Home > Product Reviews > Infant Car Seat Questions

Infant Car Seat Questions

A friend of mine recently asked me some questions about car seats and I thought it would be helpful for new parents to post my responses here. If you have any other questions you’d like me to answer, contact me.

Disclaimer: I am far from an expert on car seats. The safety of your child is of utmost importance so please do your due diligence in researching local safety laws, companies, and products.

I’ve also learned that bashing a baby product is the Internet equivalent of jumping into a tank of sharks with a body length gash, so rather than a comprehensive analysis and review of car seats, I’ll just tell you what we bought and why, and how we liked the products. Additionally, the Baby Bargains Book was a great resource and while it was available at our local library, we bought a copy so that we could mark it up. So on to the questions!

For convertible car seats there are some that are for babies/toddlers “up to 40 lbs” and some that go “up to 65 lbs.”  We weren’t sure if we should get the “compact” one which is the 40 lb one or just have the 65 lb one.  Which size/weight is your car seat?  Do you know the advantages of either/or.

We bought the Britax Roundabout, which is good for up to 40lbs and 40″. Using height and weight charts (here and here), a boy in the 50th percentile will reach that height at age 4 and that weight at age 5, while a girl will reach that height and weight at roughly 5 years old. Initially, I thought the idea behind convertible car seats that go up to 65lbs are that you won’t have to buy a booster seat since Maryland Law requires a child under 65lbs to be in a booster seat – beyond that, they simply need a seat belt. The larger convertible seats give you an extra 25lbs and 9″ (the height requirement usually trumps the weight requirement – though with rising levels of obesity, that could change), and some parents who bought something similar to the Roundabout ended up having to buy a larger convertible seat. My wife and I settled on the Roundabout because
1) we’re both average for height and weight – though a part of me was hoping for that recessive gene to come forth and produce a Korean NBA player
2) we have a smaller car – the Babies R Us allowed me to install a floor model and in the rear-facing position, I had to sit uncomfortably close to the steering wheel
3) the Roundabout was on sale
4) I randomly asked another customer how much their child weighed and if they would mind her sitting in the Marathon. She was 6 years old and about 45lbs; she looked massive in the seat. This was a minor consideration, however, since safety is far more important than aesthetics.

Also, when testing car seats in the store, make sure you try them out: how easy it is to adjust the shoulder straps, how smooth the release button is, how the hardness works, etc…Safety-wise, some $100 seats compare favorably to the $300+ ones, but they might be less convenient to setup and use.

Snap-on Infant car seats/carriers: people keep recommending to get those graco snugride car seats that you can carry around and snap into a stroller/cart.  But the baby can only last in it for about 25 lbs or so.  Did you like yours?  What are the advantages of it (vs. just sticking the baby in the convertible car seats that can hold 5 lbs babies and fit rear-facing).

We loved ours. As I stated before, often the height, not weight, is the determining factor for car seats. Most newborns are over 5lbs, but they might be well under the lowest harness slots. Being who I am, I of course tried sitting my daughter in one of the convertible seats that allow for infants, and her shoulders were at the same level as the bottom harness slots.

The big advantage of the Snugride is that the car seat detaches from the base, which has several benefits. First, if you use multiple vehicles, it’s much more economical to buy two bases rather than two car seats. Yes, you could move a convertible seat back and forth, and latch makes this more convenient than using shoulder belts, but it can get real old, real quick. Second, we were able to have many meals in peace since our daughter usually fell asleep in the car and stayed asleep since we didn’t have to remove her from the seat. When you haven’t gotten 8 hours of sleep in a while, this is huge. Finally, the stroller frame offers the similar conveniences.

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  1. June 22, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    I’ve known quite a few friends who didn’t buy two bases and only wanted factory-installed car seats. They ended up regretting that choice. Good call to buy two bases and to stress that you want to be able to keep a sleeping child asleep – car seat and all!

    • Pop
      June 23, 2010 at 8:02 am

      Keeping a sleeping child asleep is crucial for maintaining sanity. 😛

  2. June 22, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Go Pops!

    It is good to read that people are becoming interested i child restraint seats!

    But, the focus is really all wrong. First, note that these products are not referred to in the Juvenile Products Association (this is the trade group that is supposed to oversee this product class) as “safety seats,” because they are not really providing much help. There are no ratings of any substance and there is not one seat on the market that provides any meaningful protection in the event of a side impact. They are not even tested for side impacts because everyone in the industry knows they cannot pass any test. Most manufacturers are self insured and quickly pay off injured families so they avoid public scrutiny. Check Dorel v Uxa if you want to see what happened when a family refused to give in after their child suffered irreversible head and neck injuries. The Uxa family was awarded $10mm. More to the significance of the case, the judge ruled that the federal standards are inadequate and not the basis for a defense. This industry is close knit, extraordinarily profitable and their sub par products are required by law to be used. There are new technologies that overcome many of these shortcomings, but the manufacturers refuse to look at them as it would be tacit admission that their products are somehow defective. When a NASCAR driver can walk away from a 225 mile an hour crash where the car is essentially demolished, and a child-as-passenger in a “safety seat” is hit at 30 miles an hour from the side and has to spent the rest of their life drooling into a paper cup, something is terribly wrong. If yo really want to make an impact, write your congress person and demand foreword looking rule making that would allow for new technology to be brought into the marketplace.

    Your heart is in the right place, but you are in an area where the facts are hidden – kind of like deep water drilling.

    • Pop
      June 23, 2010 at 8:03 am

      Thanks for the comment drooo. You’re right in that it is difficult to find actual safety information – the majority is clever marketing. I’ll definitely look into it further. Thanks!

  3. June 22, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    I sense the excitement building as it’s getting close! 😀

    • Pop
      June 23, 2010 at 8:04 am

      Yeah. Installing the 2nd seat was surreal.

  4. June 24, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    The infant car seat doesn’t last long, but it’s really convenient with a tiny baby who falls asleep in the car and you don’t want to wake up. Then, all you need is a second base for the other car, so that’s really convenient too. And snapping it into the stroller is a breeze. So yes, getting an infant car seat means getting a bigger car seat several months later, but convenience does have a price.

    I believe we also have the Britax roundabout for both of our boys now. It’s a nice seat that works well until your child is too big for it. My almost 4-year old is barely 34lb but almost 42″ so he’s reaching the top of it. Looks like we may switch to a booster seat in a little while, but I want to keep this seat in as long as I can because of the secure 5-point harness. The only problem with those car seats is that even in the back of the Ford Fusion, they do take a lot of room and there’s no seating a third person there. So even if you go out as a family of 4 and have one additional guest, you need another car.

    I want to warn all parents that for car seat safety, high prices don’t mean higher safety. All car seats on the market are bound to the same standards, so a $500 car seat is no better than a $150 car seat. My advice is to shop around on the web because there are some good deals out there and prices vary, even for the same product.

    http://perfectingmotherhood.wordpress.com

  5. March 2, 2011 at 6:37 am

    I was just looking at Britax seats on Amazon. They are rated very high by customers. They are averaging about 4.5 out 5 stars.

    • Pop
      March 2, 2011 at 9:29 am

      We have 4 Britax seats installed right now – 2 in each car. And we love them for older children. For infants, the Britax seats are bit hard to use rearfacing in my experience and the new seats (Roundabout55 & Marathon 70) are difficult to get completely tight.

  1. June 22, 2010 at 3:32 pm

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