Shopping for Car Seats: What You Need to Know

Buying a car seat is one of the most important purchases you'll make as a new parent. Because car seats are intended to protect your little one while you travel, make sure you research different car seat types and models thoroughly. Whether you're looking for an infant car seat, a convertible car seat, or a booster seat, we've compiled information to help make your search for the best car seat a little easier.

Must-Know Info About Everyday Car Seats

Few things are more important than car seats when putting together a baby registry. Not only is it important for parents-to-be to look for the safest models, but they also want to choose car seats that work well with their lifestyle. Are you a two-car family that will be moving the car seat from one vehicle to another? Are you interested in car seats that will also work with strollers? Are you on a budget and looking for something that will last longer than a year? Are you frequent travelers who will be bringing your car seat on planes and rental cars? After narrowing down the list of necessary criteria, moms- and dads-to-be should then research the safest car seat models available that meet their needs. Once the best car seat has been chosen, mom and dad then need to figure out exactly how to properly install a car seat, which can be much trickier than it seems. If you've done all of your research but still aren't sure if your car seat is correctly installed, take your car to a car seat inspection location in your area.

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Convertible Car Seats That Grow with Your Baby

Unlike infant-only car seats, which babies often grow out of between 5 and 10 months of age, convertible car seats grow with your child. Convertible car seats are often appealing to parents because it makes buying two car seats, which can be expensive and difficult to store, unnecessary. While there are a number of pros when it comes to convertible car seats, one con is the fact you can't detach the car seat and take it with you, which many parents find convenient. It's also important to note that not all convertible car seats are suitable for infants. When choosing a convertible car seat for your newborn, look for models that work for babies of all ages. (Of course, even if you don't use a convertible car seat from the get-go, you'll need to purchase one once your baby grows out of their infant seat.) Once you've researched the safest model that works for your family, be sure the seat is installed properly, and that your baby is rear-facing until he's at least 2 years old.

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Travel Systems: Car Seats That Work with Strollers

Travel systems are perfect for moms and dads running around town with their little ones. There's no need to constantly unstrap baby from her car seat, put her in the baby carrier or stroller, and then strap her back into the car seat when it's time to get back into the car and head home. Parents can simply unclick the car seat from the base, snap it into the top of a stroller, and be on their way. Travel systems work with infant car seats, so the car seat portion will only last so long, but by the time baby is old enough for a convertible car seat, they'll likely fit into the stroller portion of the travel system perfectly. Of course, when choosing a travel system, there are two things to think about—the car seat and the stroller (which will be used longer), so it's important to weigh the safety of the car seat with your stroller needs.

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When You Know Your Child Is Ready for a Booster Seat

While parents may feel a little silly buckling their 4- and 5-year-olds into five-point harness car seats, there shouldn't be a huge rush to make the switch to booster seats. Moms and dads should aim to keep their little ones in each car seat stage as long as possible—which means putting off booster car seats for a while. Of course, there's going to come a time when booster seats are necessary, and at that point you'll need to start researching the best seats again. To begin, look at your child's current convertible car seat height and weight limits. If they've outgrown them it's time to start looking into booster seats. Many convertible car seats can adapt into booster seats, but it's important to keep a few things in mind. For one, check to see that your car seat has not reached its six-year expiration date, and secondly, make sure the booster seat has a belt-positioning system, which will keep your child as safe as possible.

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Car Seat Accessories That Will Make Life Easy

Car seat accessories aren't necessarily essential, but they can make parents' lives easier. There's no need to run out and purchase everything under the sun for your car seat, but a few products that work with your lifestyle can do wonders. Before purchasing any car seat accessories, figure out the best—and safest—car seat for your family. This way, any extras that you buy will fit and work with your particular car seat model. For some parents, a bug- and weather-proofing car seat cover is a lifesaver for on-the-go naps, while for others, a super-durable car seat cover is crucial for traveling through airports with a car seat. Also, it's worth noting that not all car seat accessories need to attach to the actual car seat itself. Most parents would say that an organizer for the back seat is key for keeping kid messes at bay in the car and for making sure that you're never without wipes, snacks, and a few toys for baby. If you'd like to add a few accessory items to your registry but aren't sure what to include, ask friends with kids which car seat add-ons they've found handy. No doubt, every mom and dad will have their must-have items along with their reasons why.

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