What is an Infant Car Seat?
An Infant Car Seat is specifically designed to accommodate babies from birth to approximately 9-12 months of age. Finding the best infant car seats available in the USA is not an easy task, but I am pretty confident that I have managed to do it.
One thing to bear in mind is that the precise child weight / height restrictions vary between models. However, they are normally in the region of 4 – 30 lbs (with maximum height of up to 32 inches). As soon as your child exceeds the maximum weight or height limit, they need to move to a convertible car seat or a combination car seat.
Unlike Convertible Car Seats, Infant Car Seats are fitted with a carry handle for easy transportation and they click into a seat base, which itself is installed in your vehicle using either the adult seatbelt or LATCH connectors. Either way, they are always fitted rear-facing. This is a good thing since safety experts universally agree that you should try to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible since they are safer than forward-facing seats (most say rear-facing is 5 times safer than forwards-facing).
Technically, Infant Car Seats can also be installed using the adult seatbelt without a base, but I would NOT recommend this since it introduces an extra risk of human error each time you do it and it is much less convenient than simply clicking in and out of a pre-installed base.
I like the fact that Infant Car Seats are specifically designed for small babies since they are extremely vulnerable at this young age and need to be as snuggly cocooned as possible. Although you can use a convertible car seat from birth, small babies can sometimes be difficult to secure snuggly within them.
One important thing to consider is whether or not the shoulder strap holes are low enough to get a good fit on your newborn baby. Of course, the problem is that you won’t know “exactly” what size your baby is going to be when you buy the car seat. Even if you are given an estimate of the likely weight of your baby at full term, they sometimes like to arrive a little earlier (and smaller) than predicted. For very small babies, parents very often need to use a small towel or some other additional makeshift head support to get a snug fit. This is not a good idea since such ad hoc arrangements will not have been subjected to safety testing in collision scenarios.
Infant Car Seats are as convenient as they are safe. They are very easy to load in and out of your vehicle and can also be used as part of an integrated “travel system” – you simply switch the seat between the car base and stroller without having to remove baby from the seat. This can be a great added bonus when you don’t want to wake you baby getting them in and out of the car. It can also prove cheaper than buying entirely separate car seat and stroller products.
Those looking for infant car seats are often first time parents and it can be very confusing due to the large number of products on the market. There is also a whole new set of “jargon” to learn when comparing the safety features of the various products. The aim of this post is to simplify the process by explaining some of the terms and to direct your attention towards what I consider to be the best infant car seats on the US market today.
Click on the appropriate links below to read the full infant car seat reviews. (Each review opens in a separate window to make it easy to compare them)
The 3 Best Infant Car Seats
(1) Britax B-Safe 35
(2) Maxi-Cosi Mico
(3) Chicco Keyfit 30
Quick Weight / Height Comparison Guide
What about the February 2014 LATCH Law Changes?
These do NOT apply to Infant Car Seats since the combined weight of the seat, seat base and child will never exceed 65 lbs (if used correctly).
After purchasing any child car seat, you should always read the User Manual thoroughly before using it. It is also advisable to visit your local Fire Department or NHTSA Child Car Seat Inspection Centre to ensure that the seat is definitely suitable for your child’s specific requirements and that you have installed it correctly. These services are usually provided free of charge.
You can find your nearest NHTSA Centre here.
If you have any feedback or questions about my “Best Infant Car Seats (USA)” post, please feel free to leave a comment below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org