First, you will need a car seat for baby's first car ride, which will most likely be the trip home from the hospital, so don't forget to plan ahead. For baby's first car seat, select a rear facing model. Rear facing seats provide the best protection if there is an impact, especially since your baby will not be able to support the weight of their own head yet. A rear facing seat, combined with a reclined front seat, creates a cozy, safe nook for baby.
When shopping, look for a design that is sturdy, but light and easy to carry. Since your baby will sleep a lot, especially when riding in the car, you'll also want to select a model which is easily detachable. This way baby can continue to sleep when being moved from the car to the house, instead of you having to wake them up.
Once your infant weighs twenty pounds or the top of their head is near the top edge of the seat, it will be time to change to a forward facing style seat. A forward facing seat is more upright and the higher end models adjust to allow toddlers a more horizontal position which means a more comfortable sleeping position during those long drives.
Do keep in mind your toddler must be able to sit up by themselves before they can use a forward facing seat. The forward facing seats are built and designed for longer term use and you should be able to use this style seat until your child is four to six years old.
A toddler will usually use a portable car seat until they are forty pounds or when the tops of their ears are just about inline with the top of the car seat. After reaching forty pounds, it is time to for you to move your little one to a booster seat secured with a seat belt.
A big question some new parents ask is should they purchase or use a second hand seat? That can be a tough question. A portable car seat helps prevent serious injuries in case of a car accident, so you want to find out if the seat has even been in an accident. If so, the frame not be properly aligned, which comprises the strength of the car seat and the safety of your child.
If you do opt for a second hand seat, stick with accepting an used seat only from friends, family or someone you can trust to give you a full disclosure, including any car accidents or incidents which may have caused damaged. Also, take a few minutes and inspect the padding, belts and fasteners. Make sure all are in good condition. And last but not least, if the owner's manual is not available, check for a label on the car seat itself. This should provide details on the correct use of the seat.
Remember, if the passenger side of your car has an airbag, the car seat should go in the back seat, not the front seat of the car. If there is an accident and the car seat is in the front seat, the inflating airbag may cause serious injuries to your baby. Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions to insure the correct installation of the seat.
So when choosing your baby's first car seat, look at the various options available, read safety reviews and talk to other parents about their experiences. Whichever portable car seat you select, a little research makes your choice much easier and most importantly, will keep your infant safe.