Best infant car seats for 2021

Finding the right infant car seat carrier can be an agonizing decision especially for new parents. Designed for easy transition from the car to the stroller without unstrapping or disturbing a potentially

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Finding the right infant car seat carrier can be an agonizing decision especially for new parents. Designed for easy transition from the car to the stroller without unstrapping or disturbing a potentially sleeping baby, an infant car seat is an essential whether it’s your first of fourth child. Unlike a convertible car seat, an infant car seat is portable and does not strap directly into the seat. They also can double as a carrier or rocker, and most can click into a stroller with a complementary system or an adapter. In the car, the infant car seat latches on to a base installed in the vehicle. Many parents opt to purchase multiple bases that fit well inside all their vehicles as well as others’ that may be transporting the baby. Infant car seats also are designed to be installed without a base using seat belts.

All infant car seats are rear-facing only and meet or exceed safety requirements set by the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration. Most are designed to accommodate babies that weigh as little as five pounds and as much as 35 pounds. Some can accommodate as infants that weigh at least four pounds. They also have height restrictions between 30 and 32 inches, and babies generally transition out of infant and into convertible car seats between nine and 18 months. However, a caregiver’s ability to lift the car seat out of the vehicle with an infant strapped in it may limit its use to even earlier. 

There are many factors to consider when selecting the right seat, including vehicle size, safety, ease-of-use and compatibility with stroller systems. Budgets also play a huge factor in the search, with some of the infant car seats costing as much as an entire travel system combined. Price should also be considered given the short amount of time infant car seats can be used. 

With the addition of new siblings, parents may be able to squeeze more use out of an expensive infant car seat, but how long it will last depends on the product’s longevity. Car seats have an expiration date of typically five or six years after the manufacturing date, although it’s possible to find some that can last for up to nine years. However, all must be retired in the event of a moderate or severe collision. Purchasing second-hand seats is not recommended. Always check for missing parts, cracks or other signs of wear.

Safety also is paramount when it comes to choosing a car seat, and nervous parents can look for additional safety features, such as adjustable load legs, anti-rebound bars and sensors to instill confidence that their newborn will be protected (and not forgotten) in vehicles. Regardless of which model they choose, parents should be reassured knowing that all infant car seats pass the rigorous NHTSA standards and crash tests.

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