It’s straight up true: Car seats are a hassle to grapple with. So what’s the best car seat to buy for a newborn? Should you use a seatbelt or LATCH system? And what about installation? Just stick your knee into it real good and weigh it down, tighten the belt and basically pray to the car seat gods, right? Wait. This is your newborn we’re talking about, and he’s your top priority. In the hubbub of daily life, you need to slow down to get this car seat business right. The good news is, it’s not as hard as it seems at first. From the time your baby is born, you simply track his height and weight as he grows and adjust your car seat strategy as you go. There are two important main keys to keeping your infant safe in his car seat:
KEY ONE: Buckling Baby In
First, get the car seat you want, but don’t buy used unless you know where the seat’s been and you have the manual. Second, when buying new (Baby Guide recommends this option), choose between a rear-facing only seat; a convertible seat that can be used when the child is 4 or younger; or a multimode which means it will also convert to a booster. Obviously, a seat that converts gives it more lasting value and yet car seats can get worn and icky after months of use; you may end up buying a new one after a couple of years. Since The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to keep toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2 (or until they’ve exceeded the height and weight limit for the car seat), a rear-facing only seat for your newborn may be your best option. Lastly, know how to properly buckle your precious cargo in. Loosen the straps so you have room to put him in, buckle all the pieces and then retighten the straps. Know that the trickiest part of buckling Baby in is positioning your child in the seat. Be particularly focused on that! See our guide here:
KEY TWO: Installing the Car Seat
Car seats for infants are installed in the rear-facing position in the center rear seat. To successfully install your seat, read your manual and watch a video guideline if it’s not clear. Use the tether system, if possible. All child safety seats and cars made after 2002 are compatible with the LATCH system which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. If your car is older than 2002 you can have it retrofitted. Once you’ve installed your seat, you can have it checked by a local technician.