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For expectant parents, especially those planning for their first child, there seems to be a million things to prepare for. While childproofing, painting the nursery and packing a hospital bag may top the list, selecting an infant car seat should also be a priority. After all, it’s the item that new parents will need to get baby from the hospital to home, and it’s the only baby product that is required by law. This doesn’t mean that shopping for one should induce added stress, but there are a few things that parents should know/consider before hitting the aisles or loading up an online registry.

Ease of Installation: While using a car seat is the most effective way for parents to protect infants from injury in the event of an accident, statistics show that a startling 75 percent of seats are not properly installed. Many manufacturers are helping to take the guesswork out of installation by equipping seats with easy-to-use features like color-coded belt loops. Also, look for seats that are equipped with LATCH—which secures seats directly to the car frame—for added safety. Portability: Many infant car seats do double duty as carriers, so it's important to select one that’s comfortable to tote around. One of the biggest complaints that new parents have is weight—when carrying a 15-20 pound infant, it’s ideal to limit the added weight from the seat as much as possible. The Light 'n Comfy Infant Car Seat from Cosco is the lightest infant car seat on the market (it weighs less than 7 pounds!), making it a great option for taking baby on the go. Weight Range: It's important to understand seat weight ranges, as well as the difference between convertible and infant car seats. For example, a convertible car seat will last longer, but it cannot be used as an infant carrier. When purchasing an infant seat, look for those with a higher weight maximum—some go up to 35 pounds—for extended usability. Safety Features: Obviously safety features should play a key role in selecting a car seat, but not all seats are created equally. Proper installation plays a key role in seat safety, but parents should also be aware that side impact crashes have dramatically increased (by 20%) over the past two decades and today account for an alarming 1 in 3 child crash fatalities. Safety 1st developed a cutting-edge technology called Air Protect + which is specifically designed to protect infants in side-impact crashes. The technology is available in the onBoard 35 Air+. Comfort: A comfortable baby is a happy baby. To keep babies comfortable during long car rides, many seats offer plush soft goods and other features to make the experience a little more enjoyable. Look for models that have adjustable harnesses to ensure a proper and comfortable fit for growing infants.

Car Seats & Travel Safety