What Do I Look for In an Infant or Toddler’s Car Seat?

With so many choices out there for children's car seats, making the decision of which to buy can be daunting for many parents. We all want to keep our children as safe as possible while traveling but many parents don't know exactly what to look for to ensure that their children's car seat is safe. Below I have listed some essential things to look for in car seats.

Car seats for infants are generally rear-facing. They are small and usually have a carrying handle. The base is installed in the car and the seat itself which can be unhooked from the base to be carried around. The parent must ensure that the car seat is LATCH compatible. LATCH stands for "Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children". Using the LATCH is quicker and easier than the seat belts. This typically fixes the seat well, and ensures that the seat can't move more that an inch or so forward or to either side.

The ideal weight for infant car seats is about 22 pounds. The seat is designed to support the infants' head, neck and back. It is important that these seats should never be placed in front of the car. This is because, the car may have an airbag, to which the child is exposed directly and if deployed, could cause a fatal injury.

The infant seat is placed at such an angle that the infant's head rests on the back of the seat. It is necessary to prevent the drooping of the head and cause obstruction in the airway. The harness should be tightened across the baby's chest and hips so that they can't slide down to the side. Padding like towels can be put on either side of the baby or even under the base of the seat, but never under or behind the infant.

Car seats for toddlers, aged one to about four, weighing at least 20 pounds, are generally the ones that face forward. Compared to infant-only seats, they are at a more upright position leaving their heads to face forward. The harness ideally snaps over the child's chest and hips. It has to be supportive and be able to distribute the jolt of stopping all of a sudden.

The harness has to come through the slots in the seat that are at or above the level of the child's shoulders. However, if it is lower, it might restrict the breathing of the child as the harness would tighten and create a downward pressure on the child's body. Therefore, it is essential that the harness fits snugly.

Ben Glass
Ben Glass is a nationally recognized Virginia injury, medical malpractice, and long-term disability attorney