Infant seats are a convenient first car seat for your newborn. They allow you to use a base that stays installed in your vehicle and simply snap the car seat portion in and out of the base with ease.
Choosing the right infant seat for your child involves more than just picking your favorite pattern, though. And it's important to know that your baby will be rear facing long after she has outgrown her infant car seat.
Age, Weight & Height Limits
There are no actual age limits for infant car seats, however, most babies will outgrow theirs at about 6-9 months. It could be sooner or later for you. The key is to know your seat's weight & height limits so that you can safely move him when the time comes.
Infant car seats come in a variety of shapes and sizes. What you need to know is that they don't all hold the same size of child, either. They typically will start at birth (meaning there is no lower weight limit), 4 pounds or 5 pounds. This usually only matters if you have a preemie who is under the 5 pound mark.
Note on preemies: If you plan to deliver early, talk with your doctor about a car seat test for apnea. Premature babies sometimes have difficulties breathing in a car seat & you'll want to know that before you journey home.
The upper weight limits of infant seats vary even more. Many go to 20 or 22 pounds, but some go as high as 35 or more. This number isn't all that important as long as you are aware of it. Do not keep your child in the infant seat beyond it's weight limit. It hasn't been tested for that & it very well may not be able to do it's job in a crash.
It's no surprise to you now that the height limits will vary quite a bit also. These will range from 19-32 inches depending on which seat you buy.
The FINE PRINT about height limits: The child's head MUST be at least ONE inch from the top of the car seat. This is true no matter what the height limit on the car seat says. Your child will outgrow her rear facing car seat's height limit when she reaches the height limit number on the side of the seat OR when her head is within one inch of the top of the car seat.
To Base or Not to Base
Most infant car seats come with bases and most of those can be used with or without the base. Either way you install the seat is just as safe as the other. Check out these
to use or not to use a base.
Which Infant Seat is Easiest to Use?
Thanks to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's
Ease of Use Ratings
many difficult to use car seat features have been laid to rest. Sometimes, however, ease of use can depend on your own preferences, like whether you want a harness that adjusts in the front or back of a rear facing car seat. I had one of each and liked them equally well.
Which Infant Seat is the Best?
This is probably the number one asked question by new parents. Read more about the
best infant seats
and car seats here.
What is the Next Step?
Once your child has outgrown his infant car seat, the next step is a rear facing convertible car seat, (assuming that your child is not yet 2 years old and/or is not yet 20 pounds).
Rear facing is the safest way to ride. The newest safety recommendations are to continue riding rear facing until the child's second birthday (while staying within the car seat weight and height limits). So go for a convertible seat that has a high weight limit and a long/tall back to it. Some of the newest car seat models go to 40 pounds rear facing!