Choosing the Right Car Seat For Your Child

Car seats keep kids safe while traveling in vehicles. They also make driving easier for parents because they help reduce back and neck injuries in the event of a crash.

The right seat for your child varies depending on their age and size, but it should fit well in the vehicle you’re driving and be easy to install and use. Whether you’re in the market for an infant seat, a convertible seat that grows with your child or a booster seat for kids who are too big to fit in a forward-facing seat, you’ll find options that meet your needs and protect your little one.

Infant car seats typically come with inserts to help your baby adapt to the seat from birth through much of his or her first year. Once your baby is ready to ride rear-facing, read the seat’s instructions carefully and follow them exactly.

Ensure that the harness fits snugly in your baby’s chest so there are no pinches or folds in the material. It’s also important that the straps lie flat in a straight line and do not sag or twist as your baby grows.

It’s also a good idea to put a warm blanket on your infant while she’s in the car seat, as this will keep her extra cozy. This is especially important if your baby wears bulky winter coats, as they may interfere with the tightness of the seat’s straps.

Convertible seats are designed to grow with your child as they get older, letting them stay in the seat for a longer period of time. They’re generally used from about 5 to 50 pounds in rear-facing mode, and can then transition to a forward-facing seat for your child until they’re about 40 to 60 pounds. Once your child reaches this weight, he or she can move into a booster seat, which will help them fit in the car’s seat belt correctly.

All-in-one car seats are gaining in popularity because they’re easier to use than buying multiple separate infant, convertible and booster car seats over the course of your child’s first years. They’re also a great choice for families with multiple children who may not always have the same age or weight.

The Britax One4Life is a 4-in-1 that converts from rear-facing for infants to forward-facing for toddlers to booster mode, accommodating children who weigh anywhere from five to 120 pounds. It comes with a no-rethread harness and machine-washable padding, and is also easy to install, thanks to its Clicktight system.

While it doesn’t have the highest scores in third-party crash tests, it does have a high rating for its head-injury criteria (which is crucial for keeping your child’s brain and spinal cord safe in case of a collision). The seat’s steel frame also helps to prevent serious injury during a crash.

The top-rated Nuna RAVA is a rear-facing convertible seat with plenty of thoughtful features to maximize safety and ease of use, like retractable cup holders, an extendable calf rest and breathable knit fabric. It also has a high rear-facing limit of 50 pounds and easy installation using your car’s seat belt.

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