Infant Car Seats Overview
Few things are as important to the safety of a baby than their car seat. When babies are traveling in a car, it is the fastest they will move during this stage of their life. As such, risk of injury is heightened.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies are kept in rear-facing car seats until they are two or older. After that, they should use a forward-facing car or booster seat for as long as possible. For infants, a rear-facing seat is recommended because it reduces force absorbed by the body in an accident. While most accidents are unavoidable, it is your responsibility as a parent to make sure your baby is as safe as possible.
Why you need a car seat
An infant car seat will be the means to which you bring your baby home from the hospital, to their first doctor’s appointments and to meet your in-laws and friends. As they hit milestones as infants and you pass them as parents, you’re going to want a seat you can trust. Most infant car seats are built to safely transport babies between 4 and 40 pounds.
As they grow out of this type of seat via height and weight, it will be replaced with another seat. An easy way to determine if your child is getting too tall for their seat is if their head comes within an inch of the top covering. Some parents opt for convertible seats which can be set up as rear or forward-facing. A lot of this comes down to preference as each type of seat goes through rigorous safety testing.
How to choose the right car seat
With the rules and regulations in place, as long as you follow manufacturer instructions, your child will remain secure in their car seat. Unfortunately, many car seats are not installed properly, which could lead to injury, even without an accident. To make your life easier, and your baby’s safer, it is best to choose a seat that is easy to install and has an abundance of information available from the manufacturer.
Below we take a look at a variety of options. We’ll walk you through the ins and outs of how the seats sit in your car and their sizing specs. From a peace of mind perspective, we also look at how each car seat is washed. This plays a key role as improper washing could diminish some of the safety features, and given how messy babies are, not washing something isn’t even an option on the table. With safety and sanity in mind, we’ve picked out a handful of car seats bound to make your life easier.
Here are the best infant car seats:
1. Best Overall: Graco Extend2Fit 1963212 Rear-Facing Convertible Car Seat, Gotham
Graco Extend2Fit Rear-Facing Convertible Car Seat, Gotham Review
The possibility of having one car seat for the entirety of your child’s infant and toddler years was once just a pipe dream. Thanks to the development of convertible car seats, this dream is now a reality. Our top choice for this style, the Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat is designed to adjust as your child grows.
Convertible car seats have the ability to be used as a rear-facing or forward-facing car seat. Adding even more variety to this Graco car seat, it has various adjustable features so that you can give optimal support at all stages of infancy when driving. A four-position extension panel can be adjusted to provide more legroom so that it can remain a rear-facing seat longer. Additionally, there are six reclining settings and ten different ways to position the headrest.
The Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat can handle transporting your baby as you leave the hospital for the first time, as well as on their first day of school. As a rear-facing car seat, it’s suitable for infants between 4 and 50 pounds. Once converted to a forward-facing seat, it is graded for toddlers between 22 and 65 pounds.
Since you’re going to be using this car seat for years, and let’s be honest even after a few months, sanitation would be a problem. A car seat needs to be regularly cleaned; Graco makes it easy. The seat cushion is machine washable and all metal and plastic parts can be cleaned with soap and water. Additionally, harness straps can be spot cleaned.
Feedback from Customers
Parents have raved about their experience with the Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat. On the whole, it owns a 4.8-star overall rating. Considering the car seat’s ability to adjust and there being a million other things you will need pick out as your child starts to grow, it’s nice to have one thing that will remain a constant in their life.
Original Retail $200
2. Best Versatile: Chicco Keyfit 10972961 Infant Car Seat and Base, Lilla
Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat and Base, Lilla Review
When it comes to your baby, safety is number one in all categories. We like to know the ins and outs of everything that we use and everything that comes in contact with our babies. I mean, who wouldn’t? Chicco agrees and has designed an entire series of easy to install and adjust car seats in their KeyFit line. A rear-facing option, the Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat and Base is suitable for babies from 4 and 30 pounds. To satisfy your aesthetic needs, there are ten designs.
The Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat and Base is, as you guessed, a two-piece transportation system. The base is installed into your car and the seat clicks into place. By separating the two pieces, it provides added versatility since you can grab the car seat and treat it as a carrier. Since you’ll inevitably be carrying a bag or two along with your baby, it’s nice not having to worry about transporting from car seat to a separate carrier. Additionally, these seats can click into a Chicco stroller, just as they do the car base.
When you’re putting the car seat base into your car, what appears level might not actually be. Unless every time you’ve hung something on a wall it’s been perfect, you need a little extra help. To give you carpenter level precision, there are two bubble levels. To keep things tight and secure, you only need to pull on a LATCH tightener. With the same simple motion, you can pull the five-point harness to keep your baby securely in place.
Only the fabric pieces can be machine washed, and even that process comes with strict stipulations. They must be washed by themselves on cold and drip dry. If you plan on using your car seat any time soon, you’re going to need to hold off on washing. Plastic components and the harness may also be cleaned using warm water and mild soap.
Feedback from Customers
Among consumers who have taken the time to review the Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat and Base, it has been scored 4.8 stars overall.Original Retail $200
Model KeyFit 30
3. Best For Sun Protection: Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat, Oakley
Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat Review
We don’t plan our days around traveling at optimal times for reducing our baby’s exposure to the sun. Calculating these times would be difficult and following this type of structure would be even more challenging. Designed to keep the sun out of eyes, the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat features a rotating canopy with a window and visor that provides shade at all times. Whether it’s in the car on foot, your baby can avoid the sun’s harmful rays.
The Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat is designed for babies between 4 and 35 pounds, and up to 32 inches in length. For when your baby is in the early stages of infancy, there are extra head and body support cushions. As they grow, and start to outgrow the seat, the additional support can be removed to extend the car seat’s life for you, without sacrificing any safety features. Moving together, the adjustable harness system and headrest can be adjusted at the same time to give a snug fit.
What helps make this car seat so special is the base. Not only is it extremely easy to install thanks to Graco’s InRight LATCH system and bubble level, but it’s adjustable to fit the natural shape of your seats. The base has four recline positions, ensuring that one car seat can fit a variety of cars.
Both seat cushion and canopy are machine-washable. Mild soap and cool water must be used to clean metal and plastic parts. If you want to clean the harness or buckle, that can be done as well using a damp cloth.
Feedback from Customers
Consumer feedback for the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat has been overwhelmingly positive. On average, the car seat was rated 4.8 stars. Even more impressive, Durability has a perfect, 5-star rating. Looking down the rankings, Safety Features is the highest rated at 4.9 stars, with Support and Easy to Install just below at 4.8 stars.Original Retail $220
Model SnugRide SnugLock 35
4. Best Long-Lasting: Britax E1C277T One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat, Drift
Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat Review
When you choose the Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat, you’re choosing something that will be with your child for their first decade. A car seat with four separate setups to fit your child’s height and weight, this seat is expected to fit children from infancy until age 10. There are also a handful of color choices available.
The settings include: Infant (5-20 lbs.), Toddler (20-50 lbs.), Preschool (22-65lbs.) and Big Kid (40-120 lbs.). By the time your child transitions from the infant setting to big kid, the seat will hardly be recognizable, but will still protect them in the same way thanks to two layers of side impact protection surrounding the head, neck, and torso.
It may be a long time since you’ve sat in the backseat, but if we pull from the deepest parts of our memory, we’ll recall that air conditioning is far less effective in the back of the car than the front. As a result of traditional car design, our babies have a warmer environment than we do while driving. Thanks to the combo of newer cars having backseat fans and the Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat being designed with built-in cooling channels and ventilated mesh, your child will always be comfortable.
