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.