With many kinds of child safety seats on the market, it is easy to get confused about which one is right for your child. You want nothing but the best for the apple of your eye. Yet what looks like the safest seat may not be best for your child's height and weight.
It helps to remember that no one brand is the “safest” or “best”—rather, it all depends on the size of your child and the design of your vehicle. That said, there are general recommendations for children based on age.
Infants and toddlers
Rear-facing car seats are recommended across the board, since this design helps protect fragile spines. Children should remain in rear-facing seats until they are at least two years old or until they reach the maximum weight or height specified by the car seat's manufacturer.
Rear-facing convertible seats are another great option for infants and toddlers. You can turn these seats around to be used as forward-facing seats when your child grows big enough.
Once a child outgrows a rear-facing safety seat, you can use a forward-facing seat. These seats can be strapped in using a seatbelt or the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system.
Whichever style you choose, make sure your vehicle supports the car seat by following the instructions for proper installation. According to HealthyChildren.org, it is best to keep your child in a seat with a harness until they are four years old. If you have a fast grower, consider using a seat with a harness that accommodates extra weight and height.
If your child is too big for a car seat but not ready to wear a properly fitted seat belt, a booster seat is recommended. There are two types of booster seats: high-back boosters and backless boosters. Though the designs are different, both of them elevate your child to allow the seat belt to fit properly. Opt for a high-back booster if you have a vehicle without headrests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety evaluates and publishes the results on which popular booster seats are the most effective each year.
Once your child is large enough for a seat belt to correctly fit, he or she can graduate to the seat belt. The lap part of the belt should be low and tight across the upper part of the hips, and the shoulder strap should fit across the chest and shoulder. Even when the belt fits snug and correct, kids under 13 years of age should always sit in the back seat.
Get trusted tips on how to install a child safety seat in the final post.