Choosing an infant car seat...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I made a car seat post on my social media last week. This raised some questions about car seats. What do I recommend? Why did I choose the one I'm using? What are things to look for in a seat? Is used ok?

I decided to write up a post that should hopefully help your choice on one of the biggest baby gear purchases. I'm going to focus this on infant seats but many reference points will be the same for convertible or next stage seats. 

The car seat world is quite big! It is always a wonder to why some seats are so expensive compared to others.Aren't all seats that are sold approved for safety and equal? No. Car seats go through rigorous testing to be approved and while any seat that hits the retail market has to pass this test, it doesn't mean the crash dummy did as good as another branded seat. It also doesn't mean that a seat that costs more is safer. Car seat price does usually tend to reflect materials used in the car seat. But there is more to safety than adding the best foams or non toxic covers.

So how do you select the one to purchase? Well, this gets tricky... as a blogger (even though I know the field of car seats due to my history of working the business many years and could probably spew off info on all brands) I feel it's not my place to say what to use. There are many factors that come to play and trying the seat in your car is a huge one. If the seat doesn't fit my recommendation is potentially dangerous. Also the seat needs to fit your lifestyle and you need to be able to use it correctly with ease. I suggest visiting sites like 
these sites give amazing up to date information and can help guide you with what works for your car, lifestyle and overall needs. This will be the only item I will not unequivocally recommend. Sorry guys! But I'm being a responsible blogger. 

What I will give in my car seat tips are ::

Pull back the cover and look for the white foam. There is only a minimal amount needed to pass testing and the inexpensive seats tend to use the true minimum. This foam helps the seat perform by absorbing shock during a crash. You want as much as possible! As you'll see in my photo below my Orbit car seat is fully lined. There are different types of white foam, EPS and EPP. My seat is lined with the better EPP foam. It has more elasticity to it and doesn't break as easily which results in your car seat holding up better during everyday use.

Ask the store if you can try the car seat in your car before you buy. Many businesses mark car seats final sale once you leave the building with them. Fit and ease of installation are important. Also can you get it on the base properly so it is locked tight every time? Does it fit with other car seats if you have older children?

Read your manual FULLY and if you are using a car seat tech for install ask them to teach you. You don't want to be traveling with baby and not know how to get your seat installed! Also, make sure you know how to install your seat without the base. We traveled often with our kids and we never brought our base so the load is lighter to pack.

Don't add anything to your car seat. This includes bunting bags! I know you see them advertised and they look oh so cozy... But don't! They change the way your baby sits in the seat, changes the function of the straps (often slots don't match up) and you can not properly tighten baby in. On this note - don't buckle baby in a big padded jacket or snowsuit either. You can't not tighten the straps properly to get maximum safely.

Used? New? What to do? I personally recommend buying new, always. That way you have the latest advancements in safety and you know the seats history. There are so many items you can cut back on to save money; car seats shouldn't be one of them. If you do choose to go the used route make sure you know the history of the seat, pull back the cover to check for damage or white stress marks on plastics, check manufacture date and expiry yourself (sellers are often in it for themselves) and call in to the manufacture to make sure there are no outstanding recalls on the seat. Also check your area laws. In Canada you can not sell or buy a used seat that isn't up to the latest labeling change. There are seats that check off all requirements of the used recommendations but can't be traded because the new standard label is not attached. It is actually illegal!

Check your harness height to make sure in rear facing mode the straps are AT or BELOW shoulders of baby. These help keep your baby from ejection and secure them into the seat. 

Chest clips are for the chest. (armpit height) A very common mistake is it too low. And don't forget to tighten those straps! A super tight installed car seat doesn't work if the harness on baby isn't right and chest clip isn't used properly.

Please!! Keep babies off the top of the shopping cart. Haven't we heard enough sad stories from falls. If you plan pick up so many groceries that your car seat can't go in the actual basket - carry your baby. It's better for bonding, flat heads, and you get to snuggle while doing one of the annoying household chores. My kids all lived in slings and carrier until age four. Yes, I packed these big boys on my back that big! I always knew where they were and it prevented store theft from sneaky little hands grabbing treats and pocketing them.

You must use a car seat that is approved for your country. This means NO importing USA seats to Canada or vise versa. Even though you see the same seat sold in both USA and Canada they are not cross border friendly. Countries have different labels. Bringing a car seat cross border can result in a traffic ticket or your car insurance company can decline any claims involving the use of a seat. This is not included for traveling with your seat. You can bring your seat on holiday with you and use it.

Travel with your child's own car seat. Do not rely on rental car seats. They are often misused and you will not have proper installation instructions handy. However that said some destination hot spots for families have quality rental agencies and car seat techs that can help you install. Check before you go. Never go anywhere without using a car seat! You do not know the driver and often times places like Mexico or similar countries have fast drivers and crazy roads. We had a couple close calls and experienced a crash in front of us that nearly could have involved our airport transport shuttle in Mexico. Our kids were buckled properly thankfully! Down to cruising in the Caribbean and getting off at ports of call we took our car seat always for tours on the islands. The pain on the butt far outweighs the dangers and risks for my children.

Once you find a car seat you love did you know many brands of strollers will accept them? This is great to get everything you want without compromise. Often seats are perfect but the matching stroller won't work for your lifestyle or trunk. Good quality brand strollers make kits to accept competitors car seats. My Orbit is one of the exceptions to this as it just fits Orbit products.  

Interior of the Orbit infant car seat I am using. As you can see it is fully lined.

What the white EPP/EPS foam you will watch for looks like.


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