Ask any parent that’s had to buy a car seat for their newborn son or daughter, and they’ll all tell you the same thing. Choosing car seats for newborns is a somewhat stressful experience!
You must choose the best car seat for your needs. If you’re stuck on what to buy, this handy guide will help you select the right one. Take a look at these essential tips to help you make the right choice:
Familiarize yourself with the different car seat types
When looking for car seats for the littles, some people make the mistake of choosing the wrong type of seats. The first thing you should do is keep in mind there are three different types:
Infant Car Seats
As you’ve got a newborn baby, it makes sense to consider infant car seats for your shortlist. In a nutshell, infant car seats are made specifically for newborn babies and infants, and they always rear-face [the child looks to the rear of a vehicle].
Infant car seats can be used for newborn babies until they reach the maximum height and weight limits (starting anywhere at 4 or 5 pounds and between 22 and 35lbs) as prescribed by the seat manufacturer. These seats attach to a base that stays in your vehicle. The seat clicks in or out for easy installation. The infant is buckled in generally somewhere else other than the vehicle and brought to the vehicle ready to go for a ride after connecting the seat to the base.
Another positive point for infant car seats is they can usually get attached to strollers as well. Please keep in mind stroller manufacturers dictate which car seats are compatible as a travel system.
Convertible Car Seats
Another popular option for parents with a newborn baby is a convertible car seat. One of the main selling points of convertible car seats is they can be used for children from infancy through to their preschool years and even past that stage.
Convertible car seats are so named because they can get converted from rear-facing to forward-facing position. That means you can maximize their rear-facing safety until your child grows to a certain height and weight limit (40 pounds and 43") and then you can flip the seat around so that it’s facing forward (some up to 65 pounds and 49").
The only downsides to convertible car seats are you cannot attach them to strollers, nor can you move them between vehicles as quickly as an infant seat. A convertible car seat is dedicated to remain in the vehicle as a stationary installation. The child is buckled in the car seat in the vehicle and unbuckled before leaving the vehicle.
Booster Seats *not applicable to infant/child under 40lbs per Transport Canada*
The final car seat type is a booster seat for children who have outgrown 5-point harness limits. As the name implies, they “boost” a child so they sit higher in your vehicle. Booster seats are never something you should consider for now as they’re not designed for newborns.
Booster seats are typically for children in their elementary school years and older, depending on their height and weight and used through age 9 or 4'9" (145cm) per Transport Canada.
There are two variations of booster seats on the market - high-back ones and backless ones. The high-back booster seats look similar to convertible car seats. The design will have a seat frame and headrest plus a red indicator guide to thread the vehicle’s seatbelt through. Backless booster seats only have a base section for the child to sit on top of.
Which car seat is right for your needs?
When it comes down to choosing car seats for newborns, you have a choice between infant car seats and convertible car seats. Booster seats, as you now know, are only for older children.
Keeping that in mind, you are undoubtedly wondering which of the two applicable options will best meet your needs and requirements. When parents look at buying child seats, they will typically have four considerations: safety, quality, convenience, and price.
All child car seats sold in Canada must meet strict safety testing standards before they can go on sale. After all: they are safety-related products, and that’s one area no manufacturer can make a shortcut on to save costs.
So that only really leaves two things that you have to think about when balancing the pros and cons.
1. The Convenience Factor
There are specific lifestyle considerations to make when buying car seats for the littles. For example, some parents want to put a car seat straight into a stroller and have an “all-in-one” solution to their newborn’s transport needs. Some parents may plan to use a baby carrier or carry their child in their arms from the vehicle.
An infant car seat is portable which is convenient for parents that wish to easily switch between the car, the house and even connect to a stroller. A convertible car seat remains in the vehicle and is better for parents who don’t wish to lug around a car seat between their vehicles and their homes or elsewhere.
2. The Price Factor
Whether parents have a substantial disposable income or not, the price will always play a part in the decision-making process. And it will be a part of your decision to favor one particular car seat over another.
If you don’t wish to use a baby carrier, you’ll likely want to transport your newborn in a stroller when you’re not out and about in the car. Infant car seats make that process easy, but you’ll have to upgrade to a convertible car seat at some stage.
As you know, convertible car seats are more permanent solutions in vehicles than infant car seats. Plus, you can’t use them in strollers.
With that in mind, you’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons of both options for where to start. That means you must decide whether saving money and sticking with a convertible car seat from day one but sacrificing some convenience would better suit your needs.
The features of car seats for the littles are also as important to consider as the safety, convenience, and cost aspects. For example, how easy is it to clean the child car seats, and do they have removable and washable fabrics?
It’s also worth keeping in mind that child car seats at the cheaper end of the market might not be as comfortable or have additional features like no-rethread harnesses or narrow profiles to fit your vehicle. However, that doesn’t mean all high-end seats offer the best fit for your child or your vehicle.
When looking at the different models on the market, it’s worth comparing features and seeing which ones offer the best value and fit for your vehicle.
The LATCH system: does your car have it?
One final consideration to make when looking at different car seats for newborns is how they install. Keep in mind all infant and convertible car seats used in Canada must bear the Transport Canada sticker. This sticker also indicates the infant seat or convertible seat or infant base can attach to the vehicle using a seatbelt or LATCH system.
All modern cars since 2002 have LATCH anchor points. Determine whether and where in the backseat your vehicle has the LATCH system. LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. Your vehicle may otherwise indicate a Universal Anchorage System (UAS) or European ISOFIX system, which are similar.
LATCH allows car seats to attach using fixed anchor points in the back seat of a vehicle. This extra indicator for where a car seat belongs in a vehicle can add a level of ease. safety and security. A seatbelt installation is deemed equally as safe by Transport Canada. Manufacturers of car seats may indicate an upper weight in which a seatbelt is preferred for securing the seat to the vehicle.
How secure a seat installs to your vehicle is indicated by a 1" or less allowance of movement side to side.
Reading your vehicle manual's CRS (Child restraint system) section may assist you in steps for getting a secure fit in the various backseat positions of your vehicle. When you have purchased a car seat please plan to additionally familiarize yourself in reading your car seat manual.