Infant Car Seats
Infant car seats are rear-facing seats specifically designed for babies who weigh less than 20 pounds and are under a year old. Infant car seats are small, contoured to fit your infant and provide head and body support to hold your infant securely in place. Convertible car seats may hold babies at 20 pounds, but they are not designed to cradle an infant in the same way.
An infant car seat is also much more portable and convenient for you. They tend to be fairly lightweight, typically weighing 5 pounds, making them easy to carry and move from car to stroller to home with the baby in them– sleeping or awake. You can carry your baby around, feed them, and rock them to sleep. Most infant car seats are designed with ergonomic handles for easier carrying. The handle can be adjusted to an upright position so you can rock your baby—the curve provided by the seat's natural shape is perfectly suited to rocking. The handle can also be adjusted to flip down and support the seat in an upright position when you want your baby to be stationary—perfect for feeding.
When looking for an infant car seat, you want to make sure it will keep your baby securely in place and that it is easy to use. If a car seat looks complicated with too many straps and buckles and confusing installation instructions, keep shopping. You don't want to frustrate yourself with multiple straps and confusing instructions. You want to know without a doubt that your car seat is properly installed and secure.
Look for a car seat with a base. You permanently install the base in your car and snap the seat securely into the base. When you head out for the day, you buckle your baby into the seat, snap the seat into the base, and go. Removing the seat from the base is a simple two-handed push and lift. Stay away from older infant car seats that need to be positioned and secured after each use. They will not meet current safety standards and you don't want to frustrate yourself by adjusting the seat every time you drive somewhere.
Look for an infant car seat with a five-point harness. The straps—one for each shoulder, one for each leg, and one between your baby's legs—are adjustable and secure your baby snugly and safely. Make sure you can adjust the buckle from the front of the seat, not the back.
Make sure your car seat uses the LATCH system. Since September 2002, all new car seats and vehicles are made to be compatible with the LATCH system. This system makes installing a car seat easier and safer by attaching it directly to the vehicle, rather than using the seat belt to secure it to the car. Rear-facing infant car seats only have the lower anchors.
If you ever plan on feeding your baby while in the car seat, do yourself a favor and buy one with a detachable machine-washable cover. Babies are known for mess and spit up—spit up that has fermented for a week in your upholstery does not smell pretty.
Make sure your infant car seat is well-padded and provides plenty of head support. If your car seat does not provide adequate head support, purchase a head support pad. You don't want your baby's head lolling around from side to side when you are driving down the highway. A padded car seat will keep your baby comfortable and secure.