Car Seats

By Teresa Iqbal

April 3, 2015 5 min read

There are a number of decisions that new parents have to make right off the bat. To use a pacifier or not to use a pacifier? Disposable diapers or cloth diapers? Choosing the right car seat, and using it correctly, is another important decision parents have to make, especially considering the impact it has on their child's safety.

It may take some time to research which car seat is best for your child. Perhaps most important is the size limitations of the car seat when it comes to determining which seat will be a good fit for your little one. All car seats have different height and weight limitations. There are a number of convertible options available on the market, which are meant to transition with your child from infancy to toddlerhood. There are also "travel systems" available for purchase, which are typically safe to use with your newborn. However, once a newborn outgrows the height or weight limit for this type of car seat, it's vital to upgrade to a car seat that corresponds with the child's size.

When purchasing a new seat, it is important to check the expiration date on all models. Car seats are usually good for anywhere from five to nine years from their manufacturing date, not the purchase date. There should be a small sticker located somewhere on the car seat that lists the manufacturer's name, the model name of the car seat and its model number. The date it was manufactured, as well as the expiration date, should also be listed. The information can be hard to find on the car seat, but it may be possible to find the information in the owner's manual, as well. If the information can't be found in either place, calling the manufacturer may be helpful as well. One of the reasons why it's necessary to abide by the expiration date of your child's car seat is explained by car seat experts of The Car Seat Lady, "Plastic becomes brittle and weak as it ages -- two qualities you don't want in a car seat that has to withstand severe crash forces."

Other considerations that parents need to pay careful attention to in order to ensure the safety of their child's car seats are manufacturer recalls. Many companies include a self-addressed postcard for consumers to fill out with their contact information and send to the company. This way, manufacturers are easily able to send notices of any recalls they may issue on specific models of their products. They may ask consumers to contact the company for replacement parts of a refund to resolve the problem.

It's often advised that parents not buy car seats that may have been previously used. It can be hard to judge if a car seat has been involved in a car accident, which compromises the safety of the car seat. If you have a tight budget and need to buy used, try to purchase a car seat from a family member or friend who you can trust to vouch that the seat was not involved in an accident.

Once you have purchased your car seat, it's vital to make sure that it is installed correctly. Read the owner's manual to ensure correct installation. It is recommended to have the car seat installation inspected by a specialist. Many places may offer this service for free, such as your local police department.

The position of the car seat may be as important as the other factors mentioned above. Recently, there have been many proponents who claim it's safest for children to remain rear-facing in their car seat for as long as possible. Parenting magazine notes, "A 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention found that children younger than 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or to be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing. Another study found riding rear-facing to be five times safer than forward-facing." This is mainly due to the fact that the head, neck and spine of an infant is much better supported in the event of a crash if they are rear-facing. It's clear that car seats are about much more than transportation. This is because if the correct seat is chosen and used correctly, it can save a child's life.

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