Car Seats for Newbies: The Infant Carrier Seat

By Nikki M

One of the most important purchases you’ll make for the new baby is your car seat. In fact, it’s the only one you absolutely need to get your newborn home from the hospital. There are a ton of wonderful options. But you first need to ask yourself the all-important question: infant carrier or a convertible car seat? Here’s everything you need to know about the infant car seat.

Infant seats are quite ubiquitous—whether it's at the park, mall, or pediatrician's office, it's the baby gear of choice for many parents. You may have seen them in different ways: attached to a snap-n-go, to a regular stroller, on top of a highchair at a restaurant*, on top of a shopping cart*, carried on its own, and of course, inside a car. Pretty flexible!

Unfortunately, infant car seats are a bit more limited in terms of lifespan. They’re only meant to be used for baby's first year, or until they reach the weight limit (usually around 30 lbs.). Rather than looking like an actual, upright seat, infant seats are almost like a cradle and can only be used rear-facing.

The seat attaches to a base, which then latches on to the car. Although you could attach these to the car directly without a base, it would defeat the purpose . . . infant seats = mobility! They come with a handle and a canopy so you can take baby with you without having to take him out of the seat. So if your baby is sleeping, he can stay sleeping without any disruption while you make a stop for a coffee.

*Although it's common to see parents putting their infant seats on highchairs and shopping carts, this is completely unsafe! They are not secure and pose the risk of tipping over and falling with your baby in them.

The Upsides

  • Mobility is perhaps the biggest and best feature. They easily detach from the base, and can either be carried or hooked onto a stroller. Your baby is safe and comfortable nestled in there, innocently unaware of any transitions.
  • Versatility: A lot of popular strollers come with adapters that can fit most infant car seats. Travel-system strollers allow for infant seats, bassinets, and regular stroller seats to attach onto the chassis. If you want a more affordable option, you could buy a click/snap-n-go, which is a lightweight stroller frame exclusively made for infant seats (most are universal and fit many brands).
  • Lets baby sleep: You know what they say, "Never wake up a sleeping baby!" With an infant seat, it's possible to take them out of the car, go out for errands, get back in the car, and go home without once disturbing their sleep.
  • Convenient: Infant car seats are great if you're out and about with no place to put a baby down. Some destinations are just ill-suited for a stroller. Think: beaches and some parks (difficult terrain), restaurants, and even church (too crowded!). While a baby carrier/sling could work, picture yourself carrying a ten-pound baby for two+ hours straight! Because infant seats have canopies, you can set babies down outdoors without worrying about the sun, or even indoors shielding them from overstimulation.
  • Perfectly-sized for a newborn: Most convertible seats are way too big for newborns, with harnesses and seat belts coming up way too high when they're very small. Convertible seats also only slightly recline, which isn't good for newborns who should be lying as flat as possible. Infant car seats really cocoon the baby, offering snugness and protection. You don't have to worry about crazy head thrashing while you're driving!
  • Compact: These don't take up as much room as bulky convertible seats, making it perfect for smaller cars. Go ahead, use your Mini as your family car!
  • Affordable: Excellent, highly rated infant seats cost around $200 or less. Higher-end infant seats go for about $300. In contrast, the most popular convertible seats are a bit pricier.
  • Easy to install: The base that latches onto your car is very light-weight, so it takes almost no effort to install. The car seat then simply clicks on and off on top of that base.
  • Can be used in multiple cars: Rather than buying separate, $$$ car seats for each parent's and grandparent's car, simply buy multiple bases (varies with brands but usually around $50 each) for all! A real money saver!

The Downsides

  • Heavy: Remember how convenient infant seats can be? They're so convenient, you might just find yourself foregoing the stroller and taking this with you everywhere. But because this is a pretty hefty piece of baby gear (plus the baby's weight of course) you'll probably be hunching over, lugging this around with great effort, cursing yourself.
  • Easily outgrown: Some babies hit the maximum weight capacity before year one. Some are just pretty lanky. Maybe they find the seat too sloped and uncomfortable and are ready to sit more upright. Whatever the reason, this seat is just for short-term use, maybe even shorter than you expect.
  • Less stimulating: Rather than taking baby out every time you go out, you'll tend to rely on this for convenience. Instead of being held, sitting on people's laps, and observing their surroundings, they’ll be strapped down, with only a very limited view of the sky, maybe the tops of trees.
Top Row: Britax B-SAFE, Chicco Keyfit, Cybex Aton Q // Bottom Row: Graco Snugride, Orbit Baby G3, Peg Perego Primo Viaggio


Our Favorites

Britax B-SAFE Infant Car Seat 

Britax is known for its high safety and quality standards, and you’ll see that in the lightweight and travel-friendly B-SAFE infant seat. With its side-impact protection and energy-absorbing foam liner, you’ll be confident that your little one is safe and secure. Notable features include LATCH connectors, a locking carry handle, a removable comfort pad, and an extra-large canopy.

Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat

This is the best-selling, top-rated infant seat. It features a 5-point safety harness and is lined with energy absorbing foam for side-impact protection. It comes in many bright colors. 

Cybex Aton Q Infant Car Seat

This modern seat is a luxury purchase, both beautiful and innovative. If offers a telescopic, Linear Side-Impact Protection System, height adjustable headrest, an integrated harness, and offers a near-flat recline perfect for newborns. 

Graco Snugride Click Connect

Simple, affordable, and highly-popular, Graco's Snugride series of infant seats does the job well below $100. It features LATCH compatibility and weighs a mere 5.4 pounds.

Orbit Baby G3 Infant Car Seat + Base

Looking for something ultra-modern and luxurious? The G3 infant seat by Orbit Baby won’t disappoint, with its state-of-the-art rotating mechanism, making getting in and out of the car a total breeze. Features include a Deep-Cradle Side-Impact Protection Zone, green and durable Oeko-Tex fabric, anti-slip ergonomic handles, and a UV sunshade with a Paparazzi Shield (!). Compatible with the whole Orbit Baby travel system.

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio

This is a sleek infant seat that complements your car's interior rather than clashing with it. "Atmosphere" even has the look of leather with contrasting stitching. While it's lovely to look at, it also comes with top safety features: side impact protection, energy absorbing EPS lined shell, and Dual Stage Cushion System to properly position baby's head and shoulders. Made in Italy.

Which car seat will you be getting?

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Tags : baby gear   car seats   

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