Choosing the right infant car seat can feel overwhelming when you start looking at all of the different options, but it’s one of the biggest decisions to make during the final trimester. You will need to find the right combination between safety, comfort and ease of use and all before you even enter the hospital. All health care professionals in American hospitals are required by law to make sure you have an appropriate car seat installed before they will let you go home.
Fortunately, when you are trying to narrow down your car seat choices, you need to make one big decision, which will rule out large swathes of the market. This is how you will get your baby in and out of your car and you have three main options.
By far and away, the most popular is the click in, click out system. This type of infant car seat comes with a fixed base that straps into the back seat of your car using the seatbelt. The main part is a baby carrier with a large handle that you then click into the base making it fully secure. When you have reached your destination, you simply lift the carrier out, which is great for when you baby has fallen asleep on the ride.
The main drawback of the click in, click out car seat is that the baby carriers are size specific so you’ll need to buy a new seat when your baby gets to be around one year old. This can add to the expense but it does give you some thinking time as to whether you like the system.
The best of the click in, click out range is the Graco Snugride infant car seat. The base unit is a simple plastic affair that is multi directional meaning you only need the one base unit throughout your child’s first couple of years. All that you need to buy is the extension for the carrier, which allows for your baby’s growth. Expect to pay between $130 and $160 depending on your model.
If you have a little more money to spend initially then you should look at getting a full seat infant car seat. What you will get for your money is a fully upright seat that uses the seatbelt to secure tightly into the back seat. Most models come with handles that allow you to strap the chair in both rear and forward facing positions. They also come with an infant insert meaning that you can use them from birth all the way up to two or three years old.
The main drawback of a full seat is that it does not give you many options in terms of moving your baby around. You will always have to carry your baby to and from the car and the infant car seat will always be a permanent fixture in the back seat.
If you decide on a full seat, you should look getting a Britax car seat. The Roundabout range is their best selling full seat model and comes with two strong over shoulder harnesses that slowly expand, as your baby gets bigger. It also has the greatest tilt angle, which is essential for your newborn who will need to be as close to horizontal as possible. Be prepared to pay a little more though as the basic models go for at least $200.
Finally, if you are looking to save some money during your final trimester, you can get a car seat that doubles as a stroller. The carrier fits into a base unit in your car and onto the chassis of your stroller meaning that you can switch between the two with ease. The Eddie Bauer car seat is the best example of these with the whole stroller combination setting you back between $300 and $500.
A quality infant car seat has saved many a baby from injury and death and this is one product that you want to choose wisely, weighing safety above cost.