Best Car Seats for Newborns
Ask any parent that’s had to buy a car seat for their newborn child and they’ll all tell you the same thing. You need one and choosing car seats for newborns initially felt confusing.
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 make the mistake of looking at the wrong type of seats. The first thing you should do is keep in mind there are three main categories of car seats:
- 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 are only used to 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 tiny preemie pounds and between 22 and 35lbs) as assigned by the seat manufacturer. These seats attach to a base that remains 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 be attached to strollers as well. Please keep in mind stroller manufacturers dictate which car seats are compatible as a travel system and suggestions for use may limit how long a child is situated in the car seat for a stroll.
- 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 be converted from rear-facing to a forward-facing position in the vehicle. That means you can maximize their rear-facing safety until your child grows to a certain height and weight limit (often 40 to 50 pounds and/or a height of 43" - that's like a 4 year old!). Then, when you child is older in age, heavier in weight and stronger in muscle mass you can rearrange the seat features and belt path so that it’s facing forward. This configuration can benefit your child's safety and use of the seat upwards to 65 pounds and/or 49" in height, whichever is reached first and within any other limitations for headrest and harness positioning.
The only downsides to convertible car seats are you cannot attach them to strollers taking away the portability benefit an infant only seat provides. You will not be able to 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 also buckled in the car seat inside 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. What you should know as the name implies, they “boost” a child up so they are situated higher in your vehicle and can position the adult seat belt across their lap and chest.
Children are required to be in a 5 point harness or booster seat per Transport Canada through age 9 or 4'9" in height. Quite often children still require a booster to properly fit in specific vehicle seats. They are never something you should consider for now. Booster seats are not designed for newborns or young children. Keep in mind features and designs as well as transportation laws may change in between the years you've purchased something for your infant and even begin thinking about switching to a booster.
Now that we know booster seats are typically for children in their elementary school years and older, the two variations of booster seats on the market are high-back boosters and backless.
It is quite common caregivers think a high-back booster seat may look similar to convertible car seat on first glance. The high back booster design will have a seat frame and headrest plus a red indicator guide to direct and indicate where the vehicle’s seatbelt should pass through. Backless booster seats only have a seat 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 some convertible car seats.
Bearing 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 enter the market. After all: they are safety-related products, and that’s one area no manufacturer can make a shortcut on to save costs. All child car seats sold in our store have passed our important elements and ethics of safety and quality before we've chosen to sell them.
So that only 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 have considered a plan to use a baby carrier or carry their child in their arms from the vehicle for transport.
An infant only 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 play a part in the decision-making process. That "cost per use" will be a part of your decision to favor one particular car seat over another or even the benefits of stain resistant or chemical free fabric.
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 switch over to a convertible car seat at some stage. We quite commonly see parents shopping for convertible car seats at six to nine months when their child is beginning to show early signs of growing out of their infant car seat or a paternity leave is ending and a childcare routine will require two vehicles with a car seat each.
As you know, convertible car seats are more permanent solutions in vehicles than infant car seats. Plus, you cannot pair them with strollers.
With that in mind, you’ll need to weigh 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.
How is it going to install and fit?
One final consideration to make when looking at different car seats for newborns is how they install and fit your vehicle. 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 the vehicle's seatbelt or LATCH system.
All cars since 2002 have LATCH anchor points. Determine 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. Your vehicle manual can also help you locate these.
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. Transport Canada defines a seatbelt installation as equally as safe as LATCH use. Your vehicle may define which system is preferred or special considerations for achieving a secure install. 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 at the belt path side to side.
Reading your vehicle manual's CRS (Child restraint system) section can 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.
All car seats purchased in-store or online at Nurtured are eligible for an in-person or virtual car seat installation with our CPST car seat tech. You can inquire about scheduling this complimentary service upon purchase.