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Instructional Archive

New Parent Carseat Basics: What You Need to Know

pg hwYou’ve peed on the stick and found out you’re pregnant. Yay! (Or not. Who am I to say?) You’ve gone to Target, and Babies R Us, Buy Buy Baby, and Amazon.com and registered for every single baby item under the sun that’s plastic and can be sanitized and trust me, it all coordinates, right? Now you’ve come down to the final weeks and it’s panic time when you realize this baby is coming out one way or another and you have to get it home. You just stick Baby in the carseat and go, right? No. Nope. No way, new parent. You are now attending Carseat 101 and there will be a quiz at the end. I have no doubt you will pass with flying colors!

First, let’s go over some vocab you’ll need for the next, oh, decade or so. Yeah, baby, your precious is going to be in a seat for a loonngg time. In chronological order, please:

Infant seat: This carseat is used for newborns to sometimes toddlerhood. It’s easily identified by its handle, canopy, and left-in-the-car base. The carrier portion fits onto the base.

photo  Chicco KeyFit30 Fuego

Convertible seat: This carseat can be used for newborns, but is often used after a child outgrows an infant seat. It rear-faces, then converts to forward-facing for older kids.

GracoSize4Me70newborn2  GracoHeadWise70FF

Combination seat: This carseat is for older kids, the kind who order combo meals at fast food restaurants (and yes, you too, will succumb to buying your child a grease-loaded meal item at some point). A combo seat FORWARD-FACES ONLY. It has a harness to keep wiggly kids safe, then the harness comes off and it can be a belt-positioning booster. See why it’s for older kids only? It combines a harness and a booster into one seat. You don’t always need a combo seat. Sometimes your child can go straight from a convertible seat to a belt-positioning booster, depending on which convertible she uses and how old and big she is.

Photo Oct 02, 2 20 32 PM  Britax Pinnacle 90 belt fit

Belt-positioning booster seat: This carseat is for kids who nearly have gray hair. Just kidding. Barely. The purpose of a booster seat is to boost a kid up higher so that the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt will fit them superbly over their bones, not their soft bellies. Kids have to have a certain amount of maturity in order to sit still in a vehicle seat belt and that comes around ages 4-6, depending on the child. Most parents find their kids transitioning out of a harness around ages 5-6, when “real” school starts, not that “pre-“ stuff. There are highback and backless varieties of boosters. Highbacks are great for the younger crowd because they provide head and torso support for sleeping. Backless boosters are harder to see from outside the car, so older, image-conscious kids like them better. Kids use booster seats until they can 5-step—fit in the belt like an adult—which is when they get to be the size of a small adult, around age 10-11.

lap and shoulder belt fit  Graco Connext buckle side

Let’s identify that you’ve gotten the right carseat for you. It used to be that an infant seat was an infant seat was an infant seat. Basically, all the carriers did more or less the same thing—it was the bases that distinguished them. Now we have carriers that fit small babies very well, some that don’t, some that have no-rethread harnesses, some that have canopies that disappear, and some that fit kids up to 40 lbs. There’s quite a variety from which to choose and that can cause more confusion than ever! What’s my very first piece of advice to you in this area? Don’t insist on a travel system. Pick the very best infant seat that will work for you, then pick the very best stroller you can afford and put them together. Many strollers come with adapter bars and with a little bit of research on their website, you can find if the infant seat you want will fit on the stroller you want. The patterns may not match perfectly, but you will get a much better stroller this way usually unless you buy a high-end infant seat/stroller combo to begin with. I speak from experience: you don’t want to be stuck with a stroller you hate for years because you wanted to be all matchy-matchy with an infant seat you use for months. To help you in your search, we have both thorough, professional reviews and a list of our favorite seats.

Most of the time you will know if you’re going to have a small, average, or large baby by the end of your 40 weeks. If you and your partner are small folks and come from small families, genetics won’t let you down. Look for an infant seat that starts with a low birth weight of 4 lbs. It’s the same if you’re having a difficult pregnancy or if you’re having multiples. Fortunately, there are lots of infant seats that now have a minimum weight limit of 4 lbs., but they don’t always fit the preemie-sized babies well. We have a list of our favorite seats that fit preemies and multiples. If you’re having an average- or large-sized baby, any infant seat will do, though you’ll get more bang for your buck with a larger one. The size of your vehicle also has to be factored in since the larger the infant seat, the more space it takes up in the vehicle.

