Last updated date: October 12, 2021
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We looked at the top Infant Car Seats and dug through the reviews from some of the most popular review sites. Through this analysis, we've determined the best Infant Car Seat you should buy.
Update as October 12, 2021:
Checkout The Best Infant Car Seat for a detailed review of all the top infant car seats.
The UPPAbaby by Mesa gets high marks for easy installation, featuring a red to green indicator window, self-retracting straps and a no-thread harness. We especially like that the merino wool fabric is safe and comfy for little ones, plus it's naturally fire retardant.
In our analysis of 133 expert reviews, the UPPAbaby Mesa placed 12th when we looked at the top 20 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.
From The Manufacturer
The MESA is designed with intuitive innovations you can see and features that remove the guesswork. Its SMART Secure System combines auto-retracting LATCH connectors and a visual indicator that turns from red to green, providing an installation that is both simple and accurate. Front adjust no-rethread harness with integrated side impact protection as well as a one handed release from both the VISTA and the CRUZ deliver a seat that effectively pairs safety with simplicity. Four position adjustable foot for easy leveling.
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User Summarized Score
What experts liked
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Our Expert Consultant
Gastroenterologist and adjunct assistant professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine
He is a graduate of the Medical University of Silesia-Hope Medical Institute in Poland. After completing his residency in internal medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, he was selected to be the 2013‐2014 Chief Resident at Lenox Hill Hospital–Northshore LIJ Health System. Dr. Sonpal completed his fellowship in gastroenterology and hepatology at Lenox Hill Hospital and continues his work in the field of medical-student and resident-test preparation. He now serves as the associate program director for the Internal Medicine Residency Program at Brookdale University medical center.
He is also the co‐author of several medical test prep books and serves as the chief operating officer for Medquest Test Prep and director of medical education for Picmonic Test Prep.
Overall Product Rankings
An Overview On Infant Car Seats
You’re probably already nervous about your first ride home with your tiny bundle of joy. On top of that, you have to try to pick the best infant car seat from a seemingly endless array of options. From the ease of installation to fabric comfort and whether or not it works with your stroller system, it can be overwhelming, to say the least. It’s simple to break down the basics of what you need in an infant car seat so you can find the right infant car seat for your growing family.
Take your time before making a purchase, as this is a significant investment in your baby’s safety.
“This is one of the most important purchases a parent will ever make,” says Dr. Niket Sonpal, a doctor based in New York City. “This is not the time to seek out a budget item. Buying quality can literally save your infant’s life.”
Infant car seats — sometimes called bucket or pumpkin seats — are rear-facing and made for infants and toddlers up to two years old. The height and weight requirements vary from seat to seat but they typically work for babies from around 4 to 35 pounds and up to 32 inches in height. Some seats, like the Chicco KeyFit 30, are preferred for preemies but only go up to 30 pounds and 30 inches. The seat usually clicks into or attaches to a base that stays in the car.
Many infant car seats have a carrying handle and an adjustable shade. They also have various types of cushions and inserts that can be used for the smallest infants and then taken out as your child grows.
Experts recommend that children stay rear-facing at least until two years old or when they reach the height and weight limit for the seat. According to the federal government, using a car seat reduces the risk of injury in a car crash by 71 to 82%. Overall, kids may end up using a car seat or booster up to the age of 12, based on their height and weight.
Knowing that their child will be using a car seat for such a long time prompts many parents to opt for a convertible car seat. Unlike the infant car seat, a convertible car seat starts rear-facing and can change its configuration to a front-facing car seat and then finally a booster. They are just as safe as an infant car seat and must meet the same standards. While this option can certainly be budget-friendly and you may be able to keep your child rear-facing longer, there are some trade-offs.
For some, the biggest deal-breaker is giving up the ability to easily transfer a sleeping baby in and out of the car while still in the seat. Since convertible car seats are meant to stay in the car most of the time, they also don’t typically work with strollers and don’t have carry handles. And, since they’re larger to accommodate a growing child, they may not fit well in all vehicles. You’ll want to make sure to consider how you’ll be using the car seat and if it’s important for you to be able to keep your child in the car seat when you’re out and about. Many infant car seats work with a complimentary stroller or travel system and you may save money buying this as a package deal.
The most important part of any car seat purchase is safety. Each car seat uses different materials and features, but they all have to meet the same federal safety standards. Some may choose to do additional safety testing. There are a few things you’ll want to look out for, such as a five-point harness and a base that clearly indicates when the seat is attached and positioned correctly with a color change or a bubble level.
Actually installing and using the seat the right way can be stressful for any new parent, so the easier it is to do, the better. The government maintains an ease-of-use rating system to help parents find seats that have clear instructions and are easy to install and use. Anything rated 4 or 5 tends to be more intuitive.
Be sure to take the time to thoroughly and properly understand the installation instructions for your car seat, says Dr. Sonpal.
“A poorly installed seat leaves a child vulnerable in a crash,” he says.
All cars are now required to have a LATCH system (which stands for lower anchors and top tethers) that allows you to attach the car seat with clips near the seatbelt base and behind the headrest or seat. It can sometimes be a struggle to make the connectors the right length so a self-retracting option may be a major plus if you have to take the base in and out more frequently.
Finally, it’s important to consider overall comfort, for you and for baby. Look at features like the weight of the car seat, the ergonomics of the carry handle and quality or type of fabric. Infant car seats can vary widely in weight. For example, one model may only weigh 16 pounds, while another weighs 25 pounds. That can make a big difference if you plan to tote the seat any distance with your little one inside.
If you live in a warm climate you may want to look for a cooler fabric, like breathable jersey. Moisture-wicking merino wool, which is also naturally flame retardant, is another good choice. While buying online can be the most cost-effective and convenient, you may want to go to a store where you can compare the feel of the fabric and other materials.
The Infant Car Seat Buying Guide
- Any parent or caregiver who has cleaned a car seat mess will tell you how important easy-to-clean fabric is. Even better, look for car seats that allow you to remove the lining or pad entirely and toss it in the washer.
- If you travel frequently or live in a city where you may need to use your car seat in a taxi or rideshare you may want to opt for an infant car seat that can be used with or without its included base, giving you more flexibility when on the go.
- You are not alone when it comes to learning how to install a car seat properly. The federal government offers free car seat inspection locations (usually at local fire stations) with trained technicians who can show you how to install it and use it.
- Believe it or not, car seats expire. That’s why it’s not recommended to purchase a car seat from a yard sale or online reseller or reuse one from a friend. Most infant car seats expire in five to six years. Some convertible car seats last up to 10 years. You may be able to find the expiration date on the car seat itself or in the owners’ manual. If you can’t find a date, note the model number and call the manufacturer. Most car seats do end up looking kind of beat up, but the real risk is caused by plastic getting hot and cold repeatedly over the years. This may cause hairline cracks or brittleness that aren’t easy to see, and are very dangerous in a crash.
- Once you’ve chosen the perfect seat, you also have to make sure you’re strapping in your little one correctly. Straps should be at or below the shoulder without any looseness or slack. Your child may protest but you should only be able to fit a couple fingers behind the strap. The chest clip should be at armpit level in the middle of the sternum. If it’s too high, it could cause neck injury and if it’s too low, your child could be thrown from the car seat.
- As an added safety precaution you can add a luggage tag or label to the side of the seat with emergency contact info. Include details like your child’s name, parents’ name, address and phone numbers, pediatrician name and any medical conditions. This way, first responders can find valuable information quickly, in case the parent or caregiver is injured or unable to speak.
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