A car seat is often the first big purchase you will make for your baby. There are several main types of seats for use at different stages of your child’s development. It’s important to choose the right child safety seat, based on your child’s age and size, and install it correctly in your vehicle.
These are the main categories of car seats and their approximate age ranges, which will vary depending on the child’s height and weight:
Infant seat (newborn to one year)
Convertible seat (newborn to four years)
All-in-one seat (newborn – 7 years)
Forward-facing only seat (3 - 7 years)
Booster seat (4 – 12 years)
An infant car seat is a small, portable seat that can only be used rear-facing. Infant car seats come with an adjustable carry handle and a detachable car seat base. The base is installed in the back seat of a car using either the LATCH system, which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children or the car’s seat belt. For added convenience, most infant car seats can also be attached to a baby stroller using an adapter. But it’s important to check stroller compatibility before purchasing your car seat because most strollers are only compatible with specific car seat models.
A convertible seat can change from rear-facing to forward-facing, but does not have a detachable base and is not designed for use with a stroller. A booster seat does not have its own integrated harness system. Rather, a booster seat is designed to position the child so the car’s seat belt will fit them properly. Booster seats come in two styles – either with a high back, to provide neck and head support, or backless with no added support. Automotive safety experts recommend that children ride in a booster seat until they reach a minimum height of 57 inches (4’ 9”). An all-in-one seat can change from rear-facing to forward-facing and later becomes a high-back booster.
Regulations with regards to car seats vary from one state to another, so it’s important to check the rules in your home state.