Choosing a car seat can be a stressful experience. Not only is it one of the most important purchases you'll make, but it's likely to be one of the most expensive. Here are a few basic starting points to make the search a little easier.
Once you've bought a seat, you're not done -- now you have to install it and make sure it fits well in your particular car.
In case you have to exchange the car seat, here's how to keep hassle to a minimum:
Installing a car seat is hard. Most parents -- various surveys show 70 to 90 percent -- do it wrong. Manufacturers try to help by providing exhaustive step-by-step instruction booklets and sometimes even videos with each car seat. Even so, after you install a seat, you should have an expert look at it to make sure it fits your car and is in correctly (it shouldn't budge more than an inch from side to side).
The harness straps need to fit baby snugly and be in the right position -- read instructions carefully.
Not that it helps if you're shopping now, but new latch-finding clips and easier harness adjustments are just two features that companies hope to offer in the next year.
It's important to fill out and mail the registration card that comes with a car seat so you can be contacted if there's a recall.
State laws vary, but most require children to sit in booster seats until they're at least 4 years old, and sometimes as old as 8 or as heavy as 80 pounds. They boost your child up to ensure that the seat belts fit and protect properly.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, March 2005.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.