This is a partial reprint from Giggle; read the entire article here: http://www.giggle.com/Car-Seats/gear-guides-car-seats,default,pg.html
As far as the law is concerned, diapers, clothes, and a bed for your baby are all optional. A car seat is the only item you’re legally required to buy—no ifs, ands, or buts. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t have a car; they won’t let you take your child home from the hospital until you have a car seat, even if you just carry your child in it as you walk home on foot. So there’s no question whether you’re getting one; the question is just what kind and how many. We might as well go ahead and break it to you, you’ll probably end up having to buy three separate car seats to cover three different sizes of child: an infant seat, a toddler seat, and a booster seat. The only exceptions are if you buy a convertible car seat that covers two stages, allowing you to buy just two seats, or if you have a newer-model car that comes with its own booster seat, thus cutting out one of the purchases. This is one of the few categories that the experts unanimously recommend not taking a hand-me-down to save some expense. Car seat technology is always changing, and since it’s a safety issue, you’ll want the most up-to-date style available. The sheer quantity of seats to choose from can be intimidating, but you can narrow the field pretty quickly if you have an idea of what you’re looking for. So buckle up—you’re about to learn everything you ever needed to know about car seats!
There are four basic types of car seat, and the difference between them has to do with what size your child is. We’ll go into more detail in the stage considerations section, but here are the basic differences.
Your infant car seat is designed for approximately the first six to nine months. The primary feature of infant car seats is that they’re portable, thanks to their detachable base, which means you can get sleeping babies in and out of the car without waking them. These seats are designed for rear-facing installation only. Yes, this means the child will be in the backseat facing away from you, which can be hard, but it’s much safer (and it’s the law).
This is the car seat you’ll need from around six months of age up to four years, or 40 pounds, whichever comes first. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping car seats rear-facing until your baby reaches two years of age. After that, these car seats can be installed facing forward.
The booster seat is for kids who are too big for a toddler seat but too small to be released from car-seatdom altogether. They get to use the car’s seat belt system just like the grown-ups; the booster seat just provides a little extra protection—and a little bit of a height boost. State laws vary for how long you must keep your child in a booster seat, but the seats are designed to be used from the ages of four to eight and from 30 to 100 pounds.
Remember how we said you might be able to get away with just two car seats? The key would be to buy a convertible car seat that covers two of the three stages. There are two types: one that combines the infant seat and toddler seat, and one that combines the toddler seat and booster seat. They still haven’t found a way to make one seat that can work from infancy up to eight years (and would we really want them to?).
All the different combinations might start to make your head spin (or is that just morning sickness?), so here’s a quick synopsis of your options.
Infant seat, toddler seat, and booster seat – By buying all three seats separately, you get the best features of each stage, but it does end up costing a little more.
Infant/toddler convertible plus booster seat – This combination saves money since you’re only buying two seats, but you lose the portability of a dedicated infant seat.
Infant seat plus toddler/booster convertible – This combination also saves money since you’re only buying two seats, but there’s a space trade-off since the toddler/booster convertibles are typically a lot bigger than a booster seat. The good news is, you only need to make one choice to start with, and that’s whether to buy an infant seat or an infant/toddler convertible seat.
Parents who will take the baby in the car only occasionally might opt for the convertible seat at this stage. Here’s why: the infant-seat stage only lasts around six or seven months—nine tops. This means that if you don’t drive much, you’ll only enjoy the portability of the infant seat a handful of times—which probably won’t be worth the extra expense. But parents who are in and out of the car all the time will probably prefer to spend the money on a standard infant seat.
Whatever you decide, a car seat is one purchase you shouldn’t skimp on. Your primary consideration should be the car seat’s safety ratings; then you can factor in ease of use, cost, and style to make your final decision. The car you drive will also impact your decision. If you have a newer car with a high safety rating, you don’t need to worry quite as much, but if you have an older model, you’ll want the biggest, safest car seat money can buy.
Car seats today come in a range of fabric and textile choices. Don’t be swayed by nice upholstery before you’ve checked up on the safety features. And if your favorite car seat comes in an atrocious pea green or a tacky pattern that you just can’t bear, you can always disguise it with a pretty car seat cover, which manufacturers have started to make in a variety of colors, patterns, and materials.
If you want to read more about features to look for, lifestyle considerations, usage tips, and safety standards, read the entire article here: http://www.giggle.com/Car-Seats/gear-guides-car-seats,default,pg.html
28 December 2012
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