As much as hand-washing gets the job done for the exterior of a car seat, sometimes we need to go a bit deeper. Thankfully, naturally flame-retardant knit technology allows you to machine wash and dry the removable components of the Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat. With a seat life expectancy of ten years, staying ahead on cleaning is far from a bad thing.
Feedback from Customers
Looking at the big picture, parents have loved their experience with the Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Car Seat, giving it a 4.7-star average rating. Looking at the smaller picture, Safety Features at 4.8 stars and Comfort at 4.7 stars help make this one of those most appealing long-term car seats available.Original Retail $375
5. Best Easy Transition: Britax E1A725M B-Safe 35 Infant Car Seat, Dual Comfort Grey
Britax B-Safe 35 Infant Car Seat Review
Our top choice for parents who will be spending as much time carrying their baby as they do in the car, the Britax B-Safe 35 Infant Car Seat easily transitions from vehicle to outside use. The rear-facing only car seat is built to carry infants from 4 to 35 pounds. It also comes in five basic designs, none of which take away from the base structure that lets you easily identify all essential components.
Getting the base into your car is a breeze. After clicking into place, a central latch helps pull the base tight with minimal effort. To ensure that the base is flat and in an ideal position for your baby, there are level indicators and a spring-assisted recline system. After the base is installed, the seat snaps in and out of place with relative ease. For the removal, a durable, yet comfortable handle helps you safely lift and hold the carrier.
You can remove the seat cover without disturbing the base, meaning that your seat can be cleaned without going through the process of installation again. In doing so, it removes any doubt you might have about not installing it correctly the second or third time around. Once the cover is off, it should be washed by hand and hung to dry.
Feedback from Customers
This isn’t just a plastic car seat. In fact, it is built with a steel frame that provides extra support to the base and helps maintain its shape and structural integrity over time. The attention to detail across the entire seat makes up most of the rationale behind the Britax B-Safe 35 Infant Car Seat’s 4.8-star overall rating.Original Retail $200
Infant Car Seat Buying Guide
As new or expecting parents, your time is limited. You do, however, need to find time to research and pick out the car seat that will be the best fit for your lifestyle and your baby’s. Due to the fast-paced nature of infancy and the ever-changing styles of products available, constant education is essential to keeping up with trends and making sure your baby has the newest, safest products. Below, we put together some extra thoughts and considerations for you to keep in mind during this process.
It’s Like Speaking Another Language
When shopping for a car seat, you’re bound to come across plenty of jargon that is new to you (especially if it’s your first child). Given that it’s 2020 and Google is our best friend, don’t feel bad about Googling terms such as adjustable foot, detachable base, and level indicator. After all, it can only help keep your baby safe.
What Makes it an Infant Car Seat?
First and foremost, infant car seats are designed for the smallest of baby’s and are rear-facing. They offer little to no freedom in terms of your baby being able to move around on their own, and for good reason. By restricting motion, it prevents them from putting themselves in situations where they might be more vulnerable in an accident.
Additionally, they are unable to slouch which otherwise could affect their physical stature as well as be immediately dangerous. Compared with booster seats and car seats for later on in their lives, infant car seats offer the most head, neck, and spinal cord support.
What is LATCH?
LATCH is an acronym for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. In 2002, this system was implemented to require car manufacturers to include built-in anchors for car seats. The uniform requirements for car seat compatibility have helped to develop a standard car seat design, and in turn, have made things safer.
LATCH can be seen on the car seat and in the vehicle. For the car seat, there are straps and hooks built onto the outside that are connected to the car pieces. On the seat of the car are a series of anchors built in to ensure complete support.
Compatibility for All
Safe installation requires precision, and above all compatibility with your vehicle. If you have an older model car, you need to make sure that the car seat you pick out is not too advanced to be installed in your vehicle. With modern vehicles and modern LATCH compatible car seats, proper installation has been made easier than in years past.
If your baby is a preemie, and below the traditional weight requirements of a seat, purchasing an insert is usually enough to provide proper accommodations. As your child grows, the insert can be removed.