One baby accessory that you’ll be sporting for a long time is a car seat. Safety is crucial, although it can feel inconvenient. This is one area I never skimp on. If you live in a city, or travel often, going out and about with your baby means lugging a car seat everywhere. Here are my top recommendations for making it easier and safer. All of the mentioned car seats are appropriate for airplane travel as well. Be sure to check the specifications and the aircraft you are flying to ensure proper fit.
Infant car seat:
There are numerous lightweight infant car seats that attach to your stroller, and car seat/stroller hybrids such as the Doona. You can easily install these without the heavy car seat base using a car seat belt. Always keep your infant rear-facing until at least age 1, although the AAP now recommends rear-facing until age 2.
Toddler car seat:
Once your baby outgrows their infant car seat, getting around is trickier. Car seats no longer have attachments to work with strollers. Having a lightweight car seat will make it easier to get about. We used the Cosco Scenera Next as it is only 7 pounds, works both rear and front-facing, fits a wide weight/height range, and is inexpensive.
There are a couple of brilliant travel car seat options out there. We recently got the Wayb Pico that folds up quite compact and is very lightweight. You can easily install it using a seatbelt or LATCH system, then pop it in the travel bag or on your stroller using hooks. Cosco also makes a larger toddler option that is similar to the Scenera Next, just taller and larger while still lightweight and inexpensive. These types of car seats use a top tether as well as lower tethers to ensure safety. I have found that older vehicles do not always have top tethers so if you’re using a rideshare or taxi, it’s important to check.
- Always make sure that the car seat is tightly secured in the car. It should not move more than 1 inch when using your non-dominant hand to try and wiggle the base.
- The harness straps should be tightly secured, with the chest strap at the child’s nipple line. You should not be able to pinch the straps.
- When dressing your child, particularly in colder weather, be sure to remove thick layers like a large coat as this reduces the safety of the car seat. You can put a blanket or their coat over them once they are secure in the seat.
- Rear-facing in the middle of the back seat is regarded as the most secure place to install a car seat.
- Never place your baby in the front seat of the vehicle. In the event of an accident, the airbag deployment can be fatal. The AAP recommends children under age 13 always sit in the back seat.
- If your car seat and vehicle have a LATCH system, use it. Be sure to check that the seat belts lock in place by extending the belt fully and giving it a tug to activate the locking mechanism.
- Do not add accessories that were not purchased from the manufacturer as it will reduce the safety of the car seat, such as harness padding or headrests.
- When using a ride-share or taxi service, never succumb to unwanted pressure to skip the car seat or cut corners. Before entering the car, check the buckles and straps that you’ll be using for installation and make sure they are easily accessible and in the proper position. With an infant car seat, have the baby in the seat before you install it.
Adventures await you and your child! Take a deep breath and know that you can take all of the time that you need to secure the seat and your child. Those extra moments to install are worth all of the moments together after.