured to hold newborns securely and offer support in all the right places. They feature a harness, and in the event of a crash, cradles and moves with your child to reduce damages to your child’s neck and spinal cord. Any child under the age of one is recommended to ride in this type of car seat.

The infant car seat is portable and can function as a carrier for easy mobility. These car seats can click in and out into an adjustable base that is strapped and remains in the vehicle. Infant car seats are convenient for parents because they can easily transport their baby from the car to their home without having to disturb the baby’s sleep or remove them from their comfortable seat. On the other hand, most convertible car seats are not portable, making it difficult to transport your baby.

Infant Car Seat Weight Limit

Most infant safety seats have a weight limit of 22 to 35 pounds. Each car seat is different so you need to check your car seat manufacturer’s instruction manual or look at the label on the side of the car seat to determine its weight limit. Once your baby has reached the weight limit allowed by the infant car seat, he should continue to ride rear-facing in a convertible car seat or 3-in-1 car seat.

Infant Car Seat Height Limit

Many infant car seats have a height limit of 29 to 32 inches tall. As a rule of thumb, there should be at least one inch between the top of the child’s head and the top of the car seat.

It’s hard to give a height limit. Some kids have longer legs and others have longer torsos, but it’s really the torso that matters. Also, it is okay if your child’s feet are touching the vehicle seat back. It does not mean that he has outgrown rear-facing position.

Infant Car Seat Installation

Studies show that three out of four car seats are improperly installed. Always refer to your specific car safety manufacturer’s instruction manual to see how to install the car seat properly. Below are helpful reminders when installing an infant car seat:

  • Place infant car seat in the back seat of the vehicle.
  • Infant safety seats should always face the rear of the vehicle. These car seats should not be turned around to a forward-facing position.
  • Ensure that the base of the car seat is at the correct recline angle. Many car seats come with a built-in adjuster or angle indicator.
  • Car seats can be installed with seat belts or the LATCH system. LATCH, Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, is a way to install a car seat by attaching its anchors and tethers to the metal latches, or hooks, in the back seats of vehicles. Do not use both a seat belt and the LATCH system to secure a car seat. That puts too much stress on a car seat and can prevent it from working properly in a vehicle crash.

Tips on securing your baby in a car seat:

  • Ensure your child is sitting with his back and bottom flat against the car seat.
  • Make sure the seatbelt straps/tethers are tight. You should not be able to move any harness, strap, or the entire seat itself in any direction more than inch.
  • There should be no twists in the seat belt straps or harness strap.
  • A good rule of thumb to know if you’ve strapped your baby in tightly is to do the Pinch Test. Pinch the harness straps with your fingers. If you are able to pinch some of the material between your fingers, it means the straps are too loose. If the straps are tight enough, your fingers will slide right off.
  • Buckle your child in the car seat first before laying any coats or blankets over the harness.

When to Change Car Seat

Knowing when to change the car seat depends on the growth rate of your baby and your car seat’s specific maximum weight and height guidelines. Some babies outgrow their infant car seat faster than other babies and may need to switch to a rear-facing convertible/toddler car seat sooner. Ensure that your baby stays in the rear-facing position for as long as possible, as it is safest.

To get an idea of average height/weight requirements for infant car seats, below are five popular car seats and their maximum size requirements. Please remember to check your own car seat’s manual for specific size limitations.

1) Graco SnugRide Click Connect 30 LX Infant Car Seat
Limits: 4- 30 pounds, up to 30 inches tall

2) Britax B-Safe 35 Infant Car Seat
Limits: 4-35 pounds, up to 32 inches tall

3) Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat and Base
Limits: 4-30 pounds, up to 30 inches tall

4) Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35 Infant Car Seat
Limits: 4-35 pounds, up to 32 inches tall

5) UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat
Limits: 4-35 pounds, up to 32 inches tall