Preemie Car Seats – The Important Features
There are a number of important features that you need to look for when choosing a preemie car seat for your baby.
- The Seat’s Weight Limit
- The Height of the Bottom Harness Slot
- The Availability of a Newborn Insert Cushion
Although parents often buy convertible car seats for their newborn babies instead of infant seats, this is much less likely to be appropriate if you have a premature baby. Generally, convertible car seats are less likely to be well designed for use with babies as small as 4 lbs and so I recommend that you choose an infant car seat instead.
They often have a minimum weight requirement of 5 lbs (sometimes much more) and your premature baby is almost certainly going to be under 5 lbs in weight.
Having said that, there is one convertible car seat that is very well suited for premature babies and that is the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 with TinyFit insert. The Maxi-Cosi Pria is suitable for use from 4 lbs due to its TinyFit insert and comes fitted with some very reassuring safety features.
The main benefit of choosing a convertible car seat over an infant seat, if you can find one that is suitable for preemies, is that it will save you a lot of money in the long run. The reason for this is that you will probably need to buy a convertible car seat at some stage, when your baby outgrows their infant seat.
If you can start with a convertible car seat then you will obviously save the full price of having to buy an infant seat first.
The Pria 70, for example, has a maximum child weight limit of 70 lbs and a maximum child height limit of 52 inches.
One thing that you can’t do with a convertible seat is use it as part of a “travel system”.
If you are looking for an infant seat rather than a convertible seat, read on …
The 3 most important features of preemie infant car seats are:
#1 Weight Limit
This is the most obvious thing to look at when assessing a car seat’s suitability for underweight babies. You need to look for seats that are rated as being suitable from “4 lbs”.
#2 Bottom Harness Slot Height
It is very important to choose a seat that has a bottom harness height of no more than about 6 inches (with the infant inserts installed if the seat comes with one). The reason for this is described fully in the video towards the bottom of this page but, in short, this will ensure that the top part of the harness strap is at the correct height in relation to the top of your baby’s shoulders.
One of the reasons that the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 with TinyFit is such a good convertible seat for preemies is that it has a bottom harness strap height of just 5 inches!
The harness strap should NOT be positioned above the height of your baby’s shoulder. Instead. it should be either at or slightly below the top of their shoulders.
#3 Newborn Insert Cushions
Newborn cushion inserts serve a number of useful purposes.
Firstly, they help to achieve a safe harness strap height in relation to your baby’s shoulders – as explained above.
Secondly, they often help to provide a more snug fit around your baby’s small body, which is both protective and visually reassuring for you as a parent.
My Top 5 Preemie Infant Car Seats
I am not suggesting that these are the only 5 seats that are suitable for premature babies, but they are widely recognised by Car Seat Safety Technicians as being excellent choices.
In no particular order, my top 5 preemie car seats are:
#1 Britax B-Safe
BRITAX B-SAFE HAS BEEN DISCONTINUED
#2 Britax Chaperone
BRITAX CHAPERONE HAS BEEN DISCONTINUED
#3 [Seat Removed]
#4 Peg Perego 4:35
#5 Safety 1st OnBoard 35
Watch This Great Preemie Car Seat Video From “Car Seat Blog”
Car Seat Blog is an excellent source of information on all matters related to child car seat safety and in this video they explain and demonstrate some of the important things to get right when selecting a car seat for your premature baby.
The Foresight Problem
One of the problems with buying car seats for premature babies is that you don’t always know in advance that your child is going to arrive early. Of course, if you haven’t bought a seat prior to their premature arrival, then you will probably have a little time to order a suitable model since your baby will usually spend a little time in the Special Baby Unit while they get a little stronger.
Also, if you are due to become the parents of multiples, then you will know that there is a very significant chance that your babies are going to be born early and so I would always suggest that you buy a seat that would be suitable for preemies. There is no reason not to do this, since if you are fortunate enough to have multiples that arrive close to full term instead, these seats will still be suitable for them.
If you have already bought a seat for your baby and are taken by surprise by an early arrival, then I find that sites like Amazon are pretty good at accepting returns even if you have had the product for a while, provided that you haven’t yet taken the tags off and the seat remains in immaculate condition.
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.
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