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Protect Your Precious Cargo with the Right Infant Car Seat

Using the right car seat correctly every time your new baby is in the car is one of the best ways to help keep her safe. Not only must you use a car seat that fits your little one's current size, age and developmental needs, but you also have to be sure the car seat is appropriately sized for your vehicle. Always read your car's owner's manual and the infant car seat manual before trying to install the seat.

Mom securing her girl baby in the baby car seat.

Rear-Facing-Only Car Seats for Newborns

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all infants ride in a rear-facing-only car seat starting the day you bring them home from the hospital. These small seats with carrying handles are designed for infants up to 22 to 35 pounds, depending on the model.

Rear-facing-only infant car seats are usually equipped with a base you can leave in the car. This makes it easy to just click the seat in and out of the base. Many parents have a base in each vehicle for convenience.

When your infant reaches the highest length or weight specified by the rear-facing-only seat's manufacturer, they're ready for a convertible or 3-in-1 car seat that lets them continue to ride rear-facing.

Options as Your Child Grows

Convertible car seats used rear-facing: Bulkier than infant seats and designed to stay in the car, convertible seats should be used in the rear-facing position until your toddler reaches the maximum height or weight allowed by the seat manufacturer. For most convertible car seats, the weight limit is 40 or 50 pounds, often taking your child to her second birthday.

When your child outgrows the rear-facing size limit, the car seat converts to a forward-facing unit. Convertible seats are great for larger babies and toddlers and feature a five-point harness.

3-in-1 (or all-in-one) car seats used rear-facing: Also ideal for bigger babies and toddlers (thanks to higher weight and height limits for rear-facing use), all-in-one car seats can also be used forward-facing and as a belt-positioning booster. You'll probably get more years of use from this type of seat, which accommodates your child's growth. They're often bigger, so be sure they fit in your vehicle when in the rear-facing position.

Infant Car Seat Safety Tips to Remember

Shopping for car seats can be overwhelming for some parents since there are so many on the market. Experts advise that no one brand is the safest or best choice, and you shouldn't assume that a higher price means a safer seat. The best car seat for your infant or toddler is the one that fits well in your vehicle, is appropriate for your child's size and is installed correctly. Other tips include:

1. Don't buy a used car seat unless you know its history, including:

  • How old it is and how long the manufacturer recommends using the seat.
  • If it has been recalled.
  • If the seat has been in a moderate or severe crash.

2. Dress your baby in thinner layers of clothing before putting her in the car seat. Heavy clothing with too much bulk might prevent the harness straps from providing a snug, safe fit. Cover your baby with a blanket over the harness, or put her coat on backwards after she's buckled in if she needs more warmth for winter travel.

3. Never place your child's rear-facing seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has an air bag. A collision could cause the air bag to inflate and impact the car seat where your child's head is resting, possibly causing great harm.

4. Keep your child's car seat rear-facing for as long as possible, even past her second birthday. It's the safest way for her to ride.

5. Use the right car seat or booster for your child on every trip you take in your vehicle. This lowers the risk of death or serious injury by more than 70%.

A great way to help protect your entire family before you hit the road or bring a newborn home is by checking with your local independent insurance agent to make sure you have the right auto coverage for your specific needs.

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