Designed to protect your baby on the road, car seats come in a variety of styles and sizes. Varying from family to family, the best infant car seat is the one that fits your car and baby properly. While there are countless designs on the market today, your primary decision will be choosing between a convertible seat and a carrier. To help you find the best ride for your little bundle, here is a quick look at the differences between the two and their various features that you should consider.
1. Convertible Seat
Sporting a general weight range of 5 to 60 pounds, convertible car seats can be installed in both the rear-facing and forward-facing positions. This dual-purpose element makes this seat style a cost-effective option since it can be used for a longer period of time. Most convertible car seats can remain rear facing until the child is 40 pounds, which is a great safety feature. As a downside, these seats are very difficult to transfer between vehicles, and their size is often too bulky for smaller cars. Their size and lack of portability are their primary disadvantages. As for cost, prices range from $65 to upwards of $400.
2. Infant Carrier
Providing a snug fit for smaller babies, infant carriers are the go-to option for many parents. Most styles feature a weight range of 4 to 40 pounds, and they are much smaller than their convertible counterparts. Equipped with a convenient handle, an infant carrier can be quickly and easily transported between vehicles, making it a great option for families with multiple cars. While they can be strapped in with the vehicle's restraint system, most carriers come with removable bases, which make them even easier to move to different cars. As a disadvantage, this seat style can only be used in the rear-facing position. In regard to price, infant carriers cost anywhere from $50 to $200 or more.
1. Harness System
Whichever style you choose, you should look for a seat that is equipped with a 5-point harness as they are deemed the safest option by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This type of harness is also completely adjustable to fit any size baby.
2. LATCH Connectors
Most modern vehicles were manufactured with a LATCH restraint system. Short for “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children,” the LATCH system eliminates the need for seat belts while installing car seats. When using a convertible car seat, the LATCH connectors attach to the seat itself. With an infant carrier, they attach to the removable base.
3. Infant Insert
When shopping for a car seat, look for an option that comes with an infant insert. Providing extra support for newborns, infant inserts keep a baby's head from jostling back and forth too much during road trips.
4. Recline Indicator
It's also important that you choose a seat with a clear recline indicator. Since they can't control their head, infants must remain in a reclined position during car rides, and a recline indicator will let you know when the seat is at a safe angle. Some seats feature a simple line indicator while other feature a ball or bubble design.
Being the most precious cargo that you'll ever transport, your baby deserves a comfortable, supportive and safe place to travel. If you compare each seat's features to your baby's needs, your particular vehicle and your unique lifestyle, you'll be able to wade through the sea of seats to find the best infant car seat for your baby.