Prezi Keyfit compared

 

Now for some answers to common questions:

Rear-Facing Carseats With European Beltpath Routing

imageEuropean beltpath routing. If you’re not already familiar with the term – let me explain. It references a particular way to install a rear-facing convertible or infant carseat without using the base. European belt routing is only for installations using the vehicle’s lap/shoulder seatbelt. It does not apply to installations using the lower LATCH anchors or to installation of the infant seat base. Only a few seats sold here in the U.S. allow European belt routing but it has become a popular feature so we decided to make a list of which seats currently available allow it.

Benefits of European Belt Routing:

When the shoulder belt is routed behind the shell of a rear-facing child restraint it helps to maintain a semi-upright position during a frontal crash. Limiting the downward rotation that a rear-facing seat makes during a frontal crash has several potential benefits. Maintaining a more upright angle during a crash means the impact loads are distributed more to the back of the child – which is ideal. The more a rear-facing seat rotates downward in a crash the more the impact loads are applied to the child’s shoulders and neck – as it stretches, pulling away from the body. The other potential benefit of maintaining a more upright orientation during a crash is that it may reduce the likelihood of the carseat striking the back of the front seat or console directly in front of it.

Installation Issues & Incompatibilities:

The biggest potential issue with Euro beltpath routing is that some seatbelts aren’t long enough to accommodate this routing. If that winds up being the case in your vehicle – you can install the seat without the base using the traditional seatbelt installation method instead. None of the carseats that allow Euro bethpath routing actually require it. They may recommend it, but they don’t mandate it. That’s because the carseat manufacturers understand that it’s not possible in all vehicles due to seatbelt length which varies from vehicle to vehicle.

 

Rear-Facing Carseats that Allow Euro Beltpath Routing:

Infant (Rear-Facing Only) Seats

Model Rear-Facing Wt Limits Rear-Facing Ht Limits
Cybex Aton 4-32 lbs. up to 30"
Cybex Aton 2 4-35 lbs. up to 30"
Cybex Aton Q 4-35 lbs. up to 30"
Graco Classic Connect SnugRide 35* 4-35 lbs. 32" or less
Maxi-Cosi Mico AP 5-22 lbs. 19-29"
Maxi-Cosi Mico NXT 5-22 lbs. 19-29"
Nuna Pipa 4-35 lbs less than 32"
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 4-35 lbs up to 32"
UPPABaby Mesa 4-35 lbs 32" or less
www.CarseatBlog.com  © 2014 All Rights Reserved

*Graco now officially allows European beltpath routing ONLY with the Classic Connect Graco SnugRide 35. This update is retroactive and applies to all Classic Connect SnugRide 32/35 models.

 

Convertible Seats

Model Rear-Facing Wt Limits Rear-Facing Ht Limits
Combi Coccoro 3-33 lbs up to 36"
www.CarseatBlog.com  © 2014 All Rights Reserved

coccoro euro beltpath routing

 

CarseatBlog Quick Tip: Proper Harness Tightness

One of the top 3 mistakes we see at checkup events is a harness that’s too loose. Nearly *every* infant seat I see when I’m out and about has a loose harness. How do you know if your child’s harness is tight enough?

CarseatBlog Quick Tip: Checking Install Tightness

Aren’t quite sure how to tell if your carseat is installed tightly enough? Here’s how you check.

Caps for Sale – converting your retail model Evenflo Maestro into an institutional model without cup holders

CapsForSaleCaps for Sale was one of my favorite books when I was a kid and it also makes an appropriate title for this blog! :)

As many of our readers know, retail models of the Evenflo Maestro come with cup holders that are permanent once they are attached to the shell. However, “institutional” versions of the same seats (sold to CPS programs) come without cup holders. In their place are little plastic caps that cover the holes in the shell where the cup holders attach. While most parents (and kids) are happy to have a carseat with dual integrated cup holders – those features take up a little extra room. For a parent or caregiver trying to fit two carseats side-by-side or 3-across the back of a small or mid-size vehicle – the lack of cup holders on the Maestro can make the difference between installation success and failure. 

    

I recently discovered that Evenflo will sell the little caps separately to consumers who own Maestro models. Now, if you’ve already attached the cup holders then this info won’t help you because you can’t detach the cup holders once they’re locked into place. If you try to pry them off, you’ll probably wind up damaging your seat and no one wants that to happen. However, if you have a new Maestro that hasn’t been “assembled” yet, you can call Evenflo Customer Service (aka Parent Link), give them your Maestro model # and order “Armrest Cap” (Item # 24101591). For a pair of caps, it should cost around $7.50 with shipping included.

FYI – It’s very important to cover the holes in the shell with either the caps or the cup holders otherwise your child can get a finger trapped in there.

  

Side-by-side difference: